Imagine these scenarios:
- Joe is the top salesman at the local car dealership. A “gay married” couple comes in to purchase a car, and asks Joe to sell them a car. Joe is a faithful practicing Catholic who follows Church teaching that same-sex marriage is wrong and impossible.
- Sue, a graphic designer at a website development firm, gets a referral to produce a small business’ website. The business distributes outfits and shoes for exotic dancers and strip clubs. Sue is a faithful practicing Catholic who believes such practices are immoral and degrading to both men and women.
Sadly, these scenarios are easy to imagine. Every week, it seems we read of yet another case where a business owner’s conscience and faith is pitted against the “rights” of the offended, and a lawsuit is filed. Whether it’s a pharmacist, or a bed & breakfast proprietor, or a baker, or a photographer – we’re familiar with these incidents.
And it’s going to get worse before it ever, if at all, gets better.
Being a small business owner, I wonder when that day will come for me, when I’m faced with such a scenario. It nearly happened six months ago. A customer referred her co-worker to me, to provide packaging materials for his home-based business. I was grateful for the opportunity, and after an exchange of several emails, he placed an order. It wasn’t until then when I learned what his business was – he distributed shoes and outfits for exotic dancers (See? Sue’s example wasn’t all that far-fetched!). Needless to say, I wasn’t pleased with myself. Ninety-nine percent of the time, before reaching the point of getting the order, I know all I need to know about my customer. The particulars of this sale – it was a referral, I never met the guy, it was all handled via email – fell outside the standard sales call. Even still, I put myself in this position of “what do I do next?”
I couldn’t in good faith refuse the order, but what I could do – and ended up doing – was refuse any commission on the order. I told the company fulfilling the order to make this customer a house account – meaning I wouldn’t get paid for that order, or any possible future orders.
In reflecting on this experience, I asked myself: what would I have done had I learned the nature of the business early in the sales call, as I should have? If I had refused the opportunity because his business – catering to the strip club industry – conflicted with my conscience, what might have happened?
Looking back, I doubt there would have been anything he could have done. I wasn’t infringing upon his right to operate a legal business, and I wouldn’t have been discriminating against him or his civil rights. He might have gotten offended, but I don’t think he would have had any legal standing if he had filed a lawsuit against me. Of course, frivolous lawsuits get filed all the time. Whether it would have made it in front of a judge – who’s to say.
The battle between conscience and rights, between living one’s faith in the workplace and being engaged in the marketplace, will continue to escalate. It will erupt on fronts unforeseen, in unexpected ways but with all too predictable results. People of good faith are being attacked not just by homosexual activists, but also by atheists and secularists of all stripes. The fight over conscience rights regarding the HHS mandate is not the final round – it’s merely another round. If the mandate gets ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, then a different approach will be attempted. If the mandate is upheld, then additional strategies will be enacted against people of faith, and expressing one’s beliefs in the marketplace will become so marginalized and restricted, that doing so will be illegal.
Don’t think so? Look at Canada, where last week their Supreme Court upheld as “hate speech” the dissemination of material saying homosexual behavior is immoral. Yes, we have the 1st Amendment enshrined in our Constitution, but for how long, really?
More and more corporations are throwing their support behind so-called “gay marriage”. Recently, a group of over 200 companies filed a friend of the court brief to the US Supreme Court asking them to effectively strike down DOMA. What’s a faithful Catholic to do if they’re employed at any of these firms? Can a faithful Catholic sell to any of those firms? Are we required to stop purchasing these companies products? Does the Church require Catholics to quit their jobs if they’re employed at any firm who supports intrinsic evils?
These are truly difficult questions, and responses to them requires prayer, consulting with a knowledgeable spiritual director, and seeking strength with like-minded people. I’m certainly not an expert in these matters. It doesn’t take an expert, however, to see that the assaults on faith in the marketplace are accelerating and deepening. The battle lines are becoming clearer and starker. Our options are becoming bleaker and darker. Or so it would seem.
Because if the goal of every Catholic is to become a saint, does it matter how we get there? No matter how we get there, the journey leads through the Cross.
We must accept the fact that since the Church will exist until the end of time, these battles will never end. We may win an occasional reprieve. There might even be a lull in the fighting here and there. But the enemies of the Church are emboldened, driven to extinguish the light of Truth to the fullest extent possible, especially in the workplace. It is being turned into a raging battlefield. To be the light of the world, to be the city on the hill, is to be a target. This isn’t news to any of you – but it can be overwhelming. It ought not be.
Living one’s faith in the workplace is a requirement of being Catholic, not an option. We have been sent out by Christ, to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Mt 10:16). We have the grace of the sacraments and the witness of the saints at our disposal. We have the gifts God has given us to accomplish His will.
It doesn’t mean it will be easy – it just means it’ll be worth it.
© 2013. Larry D. All Rights Reserved.