Gay Wedding Cake Discrimination

In comments on my post yesterday about standing against discrimination and other forms of injustice, the issue was brought up about the religious freedom of those who want to be able to refuse services to those they object to – in this instance, to refuse to cater for a same-sex wedding.

That is when it is crucial to ask questions.

Here is what I wrote in a comment on that post:

If someone had the stance that only a particular definition of marriage is acceptable to them on religious grounds, e.g. only Christian monogamous marriage is to be catered for, and consistently vetted clients accordingly, then I would have some sympathy for the case that this was a religious enterprise with the freedom to do that. If a band only plays Jewish music for Jewish weddings, I don't think they are obligated to accept an offer to play at a Christian one.

The issue is that there are companies which are quite happy to ignore their Christian Scriptures' teachings and cater for polytheistic weddings, and remarriage of divorced people, and other such things in violation of the clear teaching of the Christian Bible. If they now invoke religious freedom in the interest of discriminating against gays, they are not now just applying their usual practice in one more instance, they are suddenly invoking religion to justify their selective bigotry. And that selective appeal to religion is on much more dubious grounds both from a religious and a legal perspective.

Sometimes important questions get asked. Would the company have the right to refuse to cater a Hindu wedding, where other gods are invoked? What about a marriage involving someone who is divorced? But there is room for there to be religion-specific organizations and companies.

That is why we need to ask other questions. We also need to ask whether a particular organization is already applying religious principles in their business, or have just begun invoking them now when they have happily taken money from all sorts of people in the past. That's what I really want to know in this case. As far as I know, we have not seen these caterers and others like them insisting on their right to refuse to provide for other groups whose weddings are at odds with the teachings of the Bible. Why has it only come up in connection with catering for gays and lesbians?

My guess is because what matters to them is not following all the teachings of their religious texts, or consistency on religious objections, but a deep dislike for gays and lesbians that they do not feel towards those who violate the first two commandments, or Jesus' teaching on divorce.

That dislike, when it is allowed to dictate how you treat others and whether you provide the services that your company offers, is what is known as discrimination. That it is motivated by religion does not matter (except to make it all the more reprehensible). Your right to discriminate in this way is not safeguarded by the first amendment. And treating your being prevented from discriminating against others as though that were discrimination against your freedom to discriminate is despicable.

There is a simple way to resolve this matter that is in everyone's best interest. Learn not to be repulsed by other human beings just because they are different from you. If you consider them sinners, remember that you are one too. Show mercy and compassion, even as you have been shown mercy and compassion.

What would Jesus do? He would probably not only bake the cake, but would attend the wedding.

 

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

    Racial discrimination too had religious rationalizations that can be construed as protected under the First Amendment. Yet racial discrimination in businesses open to the public is not only immoral, it is illegal.

    The standard the US has set is best spoken by John F. Kennedy—which mirrors Jesus’ teachings—when he stated the following in his June 11, 1963 Civil Rights Announcement:

    We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the Scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution. [...]

    The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated. [...]

    I am, therefore, asking the Congress to enact legislation giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public — hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments.

    youtube.com/watch?v=sOGDSgyeHPM

    • Kubricks_Rube

      Yet racial discrimination in businesses open to the public is not only immoral, it is illegal.

      This is a major reason I have trouble with the ‘individuals vs actions’ argument for discrimination. If you allow for legal discrimination against the wedding of two men or two women because that wedding is an “action,” then you similarly have to allow for religiously motivated discrimination against the wedding of an interracial couple. If that’s your position, fine, but own it. (And I’d still like to know how far this goes- is it just weddings or marriages too, which would extend legal discrimination into nearly every area of life.)

      • plectrophenax

        As far as I can see, the Arizona proposed legislation does not mention gays and lesbians; presumably, then anybody could discriminate against anybody, on religious grounds? That sounds potentially chaotic to me, and could wreck civilized society.

        • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

          Evangelicals better be careful what they wish for; in a decade, they may be whining about their own law. This sort of turnabout has happened before.

          • plectrophenax

            Well, yes, I could discriminate against Christians, or Jews, or atheists, if I am reading the legislation correctly. I have to think it will be vetoed. Just think of the homophobic capitals of the world – Moscow, Tehran, and Arizona!

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

    The best way to “learn not to be repulsed” is to meet people. I grew up afraid that gays were going to kidnap me, the handsome little devil that I used to be, because I got dragged to an Anita Bryant “Save Our Children” rally. Then I met an RN whom I really respected. I found out he was gay. I discovered several RNs at the hospital were gay. At first, it was all kind of shocking, being confronted with the reality of these nice people who did a good job of patient care, when they were supposed to be horrible people. But they’re not horrible people, they’re just a little different.

    We’re going to have a de-churched breakfast again at our house soon. All kinds of sinners in the eyes of fervently self-righteous churchgoers will be here, including some gay folks and some concealed carry folks. If you hate a group of people, best meet and mingle with some of them. They’re just like you, but maybe a little different. Even bigots are welcome at my eccentricly round table. Prepare to be changed.

  • stuart32

    It is worth noting that people may actually be quite unaware of the reasons why they make moral judgements. There is a lot of research indicating this. For example, when people are asked to make a judgement about a hypothetical scenario their judgement will be harsher if there is an unpleasant smell in the room.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2562923/

    So someone may claim to object to gay marriage on the grounds of some abstract principle and believe this to be the case while actually being influenced by something more visceral. The answer is to be more aware of our potential for irrational bias.

