I saw this telling exchange on Twitter yesterday.
Sarah Pulliam Bailey was reporting on the first national conference of the The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and she tweeted this: “Standing ovation for the owner of Washington florist who declined to sell flowers to a gay couple.”
Ryan T. Anderson replied, “.@spulliam thats a terribly biased tweet considering she sold flowers to the couple FOR YEARS. she declined to do *wedding* flower
The back and forth continued:
@RyanT_Anderson That is a false accusation. You cannot decline a wedding. You decline ppl. It was for a wedding but Twitter ran out of room.
.@spulliam No one gave her a standing ovation because she declined to sell flowers to a gay couple. It’s because of the *wedding* aspect.
@RyanT_Anderson It couldn’t fit in the tweet if I included a video. It is still a fact that she declined a service to a gay couple.
@spulliam spin it however you want. It’s poor journalism. You left out the *essential* fact. @RyanT_Anderson I’m not spinning anything. It was a fact that she declined services to a gay couple.
@spulliam journalists frame stories in how they phrase things. your phrasing left out the essential element. poor form. @RyanT_Anderson I’m sorry I didn’t emphasize your personal agenda. But what I said was still true. @spulliam it’s not my personal agenda (who’s nasty?), but the essential aspect of the story. Poor journalism. More of an activist in fact. @RyanT_Anderson See this is when we should just part ways, because you are not interested in what is true. You want your point communicated. @spulliam “My point”? “my agenda”? I want journalists to communicate to readers what took place. If you don’t mention wedding, you missed it
Here are my thoughts:
1. It’s difficult to have an edifying conversation when you’re speaking in public with sound bites. You can score points for your side, but rarely do you convince the other.
2. For whatever reason, Sarah did leave out the most important part of the story, which is bad journalism. Either she has an agenda, or Twitter is also a bad medium for reporting the news. Maybe both?
3. The intent of the florist matters. Did she refuse to sell flowers to people or to an event? Why not ask her? She will tell you that she has sold flowers to gay people for years. It’s only the event that she cannot support without violating her conscience.
4. The florist’s intent doesn’t matter to many because they see gay marriage as a civil rights issue. Gay is the new black, and just as we wouldn’t let a florist get away with not selling flowers to an inter-racial marriage, so we must not let them discriminate against gay people.
5. When framed as a civil rights issue, traditional marriage will always lose. But what if this isn’t about rights? I’ll grant homosexuals the right to marry, but that doesn’t mean they are able to pull it off. I have the right to dunk a basketball, but I am unable to because I am limited by my earth bound body. Gay people have the right to consummate their marriage, but they lack the physical equipment to actually do it. It’s impossible to be for gay marriage without committing the heresy of Gnosticism. As Andy Crouch has written, our bodies matter.
6. What we have is an apparent clash of civil rights. Gay people want their right to be affirmed as gay, and the florist wants her right to obey God. This clash is already spreading into other areas of society. Christian colleges like Cornerstone are preparing for the day, perhaps not too far away, when the government will revoke our federal aid and non-profit status because we discriminate against practicing homosexuals. This would shut us down, and many other schools and parachurch organizations like us. Do you want to talk about civil rights? Just wait. The real clash is coming.