January 28, 2015

Anti-Discrimination: Can we have our cake and eat it too?

Recently, Bill Jack, a conservative evangelical Christian who opposes marriage equality, asked a baker for a very specific cake.

It needed to be shaped like a bible, and it needed to have an illustration of two men holding hands, with an X over that illustration.

Oh yes, and it needed to read, quite clearly, "God hates gays."

Here's where the situation stands, according to Buzzfeed:

The case involves Azucar Bakery owner Marjorie Silva, who told KUSA-TV that making such a cake would be “just very discriminatory and hateful.” In response, Bill Jack, a Christian, complained he was the victim of religious discrimination. Colorado officials have since launched a formal investigation.

Many groups are stepping up to defend Silva's right to deny service...groups that have, in other cases, defended small business owners who denied service to LGBT individuals because of their orientation.

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said this:

Like Jack [Phillips], Marjorie is refusing to promote a message she morally opposes. The reality under the First Amendment is this: no small business owner should be coerced by the government to violate their conscience or religious beliefs — whether it’s an abortion coverage mandate or a two-tiered wedding cake.

So is it the same situation? Is this just a case of "turnabout's fair play"?

The simple answer is: no.

ThinkProgress said it best:

But it’s a false conflation to compare Silva’s objection based on the content of the message to the discrimination exercised by those who refused service based on the identity of the customer. 

 It's a major distinction.

In the case of Jack Phillips that the FRC cites, for instance, the act was based on the identity of the customer.

Silva didn't care who her customer was--she rejected the message (while offering to still bake the cake and provide means for the customer to write the message himself). It's not unlikely that she also would have a rejected a message that said, "Jesus hates Jews," or "Dawkins hates Christians," or some other insane batshit.

It's probably against some kind of blogger rules, but I honestly don't think I can explain it any better than the ACLU does, so I'm going to quote their explanation:

Silva made a good-faith effort to work with Jack when he presented himself as a customer. She had no problem with making a cake in the shape of a Bible, even offering to make him a blank one and provide the DIY decorating tools he would need to add the words and images that he was asking for. It's not as though she was trying to offer a different, less extensive menu to Christian customers. Phillips, on the other hand, was unwilling to even talk about design options with Craig and Mullins. Jack said he would make them a birthday cake or some brownies, but the wedding cake they came in for? No dice. 
Further, Silva declined to fulfill a cake "order" because the order went beyond her standards of offensiveness. Her issue was with the design, not who was trying to order it or what they planned to do with it. And nondiscrimination laws have nothing to say about business owners' standards of taste, as long as they apply across the board to all customers. 
Phillips, on the other hand, freely admits that it was Masterpiece Cakeshop's long-standing policy to sell wedding cakes for opposite-sex couples and refuse to sell them for same-sex couples. Craig and Mullins did not even get to explain to Phillips what their dream wedding cake might have looked like before he rejected their business. Thus, Phillips has been found in violation of Colorado law and ordered to end his previous practice of sexual orientation discrimination, but it's highly unlikely the complaint against Silva will go anywhere since he wasn't turned away because of who he is.

Silva wasn't, if you'll notice, differentiating between her customers. Jack had the same exact options as other customers. She rejected the message, which was well within her rights.

And again, well within her rights and also completely different from rejecting an order because of the identity of the customer.

Jack's cake message was not declined because he was a Christian; it was declined because it was hateful and bigoted.

Now who else wants a piece of cake?

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