  • http://www.gentlewisdom.org/ Peter Kirk

    A friend of mine shared this on Facebook: “Suppose I own a sign company. The Westboro Baptist Church orders 25 printed “God Hates Fags” posters on card stock so they can go picket a military funeral. If you think I should be allowed to refuse them service, you can stop your moral grandstanding about how discriminating against potential business clients based on religious beliefs should be against the law.” I’m not sure how I would respond to that. How would you respond?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      That is a great question. I think that, if the organization has printed things for hate groups in the past, refusing this one would arguably be discriminatory. If they consistently view it as incompatible with their moral and/or religious convictions to provide service to hate groups, and do that consistently, then they can probably make a case that their company has a consistent stance and that this is not arbitrary refusal because of their dislike for one hate group, and not hate groups in general.

      Does that make sense? I think the issue is (or should be) less about whether organizations may have the right to offer services in accordance with the owner’s religious convictions, but with whether appeals to religion are only brought in rarely to justify discrimination.

      • http://www.gentlewisdom.org/ Peter Kirk

        I guess part of the problem is that small businesses (I run one!) don’t have detailed written policies about such matters, which arise rarely, but handle cases as they come. If we start to rent out our dance studio to community groups, here in a conservative part of Virginia, it might be some time before an issue arose. So if a hate group, or a same sex wedding party, came in one day and asked to rent the studio, how could we reasonably and legally respond? (I’m not suggesting we would refuse the same sex wedding party, just wondering if we could legally do so.) We can’t point to a consistent stance as this would be the first such instance, although once we made a decision we would be consistent in future decisions on similar cases.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          I imagine that one could probably make the case that this was the first instance.

          But I wonder how many people actually want to have a sectarian catering service, or photography service, or whatever. I suspect that most people, including most Christians, actually want to photograph the Hindu wedding or cater the lesbian wedding, and to have their Christian testimony be “I will provide you with the best service I can as an expression of my faith in Christ and love for you” rather than say, as a few choose to, “I am going to implausibly expect that I can win you to faith in Christ by treating you with rudeness, disrespect, and discrimination.”

          • http://www.gentlewisdom.org/ Peter Kirk

            My guess would be that the cake shop owners didn’t really aim to win anyone to Christ. They probably considered the gay couple beyond redemption, predestined to hell. And most likely they were more concerned about not polluting themselves by contact with such “evildoers” or with any symbols of their “evil”. While such fundies pay lip service to the importance of evangelism, more as an act of obedience than out of love for the unsaved, their main concern is with keeping themselves separate from the world.

    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

      Remember, the Allies at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial excecuted Julius Streicher for publishing Der Stürmer, found such incitement to be a crime against humanity.

      Speech that involves incitement, false statements of fact…are all completely exempt from First Amendment protections.
      /wiki/United_States_free_speech_exceptions

      • http://www.gentlewisdom.org/ Peter Kirk

        Brian, if you read on in the Wikipedia article, you will find that Westboro Baptists’ statements, like those of the KKK, are apparently not covered by the exemption as long as they do not “express an immediate, or imminent intent to do violence.” Indeed the Supreme Court explicitly upheld the Westboro crowd’s right to protest in Snyder v. Phelps (2011), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snyder_v._Phelps. The International Criminal Court might express a different view, but they are not likely to be involved here.

        • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

          True. I just wanted to show an extreme example of how hate speech is viewed, even if it is sometimes protected like Phelps’. TV stations refuse ads all the time, even if the speech is protected.

          • http://www.gentlewisdom.org/ Peter Kirk

            Well, there is a general right for commercial publishers to refuse advertising arbitrarily. It is another issue as to how far that right extends e.g. would they be allowed to have a policy of not accepting advertising from African Americans? They can certainly refuse it from hate groups like Westboro Baptists.

    • ahermit

      The judge in Colorado addressed that argument in his ruling:

      https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/assets/initial_decision_case_no._cr_2013-0008.pdf

      “Finally, Respondents argue that if they are compelled to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, then a black baker could not refuse to make a cake bearing a white-supremacist message for a member of the Aryan Nation; and an Islamic baker could not refuse to make a cake denigrating the Koran for the Westboro Baptist Church. However, neither of these fanciful hypothetical situations proves Respondents’ point. In both cases, it is the explicit, unmistakable, offensive message that the bakers are asked to put on the cake that gives rise to the bakers’ free speech right to refuse. That, however, is not the case here, where Respondents refused to bake any cake for Complainants regardless of what was written on it or what it looked like. Respondents have no free speech right to refuse because they were only asked to bake a cake, not make a speech”

      Cake is not speech. Cake is food.

      • http://www.gentlewisdom.org/ Peter Kirk

        Thank you, ahermit. That is certainly a clear and sensible distinction. I had somehow imagined that the Colorado cake was requested with gay wedding wording and symbols on it. A cake with words on is speech. But if it was a plain cake, I can’t see any good reason for refusing.

        But a question does arise: If some Westboro Baptists come into my business, wearing shirts with hate messages on them, am I entitled to refuse to serve them, because they are promoting a message I find offensive? If I am, then I can see someone arguing that they should be able to refuse to serve people wearing equal sign shirts promoting same sex marriage, if they consider that promotion offensive. What distinction can be made there?

        • ahermit

          Well IANAL, but I imagine if you were running a restaraunt or something you could make a case that bringing a hate message into your place is disruptive to your business, especially if the hate is directed at some of your other customers. You can always refuse to serve people who are being disruptive. But it would have to clearly be something derogatory, not just an equal sign or a political symbol. And I don’t think you could refuse to sell food to someone just because of a message on their shirt, no matter how offensive it might be to you.

