In a small town in Iowa sits an art gallery and bistro in what used to be a Lutheran Church. As you walk in you are greeted by two young Mennonite girls dressed in light blue ankle length dresses and wearing white bonnets, which is commonly known to be the traditional clothing of the Mennonites.
The Mennonites are common in Iowa as are the Amish. Both are devout Anabaptist Christian denominations that take their faith very seriously. Anyone who has lived in Iowa for any amount of time has seen Mennonites in town and knows they are very serious about their beliefs.
One day in 2013, Jared Eller and Lee Stafford walked into the gallery and bistro and announced that they wanted to hold their gay wedding there because this business also opened their doors to weddings. When the owners explained to them that homosexuality is against their beliefs and therefore hosting said union in their establishment would violate their religious duties, Eller and Stafford said they understood and left.
These two people walked in past the two girls dressed in Mennonite clothing, chose to ignore the fact that the owners were Mennonite and they were in a Mennonite establishment and proceeded to ask the owners to violate their religious beliefs to make Eller and Stafford happy. Who discriminated against whom? Who is practicing intolerance?
A few days later, at the urging of their friends, Stafford and Eller contacted the Iowa chapter of the ACLU to file suit. They in turn started a one sided smear campaign against the owners which the media was all too eager to pick up and broadcast. Who again discriminated against whom? Who is practicing intolerance?
This would be like me walking into a deli and upon seeing the employees behind the counter wearing yamakas, ignore the common sense fact that this is a Jewish Kosher Deli and ask to be served a ham sandwich. Then upon being told that they don’t serve pork for religious reasons, for me to go out and file suit against them for not serving me.
The owners get lawyers who file a countersuit against the ACLU for violating their First Amendment rights. In the meanwhile due to the bad press, a couple other people who had paid deposits to the bistro to hold their traditional weddings there cancelled their reservations. Even though there was a no refund policy, the owners refunded their deposits. Who discriminated against whom? Who was practicing intolerance?
The owners of the bistro started receiving hateful and threatening emails from people. Some of these people claimed to be friends of Eller and Stafford. These same people took to social media to further castigate the owners. One person posted that he was denied employment there based on his sexual preference. Another, who said he used to work there, said he was fired from this establishment for being gay. Having previously met the owners, I knew they mostly if not completely employed family and church members. Who is discriminating against whom? Who is practicing intolerance?
I posted to both of these accusers that they better hope that their accusations were true because if not, by posting lies about an establishment to harm their business, they had just opened themselves up to being sued for libel. Almost immediately both deleted their statements. Who is discriminating against whom? Who is practicing intolerance?
This past week the owners, wanting to get this litigation over with, dropped their countersuit and settled the complaint against them for $5,000. As part of the settlement they were forced to close down their establishment to all weddings because the Eller/Stafford team wanted them to forsake their beliefs and allow homosexual weddings in their business. Who is discriminating against whom? Who is practicing intolerance?
Donna Red Wing, the director of a LGBT group in Iowa said it was sad because this business is such a beautiful place and claimed to respect the owners’ beliefs, but since Iowa prohibits owners of businesses open to the public from discriminating for any reason, it was the right choice. Personally, I don’t believe she has any sympathy at all for these people who have been persecuted for their religious beliefs as she is part of the group that screams for tolerance while failing to tolerate.
I also believe that the Iowa law is in violation of the First Amendment rights of every person of faith because it basically is saying that if you want to have a business you have to check the faith you worship at the door and worship the dollar instead.