The intentions and desires of many who support the nondiscrimination ordinance in Billings may be about fairness, inclusiveness, love, acceptance and community. However, the substantial result of the NDO will be to advance the new morality a little further and force the old morality to retreat a little more.
The public debate in Billings has clearly shown that NDO is a moral issue.
Some people who support the NDO have accused their opponents of immorality. The accusations include bigotry, hatred, rejecting people, being hurtful, homophobic, in favor of wrong, unpatriotic, unchristian, and ungodly.
Some people who oppose the NDO consider sexual intercourse with a person of the same sex to be immoral and do not want to be compelled to support, aid, or abet immorality.
People who consider themselves moral do not like to see other people leading an immoral life. Moral people use religious encouragement, community norms and civil laws to promote morality and restrain immorality. When those fail, moral people resort to punishment, rehabilitation and re-education.
Consider what happened to Miami Dolphins player Don Jones, who was suspended from team activities and had to pay a fine because of comments he made about a gay college football player kissing his gay partner. In addition, Jones made an apology after being called to repentance and was then sent to sensitivity training.
The NDO debate is different than the debates over racism and sexism. Our society has always tolerated discrimination against immorality. But racists and sexists do not discriminate against immorality. The male chauvinist does not say that to live as a woman is immoral. He says women are inferior. The member of the Ku Klux Klan does not say that to live as a black person is immoral. He says the black person is inferior.
The debate over the NDO is not about a segment of society being inferior. It is a debate over morality. The debate over morality inevitably includes the question of which authority determines the moral code. Should it be pop music stars? The ACLU? Hollywood? They have all weighed in on the debate either directly or indirectly.
Even those claiming to live under the umbrella of Christianity are divided over these sexual issues. In the past, church councils which gathered representation from every corner of Christendom sometimes settled difficult and problematic issues. Today it is every denomination for itself doing what is right in its own eyes.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) recently voted to redefine marriage as being between two people, regardless of sex. On the other hand, the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia (six million members) separated itself from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) because the ELCA decided that being gay or lesbian should not keep a person from being a pastor.
All societies have discriminated against immorality. The NDO is not about not discriminating. It is about changing which moral code is to be discriminated against.
The Rev. Arlo Pullman is pastor of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Laurel.
The Faith & Values column appears regularly in the Saturday Life section of The Billings Gazette. Pastors, ethicists, educators or other experts who would like to write a column about faith, ethics or values for the section, should contact: Susan Olp; Billings Gazette; 401 N. Broadway; Billings, MT 59101. Or call her at 657-1281; fax to her attention at 657-1208; or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.