          And let’s be honest here; no one is pushing for laws like the one in Arizona to protect gay business owners from Fred Phelps. The goal is to keep gays on the outside.

  • http://theoperspectives.blogspot.com/ James Goetz

    I support same-sex marriage on both political and theological grounds, a recent development in my three decades of Christianity. I feel deeply disturbed by the recent Arizona bill. When it comes to wedding cakes, I would not want to force a baker to supply wedding cake toppers that disturbed the baker.

  • http://tunabay.com/ Keika

    What would Jesus do? Jesus would certainly attend the wedding, but asked if he would like to kiss the bride, he might offer to wash the man’s feet instead.

    John 13: 8

  • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

    What would Jesus do? He would probably not only bake the cake, but would attend the wedding.

    Attend the wedding? No doubt. And you know what He’d say, James?

    “Go forth, and sin no more.”

    And the couple would, upon reflection, call off the wedding.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Well, we can debate what Jesus would do. We honestly can only speculate about what Jesus would do if he lived today. But his attitude towards the marginalized makes me wonder why you think he would be involved in the sort of marginalization that you support.

      • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

        Well, we can debate what Jesus would do.

        Can we, James? Do you really consider it an open question regarding what Jesus would think?

        But his attitude towards the marginalized makes me wonder why you think he would be involved in the sort of marginalization that you support.

        Because you’re engaged in a word game. By your standards, Jesus “marginalized” plenty of people. Once again: “Go forth, and sin no more.” Calling people’s sexual behaviors a sin? He told a woman she was sinning based on what she decided to do with her own body. He defined marriage in such a way that “marginalized” people who want open marriages, divorcees, and of course same-sex couples.

        So talk about “marginalization” doesn’t work here, since Christ Himself marginalized people. Further, you want to marginalize people as well. You do know what that means, right? Putting them at the fringes of society. Looking down on them. You just happen to think the people you’re marginalizing deserve it. Surprise: so did Christ. It’s just you two differed on who should be “marginalized”.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          I can’t help but wonder whether you are aware that you are appealing to a text that is not even in our earliest manuscripts of the Gospel of John. It may still reflect something Jesus actually said and did, but you seem to be blissfully ignoring such aspects of the matter.

          But even assuming that the story is an authentic bit of historical data, why do you assume that two people committing to be faithful to one another would be viewed by Jesus in the same way as he viewed someone being unfaithful to another?

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            I can’t help but wonder whether you are aware that you are appealing to a text that is not even in our earliest manuscripts of the Gospel of John. It may still reflect something Jesus actually said and did, but you seem to be blissfully ignoring such aspects of the matter.

            I’m quite aware – and it’s far from the only example, which is why I also noted that Jesus “marginalized” divorcees, among others. Including, quite clearly, defining marriage as a male-female union.

            But even assuming that the story is an authentic bit of historical data, why do you assume that two people committing to be faithful to one another would be viewed by Jesus in the same way as he viewed someone being unfaithful to another?

            Hold on a moment here – you just switched the topic. You asked me why I’d assume that Jesus would ‘be involved in the sort of marginalization’ I support. And I just pointed out – by your standards, Jesus marginalized plenty of people. He marginalized men and women who wish to be divorced, certainly he marginalized those who did get divorced, ‘fornication’ and more.

            So your “but Jesus wouldn’t marginalize people” reply failed. Unless you want to tell me that people aren’t marginalized by being denied a divorce, being viewed as sinners of they divorce, being viewed as sinners if they engage in “fornication”, or otherwise. In which case, there goes the claim that anyone is marginalized by denying them services for their celebratory acts, or even regarding them as sinners.

            Further, Jesus Himself defined marriage quite explicitly as being between a woman and a man – that’s tied right up with His divorce talk. You know, male and female he made them, one flesh? All this combined with the usual condemnations of sexual immorality, and the utter and complete lack of endorsement of same-sex sexual behavior (indeed, the opposite if anything)?

            Like I said – so much for your invocation of Jesus here. Jesus marginalized people – he pointed out sin, including sexual sin, and condemned it. And in this case, we’re not even talking about marginalizing people – we’re talking about acts. Did Jesus ‘marginalize heterosexual men and women’ when He refused to endorse divorce (which, by the way, necessarily would mean Jesus refused to endorse two people ‘committing to be faithful to one another’ in some obvious contexts)? Or did He simply condemn a given act?

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              OK, so basically your approach to this conversation is to assume that I am saying things that I am not, and then to regard my statements of my viewpoint as switches in my position? Again, I don’t think that is likely to help you make your case.

              Jesus reiterated the Biblical principle which stems from a story emphasizing that it is not good for human beings to be alone. The stance of some conservative Christians is that it is good for gays and lesbians to be alone, or perhaps with people that they are not attracted to. How is that supposed to be an expression of the Biblical principle in Genesis? Why do you choose to make the story about gender and not about companionship? And are you aware that such interpretative decisions are a choice on your part, or at least on the part of those to whom you defer in matters of Biblical interpretation?

              • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

                OK, so basically your approach to this conversation is to assume that I am saying things that I am not, and then to regard my statements of my viewpoint as switches in my position?

                Is this a case of projection? I’ve been working with your words on this front – you’ve been the one assuming that people who oppose gay marriage on religious grounds don’t really mean what they say, and cooking up reasons to regard them as exclusively singling out homosexuals while caring not a whit about their religious views.

