Nothing to fear from fairness laws

There are days when the opposition to fairness ordinances seems too histrionic to be taken seriously.

Last Tuesday was one of those days. Some of the people who stormed a meeting of a Berea committee considering the possibility of a fairness ordinance for the community lapsed into near-incomprehensibility as they warned of the dire consequences of such a measure.

"Freedom isn't fair and a stifling fairness isn't free," said Russ Westbrook, pastor of New Hope Reformed Church.

Huh? It's very hard to parse that statement.

"I think it's more about favoritism," said Jeff Osborne, pastor of Berea Evangelistic Church. He followed that logic twister with the standard objection to ending discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in housing and employment: "It's going to hurt our communities. It's going to hurt our families."

This last is puzzling because Berea College, one of the largest employers in the community, has had a policy of non-discrimination for some time, with no apparent damage to families or freedom. The same is true in nearby Richmond, home to Eastern Kentucky University, where a fairness ordinance has also received a cool reception.

EKU, the largest employer in Richmond and the county, has a similar non-discrimination policy that apparently hasn't damaged the community morally or economically.

Since the opposition in Berea appears to be led by some ministers of Christian churches, it's worth taking a closer look at the reasoning of Berea College.

Berea was founded in the 19th century by John Fee, an abolitionist, "to promote the cause of Christ." Relying on the scriptural message that "God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth," Fee committed to the then-radical idea of educating blacks and whites, men and women and people of all faiths.

The school has stayed true to its origins, declaring on its Web site a commitment to "a vision of a world shaped by Christian values, such as the power of love over hate, human dignity and equality, and peace with justice."

You don't have to mangle language to reason that Christian values in that context include non-discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Beyond theological concerns, another troubling thing about the opposition to fairness ordinances — already in Lexington, Louisville, Bowling Green and Covington — is that it seems like such a waste of time when there are real problems.

In 2008, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 16.2 percent of people in Madison County lived in poverty. In March, the unemployment rate was 8.6 percent. Last year, that same county arrested dozens of people in a series of raids in reaction to the growing problem of prescription drug abuse.

Madison County has problems that need to be addressed. Protecting the populace from fairness, however, is not one of them.