The Catholic owners of a Missouri restaurant allegedly denied service to a lesbian couple just weeks before the couple married.
Kendall Brown and Mindy Rackley planned the rehearsal dinner for their wedding at Madison’s Cafe in O’Fallon, Missouri. But according to the couple, they were denied service when the Catholic owners, Tom and Julie Kuhn, found out the event would be for a same-gender couple, reported The Huffington Post. The couple shared about the refusal on Facebook:
“I [Brown] received a phone call from the owner’s wife the next day. When I answered she said she had some questions about the dinner. One of the questions was ‘What is your groom’s name to which I kindly responded, ‘It’s actually a woman and her name is Mindy.’ She’s said, ‘Your spouse is a WOMAN?’ She immediately proceeded to tell me that she is sorry she will have to defer [sic] me to someone else for our dinner because they don’t condone that kind of relationship. She told me that out of ‘love’ for me she has to decline our business because they believe I am in an unhealthy relationship. I immediately hung up.'”
The couple shared the post so that others would not be hurt by the Kuhn’s denial of service, describing that refusal as “prejudiced and discriminating.” But the owners of Madison’s Cafe have defended their choice to not serve a lesbian couple. The Huffington Post reported that the restaurant added a faith-based mission statement to its website, which reads:
“‘We believe that the Bible teaches that the only true and appropriate marriage is the union of one man and one woman, as created, and that other types of marriage are immoral. . .We also believe that it is our religious duty not to aid or assist others to act immorally.'”
Brown and Rackley disagreed, saying the Jesus they know is welcoming to all. Brown told NBC News:
“‘We honor their choice to believe whatever they have chosen, but when do you draw the line?. . .Not too long ago, people were using religion to justify racism and not serving African Americans. We can’t hide this inhumanity under a religious umbrella.'”
The Kuhn’s appear to be legally protected as no applicable local or state non-discrimination laws include sexual orientation as a protected category. Brown and Rackley have said they will not be pursuing legal action, or in Brown’s words, “we don’t want to fight hate with hate.” The couple focused instead on their wedding which took place in mid-June with a rehearsal dinner held by an affirming venue.
Tom and Julie Kuhn are in the minority of U.S. Catholics who believe religiously-based service refusals are justified. Findings from the Public Religion Research Institute published earlier this year showed nearly 60% of U.S. Catholics oppose such refusals and 71% support wider non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people.
But the reality is that in most states, discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity remains perfectly legal. The Kuhns in Missouri are free to use religion as a basis to discriminate. This lack of protections requires a political and legal solution for which Catholics must work. The Kuhns and other Catholic business owners, however, do not need to wait for laws to be updated. They can simply look to their church’s teachings that prohibit unjust discrimination targeting LGBTQ people.
It is too late to remedy the decision against Kendall Brown and Mindy Rackley, but the Kuhns can easily remove their discriminatory mission statement and open their doors to all future couples.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 9, 2019