                The stance of some conservative Christians is that it is good for gays and lesbians to be alone, or perhaps with people that they are not attracted to. How is that supposed to be an expression of the Biblical principle in Genesis?

                Alone? Not at all. Have friends, relationships, make commitments. It’s not about ‘not loving anyone’. The issue comes down to sex and marriage. And, by the by, there are also plenty of moral laws that cover heterosexual unions too.

                Second, it’s the stance of some conservative Christians that it is good for *heterosexuals* to be alone, or be with people they are not attracted to, many times. Hence a celibate priesthood in the Catholic Church, and traditions of celibacy in general. Hence Jesus Himself ruling out divorce even in the case of ‘well I’m not attracted to her’.

                I remind you that you brought up ‘marginalization’ of people by Christ. I’m showing that Christ ‘marginalized’ people by a pretty easy reading of your own terms here.

                Why do you choose to make the story about gender and not about companionship? And are you aware that such interpretative decisions are a choice on your part, or at least on the part of those to whom you defer in matters of Biblical interpretation?

                Well, look at that. You went from ‘I’m going to determine whether or not these Christians are sincere based on the clear teaching of Christ, which they cannot intellectually defer from or else they’re hypocrites’ to ‘An interpretation is a choice, you’re choosing to read the Bible one way instead of another’ rather swiftly. And, it seems, inconsistently.

                Are you aware that some ‘interpretations’ are better than others? You, in this very reply, tried to chide me for ‘assuming I am saying things that you are not’. Aside from that being incorrect, it’s a funny thing to accuse me of, since it seems to be your exegesis method when it comes to Christ on these issues.

                Are you aware – after I keep reminding you – that simple Biblical Interpretation is not the only standard on offer here? Again, I’m Catholic. I also find natural law intellectually persuasive. So I have apostolic tradition and philosophy/metaphysics I’m looking to when making these calls.

                If I interpret your words as ‘I sure hate Catholics!’, does that interpretation become valid just because it’s, in some way, a ‘choice’ to interpret you that way?

                • stuart32

                  I would be interested to know more about the natural law perspective. I can see there may be a case for arguing that certain things don’t fit into the natural order. Incest is a good example. There are good evolutionary reasons for avoiding incest. We all carry lethal recessive alleles and a brother and sister, for example, are more likely to have the same alleles than two strangers. So the instinctive aversion that people feel towards incest is useful in evolutionary terms.

                  But a man and a woman who aren’t related could still have the same copy of a lethal allele, it’s just less likely. What if a man and a woman get together and plan to marry but then discover that they have the same alleles? They would be in the same position from an evolutionary perspective as incestuous siblings. Would a relationship between them be equally immoral? Isn’t this what natural law would imply?

  • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

    I already gave my replies to this poor bit of argumentation in the other thread, but I’ll zero in on one point here.

    My guess is because what matters to them is not following all the teachings of their religious texts, or consistency on religious objections, but a deep dislike for gays and lesbians that they do not feel towards those who violate the first two commandments, or Jesus’ teaching on divorce.

    What an interesting position, James. So I suppose if, say… the baker or photographer was entirely willing to make a cake for a known and out homosexual or even group of homosexuals (a birthday cake, or what have you), but were entirely unwilling to make a cake for a same-sex marriage between two heterosexual males, your criticism of them would die on the spot, now wouldn’t it?

    There is a simple way to resolve this matter that is in everyone’s best interest. Learn not to be repulsed by other human beings just because they are different from you. If you consider them sinners, remember that you are one too. Show mercy and compassion, even as you have been shown mercy and compassion.

    You know what’s really despicable, James? Dishonest people who pretend that the only ones who could be opposed to same-sex marriage must be motivated by ‘repulsion’ at people ‘different from you’. Claiming ‘bigot!’ even when people don’t condemn people for what they’re born as, or factors beyond their control, or people at all – but merely acts. It testifies to a deep-seated insecurity, a lack of concern for morality, or people, or kindness, or compassion, and instead a desire to paint someone who opposes one of your modern “progressive” pieties as one or another variety of monster.

    As I said, Jesus probably would attend the wedding and tell the couple – and those in attendance – ‘go, and sin no more’.

    And you, James? So long as we’re painting each other with these brushes, I think I know what role you’d play, and what words you’d say:

    Fools! You have no perception! The stakes we are gambling are terribly high. We must crush him completely! So like John before him, this Jesus must die!

    • plectrophenax

      But which kinds of acts do you think that people should be permitted to not give services to? As well as gay weddings, how about bar mitzvahs, Catholic confirmations, baptisms? I’m not sure how far you extend the notion of an ‘act’, and who would be permitted to boycott it. For example, you could extend it beyond religious objections, to philosophical or political ones? It begins to seem limitless.

      • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

        But which kinds of acts do you think that people should be permitted to not give services to? As well as gay weddings, how about bar mitzvahs, Catholic confirmations, baptisms?

        So, when the local chapter of the klan decides they’d really like their dinner to be catered by the local all-black catering company because they’d find it a hoot and a half to have black servants presents, you think they should knuckle under and accept it… on the grounds that you think the question gets complicated once we admit that people can reasonably refuse to provide service for acts?

        Better yet, you believe people should be protected from discrimination down the line, including for their political or philosophical beliefs? Now you’re creating a limitless problem in the *other* direction.

