Freedom to worship a cruel god shouldn’t be free
IN A RECENT opinion piece published in The Oregonian, the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa attempted a defense of an imagined right not to sell wedding cakes to same-sex couples. Their case rests principally on the Argument from My God Says THOSE PEOPLE Are ICKY.
Bully for their odious god, but in the United States, freedom of worship and freedom of practice are not the same thing. That’s why Jehovah’s Witnesses are free to believe God forbids blood transfusions but cannot legally deny their minor child a medically necessary one. It’s why Mormon polygamist cult leader Warren Jeffs is serving a life sentence even though he is free to believe that God thinks sexually assaulting minor children is wholesome. It’s why jihadists are free to believe that Allah would prefer your head not remain in the vicinity of your body if you draw Muhammad but are nonetheless well advised not to behead you.
“Hold on,” say some, “why can’t businesses decide whom they will and won’t serve?” Well, maybe they could — if they were willing to cover on their own the entire cost of doing business. They’re not. All of us — L, G, B, T, Q, +, straight, and other — chip in for services benefiting their business. We pay to build and maintain roads and sidewalks that provide access to their store. We pay for street lamps, police protection, and fire protection to keep their business and customers safe. We pay to maintain courts should they need to settle a dispute. And more.
If the bakery owners would reimburse that portion of those taxes to all LGBTQ+ couples, as well as to all others who prefer not to support discrimination, then I might acknowledge their “right” to discriminate.
Acknowledge, but not support.
How I wish Sweet Cakes by Melissa would ask the RESPONSE Agency to create an advocacy ad supporting their alleged case. I would experience sheer joy in telling them to take a hike. I willingly create ads to sell products on behalf of clients whose principles I find odious, but I decline if asked sell the odious principles themselves.
And, no, that’s not the same as refusing to make a cake. Forcing me to create an ad would constitute compelled speech, which is something the First Amendment protects me from having to do. (More on that in this 2017 post.) You could argue that placing same-sex figurines atop a cake and writing “Congratulations James and Fred” in frosting also constitutes compelled speech, but you’d be straining at a gnat.
Still, I am not above giving the owners of Sweetcakes by Melissa this iota of free consultation: If they really wish to take a stand for their god without legal consequences, I suggest hanging a banner across their store front that says “We worship a bigoted asshole, but we’ll sell anyone a cake because the state says we have to.”