Is it wrong to deny service to someone who is obviously in sin?


I want to start a small photography business but I'm worried about 'clients'. What if a homosexual couple wants me to photograph a 'couple's shoot' for them? I believe that I would have to decline. However, a photographer in New Mexico was sued for discrimination against a lesbian couple. They wanted the photographer to shoot their commitment ceremony but the photographer declined due to religious beliefs. I don't know all the legalities, yet, but I want to know if there are Scriptures that would help me understand what I should do as someone who provides a service to the public.

So my question is: Is it wrong for someone who provides a public service to deny their services to obvious sinners?

Two examples:

  • A photographer in New Mexico was sued for declining to photograph a lesbian couples union ceremony. She claimed it was against her religion but lost the suit anyway.
  • My husband's father is a painter and took a job painting a man's house but when he arrived and saw that the man was a homosexual living with his partner, he (after preaching the Bible to them a bit) left, refusing to paint the house. He believes he cannot do business with homosexual deviants.

I completely agree with the first one. I, wanting to start a photography business, would not photograph homosexuals 'couple's shoots' or union ceremonies. I feel that would be condoning the act of homosexuality. But I'm a bit lost on what to do if a man, who is openly gay, comes to me for just a regular portrait shoot. Would it be wrong to do business with him if it's just photos of him? Is it wrong for any Christian to do business with obvious sinners? So many people sin on a daily basis, so what if a Christian owns a grocery store? Do they ban all sinners from shopping there? No. So what would I do? Please, this is something I would really like your opinion on and any scriptural help would be appreciated. I've talked to my husband about the possible situations I would come across if I do start a business and he is just as lost as I am on what to do.


From a Christian's standpoint, we cannot avoid contact with sinners. "I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world" (I Corinthians 5:9-10). Where Christians must put their feet down is when a person claims to be a Christian but lives in sin. "But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner--not even to eat with such a person" (I Corinthians 5:11).

Thus, Christians are going to end up doing business and working with people with whom they do not agree concerning the moral circumstances of their life. Balancing this, however, is that Christians shouldn't get into a position where their service shows support for a sinful lifestyle. "Who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them" (Romans 1:32; see also Psalm 50:18). I very much doubt being hired to paint someone's house would appear to anyone as condoning whatever takes place in that house, whether it is homosexuality, fornication, or adultery. But I do agree that photographing a homosexual "commitment ceremony" is something too closely tied to that particular sin and I would refuse. The problem is that the photographer is seen as a part of the ceremony. I would refuse to rent an apartment to someone I strongly suspected dealt in drugs or were living together without marriage, which is probably why I'm not in the rental business.

I had someone check into what you can do from a legal standpoint. The answer was that there is no clear-cut answer and varies from state-to-state.  California, New Mexico, and some other liberal states have found that all businesses must accept all customers with a handful of exceptions (dealing with health and safety for the most part).

Generally, a "neutral standard" can be acceptable for denying service like "no shirt, no shoes, no service" as long as it is equally enforced on everyone. This is also a health and safety standard.  But a ban on wearing a headscarf would not be allowed since it would mostly impact Muslim women.

Some states have allowed doctors or pharmacists to refuse service in the case of abortions or abortion pills.  So if your state has laws or case-law allowing conscientious objections as grounds for denying service then you'd be safe at least in the case of refusing to attend a homosexual ceremony.  You probably would not be permitted in even those states to deny service that would not make you participate in an objectionable activity. For example, you could not deny someone the right to have a portrait made simply because they were homosexual.

To be certain of where your state stands in the mix, you should consult a lawyer or call your state's department of labor or human rights commission.

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