Op-Ed

Ky. Voices: T-shirt company victim of modern witch hunt

Martin Cothran is spokesman for the Family Foundation, a conservative advocacy group.
Martin Cothran is spokesman for the Family Foundation, a conservative advocacy group.

Herald-Leader columnist Tom Eblen cheered on the witch hunt over a Christian businessman's refusal to print T-shirts with a message that contradicts his religious views.

The man is being hauled before the Lexington Human Rights commission, which is being called upon to throw him into the political water to see if he floats.

Taking up his torch, Eblen added his voice to those of the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, who are chanting the political equivalent of "Burn him!"

The University of Kentucky, too, has added its increasingly anti-religious voice to the din. This is the same university that refused to hire a science professor on the grounds that he was an evangelical, resulting in a complaint to the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, which was completely ignored.

Eblen and the rest of the mob are arguing that the business, Hands on Originals, has violated the Lexington Fairness Ordinance, an ordinance which added coverage for sexual orientation to that for race, religion, gender and national origin in anti-discrimination laws governing housing, employment and public accommodations.

The ordinance prohibits a business from refusing to serve a person on the basis of his sexual orientation.

In a famous scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a woman is accused of being a witch. The reason? "She looks like one." To Eblen and the rest of the witch hunters, Hands On Originals looks like it's discriminating, even though it's not.

What Eblen and the mob haven't noticed in the midst of their frenzied denunciations is that Hands On Originals did not discriminate against any customer on the basis of sexual orientation. In fact, the business has an expressed policy against it. What it did do was refuse to print a T-shirt with a message that went against its religious convictions.

It didn't refuse to print the T-shirts because of who was asking it to print them; it refused to print them because of what the T-shirts said. This is not prohibited by the ordinance.

Had the group come to Hands On to print a shirt that said "I love the Wildcats," there would have been no problem.

Ironically, the people really discriminating are UK and any other organization that pulls its business from the T-shirt company, since they are doing so on the basis of the owner's religious beliefs. If they were providing the service rather than receiving it, they would be the ones violating anti-discrimination laws.

It used to be witches who were supposed to contort themselves into strange positions, but now gay activist groups, marching under the banner of tolerance, are twisting themselves into the tolerance police, intent, not on preventing discrimination against individuals, but on using the power of government to force others to agree with them.

But in their increasingly intolerant crusade, they have apparently failed to take note of the consequences.

Imagine that you ran a T-shirt business and a white supremacist group came to you to print T-shirts that said, "Down with N-----s!" According to the reasoning of Eblen and the mob, anti-discrimination laws would require you to print them. Not to do so would be to discriminate against a racial group, in this case, Aryans.

Here's where the gay rights activists and liberal journalists meet the Aryan Nation.

Eblen's bizarre reasoning doesn't end there. He ventures into the issue of what Christianity actually says about homosexuality, saying that, the way he reads it, the Gospels aren't against it. Notice the subtle avoidance of the rest of the New Testament, in which Paul leaves little doubt about the issue. Or the Old Testament, which doesn't exactly read like a gay rights tract.

Then, as if to amuse those of his readers who have actually read the thing, he charges those who disagree with him with selectively reading the Bible.

Might as well burn the Bible along with the witch.

I have a new slogan for a T-shirt: "Down with the Tolerance Police!" I'll take it to a gay-owned T-shirt company and point out that, according to the groups who say they represent them, they have no choice but to print it.

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