Rev. Ryan Hayden's Letter
From: Rev. Ryan Hayden
To: CITY COMMISSION
Subject: City Ordinance on Discrimination
Like so many people on the several sides of this possible city ordinance, I’m writing to reflect briefly as both a constituent, and one who represents many citizens of Manhattan.
As I see it, there are three issues at stake.
- The desire to see no one treated with inappropriate disrespect, particularly in concern to public treatment, and housing.
- The desire to make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
- The desire to not dictate people’s thoughts.
Having informally managed a rental house for a relative, and having suggested rental to, served, and befriended an “alternative lifestyle” household (currently, and in this city), I can see the importance of fairness to all people concerned. The owner was uncertain of renting to the family in question. I asked if their references checked out, and they appeared to be a good risk. Neither the owner, nor the renters were making value judgments on the other by contracting to rent a vacant house. This is how life should be...frankly, in a nation that has accurately depicted itself as historically Christian in origin. However, BOTH parties were allowed to make that contract freely with each other.
At the same time, the ordinance allows people with a small number of units, or who are living in the unit to be rented, to protect their families according to their religious or personal convictions on either of the two main sides of this issue. I praise the commission for its wisdom and insight in this specific matter.
I am greatly troubled by one part of the ordinance that MUST be an oversight. 10-18 Section 13 (A). It would be absurd to tell a religious group that their freedom of religion was based on them accepting other religions as members of their organization. And yet, that is exactly what this piece says. If a church denies membership to someone on the basis of doctrinal differences, moral differences, et cetera, then they lose the right to control who is allowed to utilize their building? Clearly a government can not legally dictate the membership of a church. I’m certain everyone on the commission agrees that of doctrines of religion, sexual orientation and gender identity fall into a category of religious discernment that are completely different from race, sex, family or military status, disability, color, and national origin or ancestry. As written, this section of the ordinance has no place in an American document, but rather sounds like a fascist imposition that sees no value in freedom of religion.
In the end, I’m curious about section 10-28 (D). It would appear that the commission will appoint a Director who will try to resolve problems by trying to persuade the target of the complaint to no longer hold their religious or personal conviction through the force of law. Again, that strikes at the very core of what should be American conscience. It is without question, an attempt to alter the thoughts of citizens by government mandate. It would be very frightening to live in a culture where a homosexual landlord refused service to a religiously heterosexual tenant, was taken to court, where the court would tried to force the homosexual to accept the religiously heterosexual’s convictions as right. The reverse scenario would also be frightening. Surely the commission is not intending to endow a legal Director or board with the ability to force or fine someone into altering their religious or philosophical views.
Thank you for taking the time to consider these reflections on the ordinance, as it is written.
Rev. Ryan Hayden
University Christian Church Ministry Team – Senior Minister