A Christian couple have refused to let a gay couple view or buy their home which was listed for sale with the Estate Agent Purplebricks. The Times report that the homeowners enquired about the background of the two men. Having asked some questions, they messaged the following:
Thank you for sharing your circumstances with us.
We’re sorry if we seem intrusive, but we just want to make clear that we would be unwilling for two men in a partnership to view or buy our house as it is contrary to the gracious teaching in God’s Word, the Holy Bible, eg Romans 1:24-28 and Jude 7 (King James Version). With regards.
The Times approached the couple selling the house for comment. They stated:
We would not sell our home to two men in a partnership. We’re practising Christians and are sticking to our beliefs and haven’t done anything wrong.
…We’re not ashamed of what we said in any way.
Irritatingly, The Times state:
The case shares overtones with the “gay cake ” saga of 2014, when a bakery refused to provide a cake that had the words “support gay marriage” iced on it. Ashers bakery in Belfast won its legal argument at the Supreme Court in 2018 and the European Court of Human Rights dismissed a challenge to the decision this month.
I say irritatingly because I do not believe these two cases are at all the same.
The Asher’s Bakery case concerned whether an individual, company or organisation had the right to refuse to produce messaging with which they profoundly disagree. The court ruling in that case protected the Christian bakers from icing a cake that said ‘Support Gay Marriage’ in exactly the same way as it was protecting the person requesting the cake from having to do the same should Ian Paisley Snr have come into a bakery he was running asking for a cake with ‘Save Ulster from Sodomy’ on it. The ruling in the Asher’s Bakery case was protecting the rights of us all not to affirm and promote beliefs with which we profoundly disagree. That seems entirely reasonable.
Not only do I think think the ruling in the Asher’s case was right for everybody (see here, here and here for example), but it seems many LGBT+ campaigners also happen to agree with the judgement. Peter Tatchell has been abundantly clear. He said:
Asher’s did not refuse to serve Gareth and did not discriminate against him because of his sexual orientation. They refused to decorate his cake with a political message in support of marriage equality.
In a free society, and under UK equality laws, no one can be compelled to facilitate political views with which they disagree.
If the judgement had gone the other way, a gay baker could have been forced by law to accede to requests to decorate cakes with messages opposing LGBT+ equality.
Discrimination against people is always wrong but discrimination against political messages is legitimate freedom of expression and valid conscientious objection.
He, of course, doesn’t support the position of the bakery and believes they are profoundly wrong. But he does believe they, along with everybody else, should be permitted not to affirm beliefs and ideas with which they deeply disagree. This was not a matter of discrimination against persons, but unwillingness to propagate a particular message.
The same, however, cannot be said for the people who are refusing to let a gay couple view or buy their home. They are simply selling a house but seem willing to discriminate against certain buyers. It is hard not to a view this as straight up homophobic discrimination.
There are various reasons why I think the couple are wrong to take the stance that they have. First, and most importantly, I think it is sin selective. I wonder whether they would refuse to sell to a co-habiting heterosexual couple or not? If the concern is whether the house will be used for what they consider sinful, what about selling to a Muslim or Hindu family who would pray to false gods there? What about aheterosexual couple who are into partying and might well use their home to get drunk? I mean the list of ways anybody might use their home for sinful behaviour is so long and all encompassing that it means you couldn’t consistently sell your house to anybody! If you would not necessarily rule out selling your home to those who might use it to sin in other ways (which covers everyone), it begs the question why single out that specific sin as far as selling your home goes?
I also think there is biblical precedent for not doing this. Plenty of examples exist in scripture of God’s people trading with others. Under Solomon’s rule in particular, he set Israel up in such a way that its wealth – which is continually reported in a positive light in the scriptures – came about through trade relationships with other nations. The idolatry, false worship and sinful practices of the nations roundabout them did not stop Israel from trading with them. Similarly, in the New Testament, those such as Phoebe and Lydia traded with non-believers. There is no evidence in scripture that people were so selective about such transactions. I suspect that is due to the problems they would face in trading with anybody were they to do this consistently. There simply is no prohibition against trading with sinful people in the scriptures because, once again, that would mean you couldn’t trade with anybody!
From a Christian point of view, I can understand a concern about not wanting to participate in sin yourself. Whilst there might be a case to be made for not promoting a cause or view with which we deeply disagree, and that may encourage others to sin, to simply provide a service for someone or enter into a transaction with them isn’t really doing this. Just as someone who sells some cleaning products to a person who goes home and uses it to make a bomb isn’t at all responsible for the actions of that person, so a Christian who sells a house to another person who then uses it for some sinful activities is not responsible for how that home is later used. I think it is a serious error to consider yourselves involved in sin that you clearly have no part in. Again, this would make operating in the world altogether impossible.
It bears asking how the couple selling the home would feel if a secular humanist refused to let them view or buy a home because Christianity goes against their deeply held beliefs? I suspect the argument in that case would be that the secular humanists are neither promoting nor endorsing their Christianity by selling a home to them. If the secular humanists reply that they object to the thought of the home going to someone who might hold Bible studies in the house, they would rightly reply that they are not participating in the Bible studies themselves any more than they are participating in the activities of whoever own the house after them. But there doesn’t seem to be any recognition that this is what they are doing to this other couple.
I cannot see how this situation is anything other than discriminatory. It is not a biblical stance for faithfulness, but blatant discrimination that does not commend the gospel.