Religious Freedom and the Gay Birthday Cake

Bakery-blog

Wrong is wrong, no matter which side does it.

Recently I saw a news story about a baker who refused to make a birthday cake for a gay person. Some months ago I also read about an auto mechanic in Michigan who refuses to serve openly gay people.

As an ardent supporter of religious freedom, I would like to stand up and say this is not religious freedom. This is simple discrimination against people one disagrees with. This is indefensible and mean-spirited, especially if these people are calling themselves Christians. The business owners in these two cases do not understand the issue.

I hope it’s obvious that we don’t want America heading down a road where freedom of religion can be claimed as an excuse for business owners to refuse service to anyone with a differing opinion.

A clear distinction needs to be made and maintained by religious conservatives. Throughout the “marriage equality” debate I have contended that religious freedom is not about the right to discriminate against LGBT people simply because they are LGB or T. This is not what followers of Jesus are after. What is in contention is the definition of marriage and the right of religious people, including business owners, to not participate in an ideological campaign to redefine marriage.

The proof that the religious freedom debate is not about anti-gay discrimination is clear: The photographers, bakers, and other business owners who first brought this conflict to light had all knowingly served gay customers for years. That is proof. However, these business owners drew the line at providing wedding services because, for them, marriage is a religiously defined institution. According to our Constitution, the government has no right to redefine it for them and then force them to comply. There is also a free speech component involved in many cases.

I fail to see how it is a burden on one’s free exercise of religion to serve a sandwich to, repair a car for, or give a haircut to a gay person. Eating, car repair, and hair-cutting do not ordinarily constitute an ideological statement. By contrast, how a society defines marriage affects a host of fundamental cultural and anthropological concerns. It affects the state of the nuclear family. It affects how a culture views motherlessness and fatherlessness. Forcing a follower of Jesus to participate in an ideologically anti-Christian wedding celebration arguably may burden that person’s free exercise of religion.

So this is not about dislike of gays or any other particular group of people. It’s about government overreach and coercion along ideological lines.

Missing the point
In civil discussions with my friends on the Left, typically they argue that, to be consistent, Christians would also have to refuse to provide wedding services to divorced people, couples who’ve had sex before marriage, interracial, and interfaith couples, because these things are also forbidden in the Bible. This is incorrect for several reasons. To our point here, none of these types of arrangements constitute a fundamental redefining of marriage. Again, religious freedom is not about the right to refuse service to people simply because one disagrees with them.

Some “marriage equality” advocates have contended that “anti-gay” Christian business owners should post signs at their places of business and on their websites openly stating that they refuse service to LGBT people. This would spare LGBT people the indignity of being refused service at a place of business. But again, the issue is not about LGBT people, but about the redefining of marriage. It is not “anti-gay” to agree with Jesus’s definition of marriage. Jesus loves LGBT people, so His followers should too. Therefore, Christians should absolutely refuse to wear the “anti-gay” label because such labeling is a political PR stunt.

I’m a small business owner and I would never post a sign saying I refuse service to gays. However, I don’t want to do graphic design for a gay wedding announcement. But then, neither would I do a wedding announcement for a “throuple.” Or a wedding announcement for a consensual, adult, incestuous marriage. Or a wedding announcement for an open marriage.

Or a celebration for a “female circumcision.” (But here I digress. Slightly.)

Is it ever right to discriminate against gays?
This is not even a desirable question. LGBT people are not subhuman, second-class citizens. It is wrong for anyone, Christian or not, to refuse service to someone simply because he or she is same-sex-attracted, and religious freedom laws do not allow for such behavior. Religious freedom laws simply limit the power of government in unnecessarily forcing an ideology onto religious people. Homosexuality is not an ideology. However, the “marriage equality” movement is part of a left wing, ideological movement called Postgenderism. The government cannot force such an ideology onto the citizenry, try as it might.

We are where we are today because the American government has attempted to solve inequality issues around LGBT people in a doltish and arrogant way. If the real issue was inequalities suffered by LGBT people, those inequalities could have been corrected legislatively through congress. This would have been the constitutionally correct course of action. Instead, five Supreme Court justices pulled a new, arbitrary, ideologically biased definition of marriage out of their butts, and they expect all of America to go along with it.

I’m not anything remotely resembling a lawyer, so I’ll quote Legalzoom:

If there’s an anti-discrimination law, does that mean that a business can never refuse service to a member of a group that is protected from discrimination?

