Friday, June 29, 2018

Let Them Bake Cake (4/4): Third Unresolved Question

Part Four will address this unresolved question: Is the argument of those who decline to participate for religious reasons a biblically solid argument? Are they actually complicit in sin by offering material aid to an event which they believe promotes and celebrates a moral ethic to which they are opposed?

I offer my thoughts not as a definitive answer, but as a reflection of where I am on this issue based on a lot of reading I have done and conversations I have had with other Christians who are at times significantly at odds with each other on how to respond. I welcome thoughtful critiques.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Let Them Bake Cake (Part 3/4): The Second Unresolved Question

In Part Two, I addressed the first of some unresolved questions that are sure to be hotly contested.

Part Three is going to deal almost entirely with the political or legal side of the issue. I am saving my perspective on what I believe Christians need to consider individually in spite of whatever law is finally enacted for a following post.

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SECOND UNRESOLVED QUESTION (with a bunch of subcategories):

Is art speech? Is baking art, and therefore speech? (A group of bakers with a neutral position on the case itself filed an amicus brief claiming it is.) And if baking a cake is speech, is forcing a baker to bake a cake they believe communicates a message they don't wish to communicate the same as forcing someone to say something not only against their will but in opposition to their conscience? 

We sometimes say, "You can't say that!" ("Fire!" in a crowded theater; slander; language that incites violence that is "intended, likely and imminent"; the betrayal of state secrets). But what if the government moves from rules that prohibit certain kinds of speech to rules that compel certain kinds of speech?

We don't want the government to tell us if we can or can't kneel for the national anthem and we don't want the President-elect to insist that singers must sing for his inauguration, yet these are far more obvious examples of speech (or at least expression). Shoot, fashion designers refused to custom make clothing for the Trumps, and nobody complained. Clearly we don't have a problem with businesses withholding goods or services in certain cases when they feel their involvement express an alignment (at least when the cause is one with which we agree).

Speaking of how causes can change perspective, let's compare what Arizona decided should happen in two cases involving expression: a tattooing case vs. a calligraphy case:

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Let Them Bake Cake (Part 2/4): The First Unresolved Question

In the first post in this series, I offered an overview of the ruling and its implications (or lack thereof).

In Part Two, I will begin addressing some unresolved questions that are sure to be hotly contested. 

* * * * *


Is there a cogent argument that separates discrimination against people vs. discrimination against events or actions? In other words, can we treat someone fairly irregardless of their identity while drawing the lines at participating in certain activities?

Jack Phillips sold his goods to gay people all the time. In fact, he offered the couple in question an over-the-counter cake. It wasn't that he didn't want to offer his goods and services to them or to other gay people in general. He simply did not want to make a custom cake for a same-sex wedding in particular, since he believed that would make him complicit in the endorsement or celebration of a particular event to which he objected on moral grounds for religious reasons.

As best I can tell, this has been the case in every court battle I've seen on this issue. The business owners have had regular gay clientele, and many have had gay employees. One florist had served a gay client for ten years without incident until she refused to do a same-sex ceremony. Clearly, the fact that someone was gay did not dissuade them from hiring them, selling them goods, and being friends. It was the particular event that tripped them up.

Phillips is not even denying them the right to use goods he has already made for general public consumption. He is not asking his clients to agree with him about what marriage is or is not. He is, however, committed to using his artistic talents (a form of speech, more on that later) to make custom cakes that only participate in a marriage ceremony he believes is symbolically meaningful and inherently religious, even if the clients do not.

So, is there a way that 'agreeing to disagree' is even possible in this scenario?

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Let Them Bake Cake (Part 1/4): Pastries, Supreme Courts, And Same-Sex Marriage

The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 this week in favor of Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Bakeshop in Colorado, who declined to craft a customized wedding cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony. It was a "narrow" ruling that really sets no precedent, as it focuses on the process rather than the position. Mark Goldfeder gives a good summary for CNN:
"The Colorado Civil Rights Commission removed all nuance from the case: It literally and openly compared Phillips to those who would use religion to justify slavery or the Holocaust. In the words of one commissioner, "it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use to -- to use their religion to hurt others."As Justice Kennedy explained: 
"To describe a man's faith as 'one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use' is to disparage his religion in at least two distinct ways: by describing it as despicable, and also by characterizing it as merely rhetorical --something insubstantial and even insincere....This sentiment is inappropriate for a Commission charged with the solemn responsibility of fair and neutral enforcement of Colorado's antidiscrimination law -- a law that protects discrimination on the basis of religion as well as sexual orientation...[t]he government, if it is to respect the Constitution's guarantee of free exercise, cannot impose regulations that are hostile to the religious beliefs of affected citizens and cannot act in a manner that passes judgment upon or presupposes the illegitimacy of religious beliefs and practices." 
And so, for this reason, among others, the court found on fairly narrow grounds that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated the baker's First Amendment free exercise rights. The government officials were required to give his claim religiously neutral consideration, and instead of being tolerant and respectful even while they may have disagreed with his position, they were overtly hostile to, and even questioning of, his sincere religious faith.
In addition, "the state law at the time afforded storekeepers some latitude to decline creating specific messages they considered offensive, and the Colorado commission had previously allowed three different bakers to refuse to put an anti-gay message on a cake."

What it left unresolved was "whether business owners have a free speech right to refuse to sell goods and services to same-sex couples." This doesn't address "'bakers, florists, photographers, videographers, calligraphers' and other businesses, 'where the government says, look, we don't much care about your religiosity. We just think you have to provide these services for same-sex weddings.'"