When atheists object to a monument of the Ten Commandments, I have argued that it should be defended as a work of art. And to the reply that non-religious people find it offensive, say, “art is supposed to be offensive.” As we see in the futile attempts to ban controversial art works, art is pretty much sacrosanct and courts have ruled that it is thoroughly protected under the First Amendment as “free speech.”
Those Christian bakers and photographers who object to taking part in gay weddings are being charged with discrimination, as if creating culinary sculptures and expressive photographs were commercial commodities, on the order of selling products in a grocery store. But what if the cakes and photos are works of art? Artistic expression, even when it is paid for, cannot be coerced or constrained.
This is the argument now being made in the courts. So far, unsuccessfully, though bakers and photographers have long insisted that their work is a creative, expressive, and aesthetic art form.
I wonder if a composer, or a portrait painter, or a poet would have to accept a commission from a gay couple. Would gay artists in any of these forms be required to provide their services for a group they deem homophobic? As I’ve asked before, does a rock musician’s refusal to allow his music to be played at a Donald Trump rally constitute discrimination against someone for his political beliefs? Would an atheist filmmaker who refuses to make promotional videos for a church be discriminating on the basis of religion?
At any rate, the legal debate over “what is art” is just getting started. Can anyone help in drawing the lines? See the legal wrangling after the jump. [Read more…]