The answer is that you can refuse to serve someone even if they’re in a protected group, but the refusal can’t be arbitrary and you can’t apply it to just one group of people…

… Second, you must apply your policy to everyone. For example, you can’t turn away a black person who’s not wearing a tie and then let in a tieless white man. You also can’t have a policy that sounds like it applies to everyone but really just excludes one particular group of people. So, for example, a policy against wearing headscarves in a restaurant would probably be discriminatory against Muslims…

…“We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone” sounds vague and arbitrary. As we’ve seen, a business can’t just randomly refuse to serve someone.

I think that if a business owner wants to support, serve, and strengthen marriages in line with his/her religious or ideological beliefs, he or she could have a policy of not providing services for unconventional marriages. There would be defensible, societal reasons for doing so. Unconventional marriages would include same sex, open/monogamish, incestuous, and polygamous marriages. People who so desired would be free to be unconventionally married, but the religious business owner would be free to not be involved.

What’s wrong with that? I’d like to hear your opinion.

 

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7 comments on “Religious Freedom and the Gay Birthday Cake

  1. You nailed pretty much every point on the head.

    There are some times, however, when it’s perfectly fine to discriminate against homosexuals simply for what they practice. I wouldn’t hire a homosexual to serve in any capacity where they will be alone with children, and I’d refuse on the grounds that anyone who knowingly and openly celebrates deviant sexual behavior is a priori suspect and can’t be trusted to be alone with a child. While one might counter that there are heterosexuals who molest children, it should be obvious that heterosexuality is normal and therefore provides no a priori ground for bringing one’s character into question where sexual behavior is concerned (and I personally would not hire an adult male to watch children simply to protect children from potential abuse and to protect an honest man against any potential false accusation).

    One might also justly not hire homosexuals (not those who honestly struggle with temptation and seek to resist the sin, but those who openly advocate such behavior) to serve on a church staff or represent a church (for obvious reasons).

    Finally, many seem to expect everyone to reject “discrimination” as a bad thing. But it’s not at all clear why it should be rejected entirely, and, in fact, we all discriminate much of the time for any number of reasons and there’s nothing wrong with it. Most married persons didn’t just marry anyone that came along. We discriminated between potential mates and chose a person who met whatever needs or standards we subjectively desired and we discriminated against all others. Likewise, employers do not hire just anyone. They discriminate between applicants.

    Some may claim that one ought not to be subject to discrimination for things over which they have no control. But it’s not at all clear why that’s true. A dwarf has no control over his size, yet a basketball coach will still discriminate against him because of limitations which are no fault of the dwarf. Jobs which traditionally required physical strength beyond the ordinary woman (e.g., fireman, etc.) were only given to men (and politically correct policies to lower standards to accommodate women place others in danger when women cannot carry out the demands of such work).

    My point is that there are times that it’s perfectly just to discriminate, even against those who, for no fault of their own, cannot meet the needs or demands of the person engaging in discrimination. While it may not be “fair”, one needs to be reminded that life is never fair and we’re all subject to trials and tribulations for which we never asked and may not have deserved.

    Finally, none of what I wrote is meant to serve as an objection to your post. You’re quite correct that one ought not to refuse ordinary services simply because one does not agree with the ideology or behavior of others, in general. But even generalities have exceptions.

    • I agree with your point about discrimination, though I think when the left/media refer to discrimination they have in mind something akin to racism during the civil rights era:

      “treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit” (dictionary.com)

      I assume that, regarding the 2 examples I gave in my post, the baker and mechanic live in states where it is legal to discriminate based on sexual orientation. The problem is that it is now very difficult to separate the issues of ideology from sexual orientation, (and I think this is intentional and for political reasons.) But we must insist on keeping them separate.

      There is a world of difference though, between racial discrimination and LGBTQ discrimination. I think it’s going to get very messy around some questions no one in government seems to be asking. Are anti-LGBTQ discrimination laws even enforceable? For example, how does one prove to a court that he/she is LGB or T? What would prevent me or you from claiming to be LGB or T and bringing suit against someone in hopes of getting a huge settlement?

      • Yes, I’m most certain that the Left-media wants to use the term that way, and they do so precisely because they want to draw an obviously false analogy between skin color and sexual behavior, even though the latter is a choice and the former is not.