        • DamienLi

          If the local chapter of the Klan wanted an “all-black catering company” (is there such a thing?) to cater their dinner, the owner could argue that, since the main purpose of the organisation is to advocate discrimination against other races, they had a legitimate reason to believe that their employees would be subjected to abuse due to their personal characteristics, which could be held against them as well.

          This would work because, unlike sexual orientation and other characteristics, having certain political beliefs does NOT make one part of a protected class. Thus, there is much lower scrutiny in such cases. Bakers and caterers are free to refuse service to Nazis, racists, especially if it involves having to perform actions that can be understood as giving support to a cause.

          A reasonable person might conclude that a baker who is willing to make a Hitler cake with Swastikas might have Nazi sympathies. No-one would say that writing “Adam + Steve” on a cake implies support for gay marriage. I suppose that if someone asked for a cake with a pro-gay-marriage political statement, bakers would have much more of a case.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            If the local chapter of the Klan wanted an “all-black catering company” (is there such a thing?) to cater their dinner, the owner could argue that, since the main purpose of the organisation is to advocate discrimination against other races, they had a legitimate reason to believe that their employees would be subjected to abuse due to their personal characteristics, which could be held against them as well.

            Oh, I see. So it’s totally okay to pull support if you dislike what the group or activity is advocating. So long as, you know – it’s in line with the proper “progressive” piety of the moment.

            A reasonable person might conclude that a baker who is willing to make a Hitler cake with Swastikas might have Nazi sympathies. No-one would say that writing “Adam + Steve” on a cake implies support for gay marriage.

            This issue isn’t merely one of sympathy – it’s also participation. Some people would rather not involve themselves with acts or ceremonies or otherwise they find objectionable – the issue is the act, not any particular individual. But apparently it should be totally A-OK to withhold service from whatever organization you choose… but not a gay marriage. Or, I suppose, whatever else the “progressive” piety at the moment senselessly demands conformity over.

          • plectrophenax

            Yes, I noticed that Crude said about the klan, ‘because they find it a hoot and a half to have black servants present’ – this strikes me as not simply about providing a service, e.g. a meal. The ‘hoot and a half’ suggests that the klan want to humiliate the service provider. This is going beyond providing a service, I think, so Crude is muddying the argument.

            • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

              The ‘hoot and a half’ suggests that the klan want to humiliate the service provider. This is going beyond providing a service, I think, so Crude is muddying the argument.

              Oh my. So you think that if a gay couple is specifically targeting a Christian baker who does not want to supply a cake for their wedding, purely to put legal and cultural pressure on them, that they should be denied – and better yet, they’re doing something shameful?

              Or is this going to be a case where it’s A-OK to bully, so long as you’re bullying the “right” people?

              • plectrophenax

                No, I certainly don’t think it’s OK to bully, and I think that that is reason enough to refuse service to someone who is bullying, but this is a different issue from religious objections. You are moving the goal-posts for some reason.

              • James Walker

                how exactly would one go about targeting a “Christian Baker” for this hypothetical treatment, anyway? it’s not as if bakers ordinarily advertise based on their religious affiliation (even kosher and halal bakeries advertise based on how they meet certain dietary practices more-so than religious affiliation)

                and while we’re discussing hypothetical targeting of religious owners of businesses, can we ask the question of why are we discussing hypothetical targeting of religious owners of businesses? is it perhaps because there hasn’t been any real, actual, targeting of business owners who are Christian to be “pro-Gay bullied”?

        • plectrophenax

          So you do think that it’s OK for a someone to not provide a service to a bar mitzvah? I just noticed that you didn’t answer that, but brought up another example. It seems to open the door to any kind of ‘act’, as you put it, being boycotted by somebody, as long as they have some religious or philosophical objection to it. It’s a dizzying prospect.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            So you do think that it’s OK for a someone to not provide a service to a bar mitzvah? I just noticed that you didn’t answer that, but brought up another example. It seems to open the door to any kind of ‘act’, as you put it, being boycotted by somebody, as long as they have some religious or philosophical objection to it. It’s a dizzying prospect.

            Morally or legally? Take the Jehovah’s Witnesses. My understanding is they religiously have a thing against holidays or various traditional celebrations, even like birthday parties. Yep, I think it should be legal for them to refuse to cater to such gatherings, if it would sincerely conflict with their religious beliefs.

            Now, you’ve already made it clear you think it should be legal to refuse to serve groups who are out to humiliate or pressure the service provider, and you seem sympathetic to the idea that one should be able to refuse, on political grounds, serving groups you find disasteful – like the neo-nazis.

            I don’t mind a dizzying prospect or two. Sometimes law is muddy. But at least I’m consistent.

            • plectrophenax

              I think that groups who are out to humiliate someone presents a very different issue; this is not to do with having religious objections to them, but having a reasonable fear that they will do me harm. Same with neo-nazis – certainly in my country (UK), they are big trouble. I would serve someone who was very right-wing but not aggressive.

              I don’t think you are consistent – you keep moving the goal-posts actually.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      If someone consistently refused to cater for any event that was in violation of Biblical teaching, I would support their right to continue to do so, and the status of their company as one that has a particular religious perspective. I support the freedom of groups I disagree with to have their views. But the selective appeal to religious grounds to justify selective discrimination is problematic, legally, morally, and religiously. That you find you can keep saying “Oh no we’re not” does not mean that you are not a bigot. Not being a bigot involves, in the United States in particular, the worth of other human beings and their right to be treated with dignity. When someone can do that for people who break the first two commandments in worship, but not those who express their love for another person of the same gender, it is clearly not religion but something else that is at the heart of the matter, however much they appeal to religion after the fact in the interest of self-justification.

      • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

        If someone consistently refused to cater for any event that was in violation of Biblical teaching, I would support their right to continue to do so, and the status of their company as one that has a particular religious perspective.

        And we’re right on back to the trick I keep pointing out: you say ‘Oh sure, I’d support that’ but you leave out that you’re setting yourself up as the sole arbiter of what is and isn’t a violation of ‘Biblical teaching’ – once again, a problematic stance considering Catholics (among others, frankly) don’t base all of their religious views on strict bible quotes, and that other people (including, might I add, yourself oh “Progressive” one) interpret the bible differently.

        In other words, you’ll support a person’s right to refuse to provide service for an event based on their religious beliefs, but only if you get to decide whether or not they’re sincere Christians – and then, not based on their proclaimed beliefs, but based on what you think their beliefs should be if they say they’re Christian. Except by ‘Christian’ you mean ‘conservative Christian’. Others – like “progressives” – apparently can just make up whatever they want so long as the necessary liberal pieties are met.

        But the selective appeal to religious grounds to justify selective discrimination is problematic, legally, morally, and religiously.

        So when will you provide the evidence the appeal is selective?

        That you find you can keep saying “Oh no we’re not” does not mean that you are not a bigot.

        And the fact that a person defines themselves as ‘progressive’ likewise doesn’t mean they’re not a bigot – particularly an anti-religious bigot.

        When someone can do that for people who break the first two commandments in worship,

        So you believe that to be a Christian, you have to take the Bible literally, including the New Testament? Really? This isn’t some transparently insincere move that is mighty particular to what you regard as conservative Christians?

        but not those who express their love for another person of the same gender

        ‘Expressing love for another person of the same gender’ isn’t problematic. Not even biblically. The problem would be exclusively, in these cases, the sex and the marriage.

        So once again, I ask you this:

        A baker happily sells a cake to a known gay person. Two heterosexual males come in, planning to get married, and ask for a cake for their wedding. They are refused on the grounds that the baker regards same-sex marriage as immoral.

        I take it, based on your words, you’d support them – and would oppose legislation that would force them to make that cake? After all, they demonstrably would not be excluding people on the basis of sexual orientation. It’s quite consistent with the standards you laid out.

        But we both know that the price for agreeing that the baker is not a bigot, and should be legally able to withhold their services, will be to set yourself in opposition to the progressive crowd behind you. Will you do it?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          I have already been clear that I support the right of a religious organization or company to accept and reject orders by whatever guiding principles they adhere to. If a company wants to only cater to people with the letter “i” in their name, presumably they have the right to do so. What I object to is the notion that companies can happily take money from anyone with no sign of religious scruples, and then when they happen to want to discriminate against some, they suddenly claim to be guided by religious scruples in an attempt to justify and get away with that discrimination. Our country safeguards people’s freedom to a remarkable and perhaps even an exaggerated extent, and that is probably better than the alternatives. But I get the sense that you agree that there is a balance to be achieved, and that allowing people to pick one group they do not like and say we do not serve blacks/gays/Jews/Muslims/etc. is likewise problematic. And so, instead of all this posturing and misrepresentation, why not actually discuss the issue in a fair and open manner, seeking to dialogue with those who have a different starting point than you do in order to try to find that balance? Surely you ought to be able to see that any stance that is adopted in law on an issue like this will not please everyone. And so simply increasing your tone of irritation and indignation is unlikely to actually help find that fine line between protecting religious freedom of company owners and protecting citizens from unfair discrimination.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            I have already been clear that I support the right of a religious organization or company to accept and reject orders by whatever guiding principles they adhere to.

            Wonderful!

            You read it right here, folks: James P. McGrath believes that a Christian baker or photographer or service provider in general should be legally able to refuse to provide their service for a gay wedding on religious grounds without legal penalty, so long as their refusal was sincerely religious, and not rooted merely in some kind of non-religious distaste for homosexuals. On this point, James and I are in agreement.

            Don’t mind the ‘bigot’ claims if they come in, James. Sticks and stones and all that.

            What I object to is the notion that companies can happily take money from anyone with no sign of religious scruples, and then when they happen to want to discriminate against some, they suddenly claim to be guided by religious scruples in an attempt to justify and get away with that discrimination.

            Fine. Where are these companies? Can you name a single one, with evidence, that they do what you’re talking about? Or are these companies almost exclusively hypothetical? Because previously you were telling me that you were going to judge them based on biblical criteria that you, not they, would choose.

            And so, instead of all this posturing and misrepresentation, why not actually discuss the issue in a fair and open manner, seeking to dialogue with those who have a different starting point than you do in order to try to find that balance?

            Take a good, long look at your original OP, James. A nazi sign, a racist sign, and then – again, without comment or clarification – a sign barring homosexuals, from a sympathetic anti-religious-rights legislator arguing against a piece of legislation. Combine that with you +1ing a whole bunch of responses to me by people calling me a bigot and so on, and gosh – it sure doesn’t look like you want to interact with people you disagree agree with in a fair and open manner.

            I’m more than happy to discuss issues civilly with people who disagree with me. When their first salvo is a clear argument of equivalence between ‘People who don’t want to provide service to a same-sex marriage’ and ‘People who were turning firehoses on blacks’, providing quiet support for the ‘you are a bigot!’ brigade, how surprised should they be when my tone is, shall we say, confrontational?

            Surely you ought to be able to see that any stance that is adopted in law on an issue like this will not please everyone.

