A judge has ordered a Colorado baker to make wedding cakes for gay couples, despite the baker’s religious objection.
Thank God. I mean, what if the baker was allowed to get away with not making a wedding cake? It’s a slippery slope. Who next would cause offense? The butcher? The candlestick-maker?
This, we’re supposed to believe, is more than just a wedding cake. It’s the principle of the thing.
That, I image, is how American Civil Liberties Union attorneys must have justified in their own minds why they had to conduct a year-long, expensive legal war against the baker over what’s next to a trifle.
Here’s the story: Jack C. Phillips, co-owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Denver, in July 2012 told Charlie Craig and David Mullins that he would not bake a cake for their wedding. He said as a long-practicing Christian he believed God intended marriage to be for one man and one woman.
He also told the couple, “I’ll make you birthday cakes, shower cakes, sell you cookies and brownies, I just don’t make cakes for same-sex weddings.” He believed he was protected in this because the Colorado Constitution defined marriage as between one man and one woman.
Craig and Mullins apparently didn’t have trouble finding another baker to make a cake, one with rainbow-colored filling, for their later out-of-state wedding. It’s not as if Phillips prevented them from getting a cake from anywhere in America.
There’s a concept called “de minimis,” which roughly means that the law does not concern itself with trifles. Robert N. Spencer, a Colorado administrative law judge, apparently hasn’t heard of the concept because he strained mightily to produce a 13-page opinion telling Phillips he must “cease and desist” his (loathsome) practice.
If he refuses, he’ll be fined or jailed. Judge Spencer also sentenced Phillips to the politically correct Big House, where he’s now required to “make such reports of compliance to the (Colorado Civil Rights) commission as the commission shall require.”
Spencer ruled against Phillips’ assertion that the Constitution’s First and 14th Amendments protected him against a government telling him how he must practice his religion. Phillips also argued that such a government edict would violate his free expression rights; he believes that cake decorating is a form of art and creative expression, and that he honors God through his artistic talents.
The judge waived it all away, saying that a private business doesn’t have a right to refuse service to anyone it chooses. Such a view, he said, “fails to take into account the cost of society and the hurt caused to persons who are denied service simply because of who they are.”
Spencer’s argument may indeed follow the state’s nondiscrimination law, which means the law itself, in the words of Charles Dickens’ Mr. Bumble, is “a ass, a idiot.”
As in all such cases, what we have here is a conflict over a balance of rights. What is the greater harm: (1) refusing to bake a cake that can readily be obtained elsewhere, or (2) ordering an American citizen to violate his constitutionally protected right to practice his religion.
Is the “hurt” caused by making the couple find another baker because of “who they are” greater than the hurt inflicted on an American who is forced by government to violate his religious convictions because of what he believes? Who has the greater choice: the couple or the baker? Who has an explicit protection written into the U.S. Constitution, the same-sex couple or the baker?
Seems to me that the greater injury is to the baker’s rights than to the couple’s rights. For the many who disagree, perhaps they could better understand if the question was posed this way: Can a Jewish-owned restaurant be forced by government to prepare and serve pork products, when Deuteronomy 14:8 says, “You shall neither eat of their flesh nor touch their carcass.” Would the Jewish restaurant have to prepare “unclean” meals or go to jail?
No, the analogy isn’t perfect. No diner has the right to demand that every restaurant he enters have pork on the menu. But why must you deploy the full force of government coercion over a matter as trivial as a wedding cake? Must every thought that doesn’t conform to your rigid thinking be stamped out?
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