        But even utilizing the dictionary.com definition, that still doesn’t really offer any challenge to my position. After all, if I refuse to hire a homosexual to babysit my children based on the “group” or “category” to which he belongs rather than on his “individual merit”, so what? I’m still exercising a perfectly legitimate form of discrimination, nor can anyone in the pro-homosexual movement provide any objective ground as to why my judgement is unethical. I am, after all, merely fulfilling my moral duty to protect my children, which is a responsibility that takes priority over any feelings of persecution felt by anyone in the homosexual community.

        “For example, how does one prove to a court that he/she is LGB or T?”

        The answer is, you can’t. What if I were to walk into a women’s shower room? One might argue that I’m shouldn’t be allowed to do so because I’m not really homosexual or transgender or whatever and they might offer as evidence the fact that I’m married to a woman. But I could counter by claiming to be married to a woman because I am a lesbian trapped in a man’s body, thus self-identifying as a woman while still being attracted to my wife. You see, when what is clearly a man claims to be a woman and the law of the land suffers such insanity, not out of tolerance, but because the lawmakers themselves abandon reality and accept such absurd claims, then everything is game. Up is down, right is wrong, and I can be a lesbian trapped in a man’s body which justifies, in the eyes of an insane and/or wicked legislative body, my walking into a women’s shower room. This is the insanity we’re dealing with today.

        • I wonder if we can reach an agreement around two of your statements about which I may disagree: your first sentence and your last sentence.

          First, that sexual behavior is a choice.
          Granted, you were careful to say sexual “behavior,” rather than “orientation,” and I think anyone would be hard pressed to argue that people have no choice but to act on their impulses. But the LGBT movement equates “orientation” with skin color. It is increasingly common to hear the argument that sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic, whereas religious belief is not, therefore sexual orientation should take precedence in the law. So the entire debate has been framed within a false dichotomy: Do people choose to be gay (LGBT,) or are they born that way?

          I think the answer is that, generally speaking, LGBT people do not choose their orientation, AND they are not born that way. (Or in the case of Trans people, they are born that way, but as a result of fetal developmental abnormality.) Nonetheless, the environmental factors that shape a persons sexual orientation and identity work on them very early in life so that, for practical purposes, one does not generally choose one’s orientation. This does not place LGBT person in the same category as a racial minority, but it does place them in a category that has historically resulted in unjust discrimination and cruelty being perpetrated against them.

          So for me, it’s not terribly helpful to say that the behavior is a choice if the orientation is not, since one’s sexual impulses are ridiculously strong, and sexual identity goes to the deepest part of who we are as individuals. I guess I’m saying that this is a very thorny issue, and I sympathize with the plight of LGBT people. (Though not to the point that I’m willing to redefine marriage, gender, and parenting over it.)

          Secondly, I’m reluctant to call it “insanity.” I think we have to shine the light on the fact that this is a worldview issue, and that beliefs dictate behavior. Therefore pluralism and freedom is the answer for ALL sides.

          I still remember in the Cold War how the Soviets labelled Christian pastors as mentally ill, and treated them as such by incarcerating and “medicating” them. To the atheistic/materialistic mind this apparently made perfect sense. Today, what we’re looking at is not much different. We have a secularist, materialist worldview that says we’re here merely as a result of accidental processes, and therefore we can be, for example, a lesbian trapped in a man’s body. Or trans men can insist that abortion is not just a women’s issue. And children should be introduced to the wonderful spectrum of gender possibilities.

          So I wouldn’t say this is insanity. Proponents of these things are reasoning properly based on their false presuppositions. This all stems from a dogmatic, evolutionary, materialist worldview.

          What say you? I appreciate your Spock-like mind.

          • “It is increasingly common to hear the argument that sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic”

            Perhaps the more fundamental question ought to be, what is meant by “orientation”?

            Is an “orientation” simply an attraction, and if so, how do we define that? Certainly it can’t mean that one recognizes the aesthetic beauty of another of the same sex. I can recognize that another man is handsome, but that has nothing to do with homosexuality. It seems rather obvious that the attraction in question, (if we’re to equate “orientation” with attraction) is a sexual arousal and/or desire, i.e., the desire to engage in sexual activity (whether or not one actually intends to act on such a desire).

            Now sexual arousal or any such impulse may indeed be an unconscious or spontaneous reaction beyond one’s control (even immutable). But homosexual apologists have provided no argument or evidence for their hidden premiss that such impulses (immutable or otherwise) grant legitimacy to the desires or subsequent behavior they engender.

