By Tony Perkins
These days, you have to be a tough cookie to own a bakery. Everyone from cake makers to flower arrangers are being drafted into the battle to redefine marriage — whether they want to be or not! But a recent case with one sweet shop owner shows the broad consequences of the half-baked movement seeking to punish people of conscience.
Colorado, which already had its hands full with Jack Phillips’s case, is going back for seconds. If bakers can be forced to make same-sex “wedding” cakes, what about anti-homosexual ones? Marjorie Silva is testing that theory after a controversy at Denver’s Azucar Bakery, where a customer came in with an interesting order: a cake with two men holding hands and an “X” over them. In iced lettering, he requested “God Hates Gays.”
Marjorie was appalled, as most people would be. She refused to make the cake, and told the man, “We’re not doing this. This is just very discriminatory and hateful.” That triggered a complaint to the Colorado Civil Rights Division, where commissioners will have to decide if the same freedom they denied to Christian bakers suddenly depends on the message. Jack Phillips, who politely declined a same-sex “wedding” request, was sentenced to sensitivity training by a similar Colorado agency and ordered to make cakes for homosexuals — or pay fines in excess of $500 a customer.
Like Jack, 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. Kerri Kupec with Alliance Defending Freedom argues that both bakers should have the right to operate their business according to their moral values. “At the end of the day, this is about free speech,” she said. “They punished Jack Phillips for acting according to his conscience. It will be interesting to see how they act here.”
This twist to a much-wider problem is a good example of the unintended consequences of policing people’s moral beliefs. When the government breaches our fundamental rights in one area, the impact is always wider. If I was a baker, or a t-shirt maker, and I was asked to bake or print a slogan that God hates anybody, I would refuse to do it. Regardless of what you believe about same-sex “marriage” or homosexuality, no one should be forced to participate in an activity that tramples their conscience.
But this clash, as Father Richard John Neuhaus predicted in his 1984 book, The Naked Public Square, was inevitable. Once faith is stripped from society, something always fills the void. And that “something,” in this case, is secularism — not your grandmother’s secularism, but a modern strain that is “rude, aggressive, and hegemonic.”
“The new secularism,” George Weigel paraphrases, would not be content to live and let live; it was determined to push, not only religion, but religiously informed moral argument, out of public life, and to do so on the ground that religious conviction is inherently irrational. And of course it would be but a short step from there to the claim that religious conviction is irrational bigotry, a claim implied by the Obama administration’s refusal, in defiance of its constitutional responsibilities, to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act in the federal courts.”
As we’ve explained before, this isn’t just about marriage — it’s about the fundamental right of every person to have and express an opinion. If the government can decide what you can and can’t believe about sexuality, it’s only a matter of time before that same ideological intolerance spills into debates over guns, the environment or even the economy. This may be how the cookie crumbles, but our fundamental freedoms shouldn’t crumble with it!
Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law.
(Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)
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