Saturday, April 16, 2016

Should gay bakers have to make cakes with homophobic slogans on them?

Many anti-discrimination laws make it illegal for business owners to decline service on the basis of sexuality. In defense of these laws, most of the political left argues that all businesses have a social responsibility to provide their services equally to everyone who requests them, regardless of any personal biases or convictions they may have against the customer (or even the customer's beliefs).

Consequently, if an engaged gay couple requests a wedding cake from a bakery whose owners oppose gay marriage, with a written message wishing them a long and happy marriage, those bakers must set aside their personal beliefs and make them the cake.  To do otherwise is said to deny equal access to "public" services, thereby propagating oppression of a marginalized group.  If the bakers refuse, they can be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars and made to lose their business while all of Twitter mocks and jeers them for their bigotry.

These same laws also make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race.  While Islam is not technically a race, Islamaphobia is often categorized as a form of racism on among sociologists, with good reason.  And many of these anti-discrimination laws cover religion as a protected category anyway.  As such, a consistent left wing person would also likely believe that conservative Christian bakeries should be required to bake religiously themed cakes for Muslim patrons who request them, perhaps for Eid al-Fitr or some other Islamic feast.

If you support the enforcement of anti-discrimination laws in each of these cases, consider the following situation.

Imagine a Muslim enters a bakery owned by homosexuals who sell custom cakes.  The Muslim knows the bakers are homosexual, and deliberately chooses their bakery for the purpose of making a point.  Imagine he requests a cake in the image of the Koran with one of the following quotes written atop it:

"For ye practice your lusts on men in preference to women: ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds.” - Qur'an 7:80-81.
“When a man mounts another man, the throne of God shakes...Kill the one that is doing it and also kill the one that it is being done to.” - Islamic Hadith

Should the gay bakers be forced to bake this cake, under penalty of $135,000 fine, since declining solely on the basis of personal disagreement with the patrons' religion amounts to discrimination against an oppressed race of people? Or does forcing decent people to partake in such ugly homophobia, essentially propagating their own oppression, somehow disquiet your conscience?

If you stick to your guns and say they should have to bake it, what if the same situation occurred outside the United States, where violence against homosexuals is even more common? According to Gallup, an incredible 0% of British Muslims believe "homosexual acts" are morally acceptable - 19% in Germany, 35% in France (see page 31). Homosexuality (not just gay marriage) is illegal in 79 countries, most of which are Muslim majority. It is punishable by death in ten of these countries. All ten are Islamic theocracies.

I do NOT point out these statistics to disparage Muslims in any way.  Not all of Muslims accept the validity of the Hadith's, and surely there are more reasonable, progressive interpretations of Islam which allow for homosexual relations.   If you went to some isolated and uneducated communities here in the US, you would probably find horribly regressive polling data on these issues as well.  I could just have easily used the Westboro Baptist Church wanting a cake that reads "God Hates Fags" or something similar.  And in fact far-right Christian groups actually have ran this experiment, with predictable results.

I picked Islam merely to flip the script on two groups that the far left considers marginalized in our society, which it turns out can sometimes oppress one another.  I cite the statistics regarding the extent of global Islamic homophobia merely to illustrate how a gay baker could have plausible motivation to deny Muslim patrons certain services, on direct account of their religious beliefs.

As I have written previously, cases like these show why anti-discrimination laws are not a religious freedom issue, but a freedom of speech/association issue more generally. The right is wrong about Religious Freedom Restoration Acts like the one recently passed in North Carolina, because whether the origin of a deeply held political conviction is religiously motivated or not shouldn't matter to whether it gets legal protection.  But the left is wrong on these issues too, for a whole, long list of reasons.

*****

PS - 
Perhaps you will say this is different - that the situations are not analogous - because the gay bakers are not refusing service to Muslims across the board.  If a Muslim wants a birthday cake for their son, for instance, the gay bakers would undoubtedly oblige.  The only reason they would not in the case I described would be on account of the beliefs they were asked to endorse, not the patron's fixed identity.

But, this is the same in the real-life cases regarding gay marriage.  Memories Pizza in Indiana never even hinted they would decline business to homosexuals across the board; neither did the Oregon bakery that was fined $135,000.  Nobody's posting signs that say "no gays allowed," and it would be preposterous for any food place to ask somebody their sexuality before taking their order.  What ran these venues afoul of the law was NOT blanket denial of services to a certain demographic, but rather an unwillingness to endorse a polarizing political message - "Support Gay Marriage" in one case in Ireland, or even just wishing a lesbian couple a long and happy marriage - in much the same way as my anti-Gay example.

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