            Without such legitimacy, what is the ground for leniency? And I’m not saying we ought not to be charitable toward other sinners, a group among whom we belong. I am saying, however, that some forms of discrimination are perfectly legitimate even if they are ground in immutable characteristics of an individual. We often discriminate against individuals who are part of the group known as “minors”, forbidding them many things based on the immutable nature of those in their age group (not that they will immutably remain children, but that most in that group are immutably immature at that age pertaining to certain things). This is why those opposed to discrimination want to extend certain privileges to minors, and that’s exactly what the ideological Left do, hence, in California I cannot make medical appointments for my twelve-year-old who has medical autonomy (which is solely a move by the Left to sexualize children, giving them birth-control and abortions outside of their parents’ knowledge and approval). This is the logical outcome of avoiding “discrimination” at all costs.

            “it’s not terribly helpful to say that the behavior is a choice if the orientation is not, “

            Any reluctance to proclaim such a truth loudly and openly simply hinders clarification of the Christian position. Too many homosexuals and their apologists mistakenly believe that Christians are claiming that their “orientation” is a choice. If Christians do not clearly state their position, both sides will simply talk past one another, which is even less helpful than truthfully telling homosexuals something they don’t want to hear.

            “…since one’s sexual impulses are ridiculously strong, and sexual identity goes to the deepest part of who we are as individuals.”

            Again, it’s not at all clear why the “orientation” of the homosexual should be favored over the plight of the person whose “orientation” sexually arouses them around children or their neighbors’ wives. Why in this one case should we make exception for the one and not the others? Many men have an immutable orientation toward women who are not their wife, and yet we rightly expect such persons to exercise self-control and repress any temptation to immoral behavior. Nor does having secret affairs that the wife may never know about (such that it never brings her harm) legitimize such behavior (i.e., the “it harms no one” excuse doesn’t mitigate the immorality of the behavior and shouldn’t therefore grant them immunity from discrimination of some kinds).

            “I’m reluctant to call it ‘insanity.’”

            I’m not calling homosexual behavior or cross-dressing “insane”. Those are simply examples of sin, something of which we’re all guilty. Nor am I suggesting that they are insane because of the temptations they suffer. We’re all subject to temptations. What I am calling “insane” is any failure to grasp obvious reality.

            We can all be mistaken about certain issues that are not clearly obvious. But when a person believes they are something that reality clearly contradicts (i.e., a person believing they are not the sex that they clearly are), so that their delusion is without excuse, that’s insane on the level of a man who today believes he is Napoleon. I would add, however, that I think it’s a type of insanity that’s rooted in deception and not in brain-damage, so that it’s correctible (perhaps we could call it an indefinite case of temporary insanity). While that may seem uncharitable on the face of it, it would be mendacious of me to call it anything else.

  2. peshatbooks says:

    I am one who is opposed to “gay marriage” or any union which causes a redefinition of the term, marriage. This being a secular society, where governments must serve all the people, irrespective of religion, race, colour, or ideology, then I would not oppose civil unions of any persons, in any numbers, or even persons and animals if that is how people see themselves. I would question the wisdom of governments who do not foresee the problems that some unions would create, but that is up to the government. Our society is said to be multi-cultural, where everybody is supposed to be respectful of each others customs and traditions, and this is where I enter the fray over “gay marriage”. My traditions, my customs, which go back millennia, are that marriage is a union between and man and a woman – full stop. If the LGBTQI community wish to start their own traditions, then so be it, but in doing so, they have no right to disrespect or trash my tradition. This community has self-identified as LGBTQI, so let them self-identify their unions with a different term. The legal implications can be dealt with by the government, but the terminology should respect the long-held traditions of society. If one group demands respect for their culture and traditions, then in fairness, they should respect the culture and traditions of others. Conflating the issues of terminology, lifestyle, culture, and tradition is dishonest, hypocritical even. Those who hold to a tradition and culture of “marriage” between a man and a woman far outnumber those who are seeking to introduce their own culture. So in all fairness, and in the interests of inter-cultural mutual respect, let the LGBTQI community devise their own term for their unions, and let the traditional term be left unhindered to refer to traditional marriage.

    • I think this is well stated and fair.
      In the meantime, unless and until the Court’s Obergefell decision is reversed, it looks as though we are left with only a cumbersome third option with regard to terminology: we’ll have to add a qualifier to every type of unconventional “marriage” – gay marriage, open marriage, polygamous marriage, incestuous marriage, etc.

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