OGDEN – The ability to express and act upon religion with the proposed anti-discrimination laws was hotly contested at a debate at the Ogden City Library last week. It was held between Pastor Dave Mallinak of the Berean Baptist Church and political activist and QSaltLake contributing writer Bob Henline and it brought more than 20 people to listen to the discussion.
Mallinak has opposed the ordinances in city council meetings and in a QSaltLake guest editorial on the grounds that the law would prevent him and others from expressing their religion.
“Homosexuality is an abomination,” Mallinak said during the debate. “I should be able to object to homosexuality in the workplace. I should be able to tell homosexuals that I do not want to rent an apartment to them because I don’t support their actions and I don’t want it happening on my property.”
Mallinak said the ordinances do not allow for Christians to object to homosexuality and that the opportunity for people to act on their religion would be stifled. The ordinances passed the day after the debate with a 4-3 vote, but Mayor Matthew Godfrey has promised to veto the bills. The council would need five votes to override the veto.
Henline contended that the ordinance did not impose any restrictions on religious freedoms.
“Your religious freedom stops when it causes you to take actions that harm other people,” Henline said. “Your right to spin your fist around in a circle stops the moment it connects with someone else’s face.”
Mallinak stressed that he does not necessarily think that all gay and transgender people should be fired or evicted, but that it is an isolated problem and not one that the Ogden City Council needs to worry about.
“This problem is not pervasive,” Mallinak said. “There may be some isolated cases, but it’s not a problem in Ogden. We’re nice people here.”
Henline asked Mallinak to define exactly how many people needed to lose their jobs or be evicted before it became and problem.
“If 10 people are murdered in a city, we have a law against that. Why not make a law banning discrimination?” Henline said. “Whether it’s one person, 10 people or 100 people, it’s still a problem.”
When audience members pointed out a study that indicated 44 percent of gay Utahns and 67 percent of transgender Utahns had been either fired or denied a job because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, Mallinak said that did not make a difference to him. He still opposed the ordinances and denied that it was an problem that city needed to address.
“I think at the heart of this debate, equality is the issue,” Henline said. “This ordinance applies to everyone equally. Everyone has a sexual identity and a gender orientation. This is simply about basic civil liberties.