Denial of Service

Photo by Kayle Kaupanger on Unsplash

Denying Forgiveness Is No Way To Live

by Eric Elkin

See, I am setting a plumb line in the middle of my people Israel. I will never again forgive them.
— Amos 7: 7-15

The Red Hen restaurant re-opened for business two weeks after it closed due to the controversy surrounding denial of service. The quiet little eatery set the news world on fire when co-owner Stephanie Wilkinson asked White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, to leave. 


The incident happened just weeks after the Supreme Court ruling on the case of the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. This court case involved the owner of a bakery refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The owner refused service due to his religious beliefs.


Interestingly, the Supreme Court decision did not actually focus on the right of the owner to deny service. Their decision centered on the interaction between the shop owner and the Civil Rights Commission. The Supreme Court felt the Commission lacked neutrality in dealing with religious freedom. The justices described the actions of the Commission as hostile towards Jack Phillips, the cake shop owner.


The truth of the matter is Stephanie Wilkinson is within her right to deny service to anyone as long as her denial is not based on race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Jack Phillips is still not allowed to deny service to a customer based on race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. That remains the law.


...a baker, in his capacity as the owner of a business serving the public, “might have his right to the free exercise of his religion limited by generally applicable laws”, a State decision in an adjudication “in which religious hostility on the part of the State itself” is a factor violates the “State’s obligation of religious neutrality” under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.
— Majority Opinion of the Supreme Court

I’m not sure any of these points mattered to the protestors who gathered outside the Red Hen. Some gathered to support Wilkinson’s decision, while others were there to support the President and liberal hypocrisy. One person interviewed said he represented a 2nd Amendment group demanding equal service to all people. I doubt this same group protested the Cakeshop.


Not wanting to miss the opportunity to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, some preachers, described by USA Today as “Westboro Baptist-like” showed up to declare the judgment of God. They shouted into megaphones and held signs to drive home their point. Signs which said, “Unless They Repent, Let God Burn Them.”


The preachers actually provided a unifying spirit amongst the opposing groups. None of the other protestors wanted anything to do with their message and distanced themselves from these religious zealots. 


Personally, I don’t think God ever denies forgiveness, not even in Amos’ time. People who reject giving forgiveness, grace, and mercy to each other tend to form the hateful world they dwell in. I think Amos lets us know the ball is in our court. Either we are committed to revenge or reconciliation. One of those options is life; the other is not.


Click to read Amos 7: 7-15

Reflection Questions:

  • When have you encountered God’s judgment?
  • How much of this judgment was God-centered and how much was of human origin?
  • What would our world look like without forgiveness?
  • How can we, as people of faith, work for reconciliation?

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