A Victory of Sorts

Religious freedom is, and was, one of the basic liberties that America was founded to protect. Today the Supreme Court handed down a decision in the infamous "bake the cake" case, one that reasserts that religious liberty is a freedom that the government must take steps to respect.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the court did not rule on what that means. Many people think that religious liberty is just code for bigotry, and want it subordinated in every case in which religious liberty comes into conflict with things like baking cakes for gay weddings. Others think that religious liberty is a basic freedom, codified in the first amendment, and should always come out on top. The court didn't set any standard either for which should predominate, or how to adjudicate.

But that may be for the best. It leaves states free to make 50 different decisions, rather than imposing a one-size-fits-all standard on our diverse nation. I have often argued that SCOTUS's propensity for one-size solutions has been destabilizing to our nation. For that reason, I'm pleased with this decision.

1 comment:

Texan99 said...

I'd leave it to public opinion what to do about a bakery that won't supply a gay-wedding cake. Personally, I'd be inclined to find another bakery if I found mine wouldn't serve gay people, as in, "Put down that donut, I don't serve the likes of you." On the other hand, I'd have no problem with a baker who wouldn't make a cake explicitly designed to celebrate a gay wedding if he feels he can't countenance gay marriage, for religious or any other reasons. I distinguish sharply between refusing to do business with people because you consider them outside your caste, vs. refusing to participate in a ceremony to whose meaning you refuse to give public approval. Similarly, I think a progressive baker may refuse to decorate a cake with the message "Donald Trump should rule the world" for a Republican rally. A Jewish baker needn't bake a cake with a swastika for a Nazi rally. I don't see another permissible approach if we want to avoid outlawing thought crimes. I realize that's a big "if."

Normally I don't feel people's sexual choices are my business. I can perfectly well offer a gay couple medical benefits similar to my own on the ground that it's not up to me who should be included in one's household and protection, financial or otherwise. The problem with a wedding cake is that it is quite explicitly symbolic speech, and the speech can't easily be separated from the message that insistently does involve exactly the area where I think I have no business intruding. (But this is theoretical, since I don't in fact object to gay marriage or to gayness in general.)