            I’m not particularly concerned with pleasing everyone. I’m concerned with a civil and fair law. As it stands, I can’t even get anyone around here to condemn the act of an activist gay couple knowingly picking out a Christian baker to force them to make a cake for their gay wedding, with their motivation almost entirely being to bully them into a corner with the force of inane law behind them. Instead the consensus seems to be ‘bigots have to deal with it.’

            And so simply increasing your tone of irritation and indignation is unlikely to actually help find that fine line between protecting religious freedom of company owners and protecting citizens from unfair discrimination.

            What evidence do I have that you’re concerned with that ‘fine line’? Where’s your condemnation of LGBT activists and sympathetic parties labeling Christians who disagree with them as bigots, homophobes, etc? And if you need an instance of what I’m talking about, here’s one.

            See, from where I sit, it seems like your only problem with a tone of irritation and indignation is when you’re on the receiving end of it. When it’s the “progressives” angrily screaming that their opponents are all a pack of homophobic bigots and religious hypocrites, well, they’re just channeling the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr now aren’t they.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              You must be new to conversation. If you cannot get the name of your interlocutor right, the odds that you have understood them correctly are slim. But of course, when you do not have to take ownership of your words because of anonymity, it is likely that you approach things differently than you would if you were talking to a friend or co-worker.

              As a Christian, my biggest concern with this issue pertains to the people who have gotten so used to being in the majority that they think that relying on bullying and coercion ought to be the way Christians go about addressing their concerns. The notion that they ought to be seeking to live their faith through doing their jobs well, rather than through refusing to do their jobs for “those people,” seems never to have crossed their minds.

              As for you, why can you not actually address issues? Why do you constantly resort to labeling, misrepresentation, and name-calling? Why can you not address directly and without hyperbole of what the limits of legitimate discrimination ought to be?

              • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

                You must be new to conversation. If you cannot get the name of your interlocutor right, the odds that you have understood them correctly are slim.

                Oh goodness, I said James F. instead of James P in a comment. Clearly all my arguments up to this point are invalid!

                But of course, when you do not have to take ownership of your words because of anonymity, it is likely that you approach things differently than you would if you were talking to a friend or co-worker.

                Gosh, I wonder if my preference for anonymity has anything to do with, say… people agitating to make my life a living hell if they find out that I oppose gay marriage – and the silence or active encouragement of “progressive” Christians when they see such things?

                As a Christian, my biggest concern with this issue pertains to the people who have gotten so used to being in the majority that they think that relying on bullying and coercion ought to be the way Christians go about addressing their concerns.

                Oh, of course. That’s why you’ve been spending all that time chiding gay marriage advocates, now that they are in the majority as far as public opinion is concerned, not to bully and coerce people, right?

                Oops. Actually you’ve been encouraging the bullying and coercion, contradicting yourself, and trying to find any whichway to treat the people who merely don’t want to make pastries for a gay wedding *even if they will make those things for openly gay people otherwise* as the ones being bullied.

                That kind of thinking is similar to the civil rights era thinking – namely, on the part of people who wondered why minorities just couldn’t render unto Caesar, and put up with the minor indignity of having to eat lunch at a separate but equal counter.

                As for you, why can you not actually address issues? Why do you constantly resort to labeling, misrepresentation, and name-calling?

                I’ve been addressing issues consistently, James. I’ve quoted you, I’ve given you arguments. You’ve been comparing your opponents to *nazis* in your OP, you’ve been quietly approving of people slinging around words like ‘bigots’, and when you’ve actually deigned to give an argument, I’ve shown the failures of your logic. To top it all off, you implied that my arguments were invalid because I misspelled your middle initial.

                Why must you project, James?

                Why can you not address directly and without hyperbole of what the limits of legitimate discrimination ought to be?

                I already have. You, meanwhile, are engaged in hyperbole, mockery and belittling people (‘It’s just pastries!’ when a baker doesn’t want to make a cake for a gay wedding. ‘It’s nazism and Jim Crow laws’ when a gay couple is refused a cake for their gay wedding.), and frankly some bizarre argumentation.

                But as I said, I applaud you. You finally said that you believe it should be legal for a sincere Christian businessman/woman to refuse to serve a gay wedding if it was truly against their religious beliefs. Your concern is sincerity. Or, wait – are you going to walk that back too?

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  Again, you seem not to understand that discrimination, ostracization, and other such things have often been the first step towards extermination. If you cannot understand this concern, they you really do live in your own little bubble, isolated from the realities of hatred, discrimination, and genocide that have plagued our world. Indeed, you seem to be so isolated from reality that the worst persecution that you can imagine is to be made to provide a service to people you disagree with.

                  No wonder you lack the courage of your convictions, and resort to anonymous posts in which no one can hold you accountable for your behavior.

                  • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

                    Again, you seem not to understand that discrimination, ostracization, and other such things have often been the first step towards extermination.

                    And what you seem to be forgetting, James, is that Christians have also been exterminated and bullied in the past.

                    Wait, I can see the double standard coming. LGBT groups feel upset = ‘Denying a cake to a gay couple is just one more step towards putting people in gas chambers.’

                    Christians feel upset = ‘You paranoiacs get worked up whenever something doesn’t go your way. Make the pastry, you rubes.’

                    If you cannot understand this concern,

                    I understand it perfectly. As I said in the other thread – “it’s just pastries! make the silly pastries! who cares? It’s not a big deal!” is told to the Christians when they feel bullied. But if LGBT groups don’t get their way, suddenly “it’s just pastries” is a dramatic understatement – it’s the most important thing in the world, an important roadblock away from extermination.

