What Allen West Really Got Wrong About 'Not Steve'
On Sunday morning, former congressman and Fox News Contributor Allen West went to the checkout at a Dallas-area Walmart, alcohol in hand. Just as he was about to complete the purchase, another employee put up a "No alcohol products in this lane" sign.
As West reported in a blog post that he titled, "More ominous signs of Christian persecution", he wondered what was wrong, and being, in his words, an "inquisitive fella," he "used my additional set of eyes â€" glasses â€" to see the young checkout man's name. Let me just say it was NOT 'Steve.'"
West then pointed the sign out to his daughter who asked, "how is it that this Muslim employee could refuse service to customers based on his religious beliefs, but Christians are being forced to participate in specific events contrary to their religious beliefs?"
West then continues, "Imagine that, this employee at Walmart refused to just scan a bottle or container of an alcoholic beverage â€" and that is acceptable. A Christian business owner declines to participate or provide service to a specific event â€" a gay wedding â€" which contradicts their faith, and the State crushes them."
In West's view, this was surely a sign that Sharia law is taking over America and persecuting Christians like him who want to buy booze on a Sunday morning.
Soon thereafter, West, or the "editor," updated the blog post to point out, that "We spoke to the Walmart store, and apparently employees under 21 years old are prohibited from selling cigarettes and alcohol."Â Rather than acknowledge the mistake and leave it at that, West continued, "However, that isn't to say Walmart isn't selectively caving to Muslim demands, such as this case regarding Halal meat in Ohio."
Now there are several things that are wrong with West's essay. If there's any doubt about the truth of theÂ aphorismÂ saying that you should not assume things, this is Exhibit A. There are the clear facts that West got wrong. The Walmart employee ("NOT Steve"), whom West profiled both racially and religiously, was not being accommodated for his religious beliefs. Instead, Walmart simply followed its corporate policy of not allowing any cashiers under the age of 21 to sell alcohol or tobacco – a policy that conservative Christians in the years leading to prohibition would probably have agreed with. So it was not about religion at all.
But there is an even bigger problem here – and that is the idea that accommodating one religion somehow threatens the beliefs of people who believe differently. Even if 'NOT Steve' was a Muslim, and the employer was accommodating 'NOT Steve's' beliefs, West tries to argue that Walmart's accommodation of a purported Muslim's beliefs is an "ominous sign of Christian persecution."
West then goes on to talk about business owners who do not want to participate in same-sex weddings, and goes on to imply that there is a double-standard – in West's view other religious groups are accommodated while Christians are not, and this somehow amounts to the persecution of Christians.
The reality is, we are living in a time when conservative Christians are requesting accommodation so they can work without violating their religious beliefs but many are unwilling to admit that other religious groups should have the same accommodation rights. Making reasonable accommodations so an employee can practice his or her faith is a good thing.
In working toward reasonably accommodating the religious practices of religious minorities we, in turn, preserve the right of each of us to practice our faith, or non-faith. Even though West got the facts wrong about his situation, had he been right, Walmart should have been applauded for finding a way to accommodate the religious beliefs of a young employee. West's essay may well lead us to take a wary glance to see from which direction the ominous clouds of Christian persecution are really coming, and to be even more vigilant about the protecting the religious liberty of all peaceful people of faith.
"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you,Â for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 7:12 (NIV).