Just desserts: Let them bake cake—or not

Over at First Things, Elizabeth Scalia wades into the conscience wars over providing (or not) various services to gays:

The question is no longer whether couples may marry, but whether a baker may refuse to sell them a wedding cake on the strength of his religious or moral conscience, without risking a lawsuit.

Anyone can walk into a kosher or halal butcher’s shop and buy a chicken, but if asked to cater a party with bacon burgers, the butcher will refuse. Should that invite a lawsuit? People understand that you don’t bother religious butchers with requests they cannot honor. Should we be permitted to demand services of a cameraman, or a florist or baker that tread upon their religious sensibilities?

It’s too bad that laws and courts must become involved with what used to be the simplest of lessons: Not everyone thinks the same way, but everyone is entitled to their opinions; if that kid won’t play with you—or that baker will not make your cake—someone else will, so just kiss them up to God, and move on. Or, as Jesus told his apostles when he sent them off to preach the good news, “Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet, in testimony against them.”

The right to honor one’s individual conscience is no small thing to be shrugged off, or misconstrued as an excuse for ignorant behavior in the face of prevailing law. Who among us would blame a launderer (of any creed or background) for refusing to clean the sheets of a KKK member? Would anyone suggest that Rosa Parks had no business thinking for herself when a bus driver told her to get up from her seat?

People need to weigh their passionate feelings with careful thought before they chip away at the inviolability of individual conscience, and those who believe it can be legislated against should beware of hypocrisy; they are often the same people who argue that when it comes to abortion, a woman’s own mind—her individual conscience and reason—outweighs what used to be called “conventional morality.”

Read it all. There’s a lot to chew on. In every sense.


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