                    By the by, James? The greatest threat of ‘extermination’ gays face is the combination of abortion and scientific identification of genetic links of homosexuality. Enjoy dealing with that issue once it eventually comes down the pipe.

                    Indeed, you seem to be so isolated from reality that the worst persecution that you can imagine is to be made to provide a service to people you disagree with.

                    And you accuse me of engaging in hyperbole. The funny thing is, you can’t even be consistent about this topic. You switch between ‘It’s just pastries!’ to ‘It’s an existential crisis for gays and lesbians!’ at the drop of a hat.

                    No wonder you lack the courage of your convictions, and resort to anonymous posts in which no one can hold you accountable for your behavior.

                    Oh my. I write under a consistent name, I host a blog, for years. But you rue my anonymity. Why? Because you think people should be able to “hold me accountable” for my views.

                    What pain do you think I have coming to me, James? Should I be fired? Possessions taken away? Thrown in prison? Because I, monster that I am, dared suggest that perhaps it’s wrong and immoral – and certainly non-Christian – to try and force people to provide services for a gay wedding when they’d rather not?

                    Gee, I wonder why anyone would rely on anonymity in such a world.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Has being required not to discriminate against others because of your beliefs within a modern democracy led to Christians being exterminated? The truth is that most Christians today are not living the kinds of radically countercultural lives that could make them genuinely subversive. Deciding to pick and choose some issues like same sex marriage, while conforming to the world’s values on a more fundamental level, allows some to have the illusion that they are being radically different from the world, when the differences are select and relatively superficial.

          • Donalbain

            If a company wants to only cater to people with the letter “i” in their name, presumably they have the right to do so.

            How about if they want to only cater to people without Jewish sounding names?

        • DamienLi

          The problem with too expensive a view of religious freedom is that it starts treating religion as a more legitimate ground for disagreement than any other belief. Which is in my opinion quite close to “establishing” if not a particular sectarian religion, at least some vague theistic beliefs that are automatically given special status among all beliefs.

          Perhaps it is the European in my speaking, but I’m always puzzled whenever I see the extent to which religious claims are given preferential status by American courts. I’m baffled for instance when I see that religious schools are free to ignore the laws that apply to every other school and fire teachers at whim in violation of the ADA as long as they classified their teachers as “ministers”. In most other countries, courts would see right through that and consider that, while they cannot rule on whether someone is or is not a minister, they can look at what the person was actually doing and consider that, if their activities were identical to those of any other teacher, then they are teachers as well and it is irrelevant whether they are also “ministers”. E.g. if a catholic school dismissed someone who also happens to be a priest, the question is not whether they truly are a priest but whether they were functionally employed as a teacher! Else, I can open say that all my employees are “ministers” and the courts can’t ever question any of my hiring and firing decisions, which is silly.

      • Donalbain

        The problem here is that you would want the state to get into the discussion of what is Biblical teaching. Not a path I think many people want to go down. As far as *I* am concerned, the law should be the law, regardless of someone’s religion. And the law is pretty clear that it is illegal for public accommodations to discriminate on the basis of gender, and that is what I think the “gay wedding cake” issue comes down to.

  • zen0

    What if the people requesting the cake also request that it be shaped like male or female genitalia?

    Seen it happen in real life.

    • Donalbain

      Not at all relevant. If the baker NEVER makes erotic cakes, then no group is being discriminated against. If they will make an erotic cake for Christians, but not for Jews, THEN there is an issue.

  • Tom Sporman

    My comment to this specific post is similar to the comment I made on an earlier post. To me , the issue is one of an individual, moral choice; and it is precisely in this context where I reflect my religious faith. I am not going to ask what would Jesus do; but respond as a follower of Jesus, and accept the social repercussions , and spiritual consequences of my decision.

  • Frank

    You obliviously know very little about Jesus if you think he would celebrate a sinful union.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      What makes a covenant between two people to be faithful to one another a “sinful union”?

      • Guest

        You know full well it is sinful and a travesty. It is a mockery of marriage that offends God. Why do you think you can toy with him?
        You need to be slapped.

  • ahermit

    It’s worth reading the Judge’s decision in the recent case in Colorado:

    https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/assets/initial_decision_case_no._cr_2013-0008.pdf

  • arcseconds

    On reflection, I think I would be cautiously in favour of a tightly-worded bill that allowed tiny businesses (sole owner-operator with no store front in particular seem like good candidates) to refuse to participate in certain events that violate their religious or moral principles.

    So, while I think someone who refuses to bake a cake for a gay couple for religious reasons is a bigot and exemplifiying a rather disappointing version of Christainity, I support their right to not be involved in events that offend them.

    This is partly because I’d quite like to refuse to carter for KKK events.

    (can a business refuse to do that in the States? )

    (I could be convinced that it was impossible to frame such a law in a workable manner)

    However, as far as I can make out, the Arizona bill gives everyone the right to discriminate against anyone at anytime. And this is phrased in terms of protecting businesses from religious discrimination! It’s Orwellian lunacy.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath
  • Guest

    No one is allowed to be a homosexual. God has forbidden it.
    Stop misbehaving.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      No one is allowed to be part of God’s people, the family of Abraham, without circumcision. God has forbidden it.

      • Guest

        So? Did you want to be a Jew?

  • Webuysmart.com

    I would just move on and not waste any of my breath on people like that and choose a supplier who is more up-to-date with the current world we live in where racists are not accepted anymore.


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