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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Having your cake....

....and eating it too? Funny how this whole thing began with something as simple as a wedding cake. You'd think wedding cakes must be endowed with special powers of affirmation and permanence.......odd considering that they are essentially foods that will be eaten and disappear. And hell.....I had a wedding cake.......and now I'm divorced and with someone else. It's not like the cake preserved my marriage.....a cake can't even preserve itself. But here we are.

An ostensibly "Christian" bakery decided that it would be more Christian to refuse service than to embrace fellow 'sinners' in the manner their god advised. And as a result, a cake for a homosexual wedding became the centerpiece of a controversy rather than a reception table.



In my last post I touched on a few key questions that I feel are important in understanding this controversy. The one I want to address now, is whether a person can use their religion to ARBITRARILY discriminate? Let's look at the "Christian" bakery. Biblically speaking, there are several verses that denounce homosexuality. Now, I know there is a lot of contention over what these verses actually mean, but let's just give the benefit of the doubt to the fact that the Christian Bible condemns homosexual behavior.  Fair enough. The Bible is a rule book in many ways, so it's not unusual to find a lot of rules in it. And a good Christian would naturally want to live by those rules. And there's the problem.

There are a LOT of rules. One in particular, would probably be of prime concern to a devout wedding cake baker: divorce is wrong. And this is a rule Jesus himself made pretty clear....without any of the ambiguity over homosexuality:

1  Corinthians: But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. 12 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.

Luke 16:18 “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Matthew 5:31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Mark 10:2 Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 “What did Moses command you?” he replied. 4 They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” 5 “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. 6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.’So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” 10 When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11 He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”

Yep. You'd have to admit that if you were a follower of this Jesus guy, divorce is pretty clearly a no-no. So, here's my question: If one were to go back into the records of that bakery, could they find where they ever baked a wedding cake for a second marriage where the first marriage did not end in one spouse's death? Given the high incidence of divorce in America, my guess is that they did. And if they did, where was their 'religious belief' hiding at that moment?

Another thing at issue here is something I learned as an HR manager: certain Federal laws (pardon the expression) trump everything else. In other words, a group that is granted 'protected status' under Federal Law cannot be discriminated against while a group who has not been granted such status, can. ( I remember a fictitious HR scenario where one co-worker routinely tormented another co-worker by placing their lunch out of their reach because they were bound to a wheelchair. This was not only an asshole thing to do, but it violated Federal Law by discriminating against a Federally protected group....the handicapped.....and as a result was considered VERY bad. However, I asked our corporate lawyer if the same gravity would apply to the same situation if the targeted victim was not handicapped, but merely short? Nope. Short people are not a protected group.) (Randy Newman was onto something I guess). Race, religion, gender, ethnicity, disability, and age are all Federally protected against discrimination, so if an old, dark-skinned, Philistine male with one leg wanted service from a Christian business......guess what?

Anyway, back to wedding cakes. One group has recently come up with a strategy to sort of stick it to these discriminating Christian bakeries: The Satanic Temple*. They are advocating that people go to these bakeries and order Satanic Wedding cakes! (link)


The idea being that while a Gay couple cannot rely on Federal protection, they....as a religion....CAN! Charmingly brilliant.

But in all honesty......IF.......IF this issue was TRULY about 'religious freedom', I might lean towards the rights of the vendor over those of the customer. After all, the customer can go elsewhere....and maybe that would be the best revenge. There's a great example of this in the life of Harvey Milk, his camera shop, and the fates of pro-Gay and anti-Gay businesses in the Castro section of San Francisco in the 1970s. But I don't believe this is anything more than an attempt to legalize hate towards a selectively targeted group in favor of another group, of one predominant color, and of one predominant religion............and that IS  un-Constitutional.

*For more interesting things being done by this 'religion', check out their innovative battle in Missouri (link)


16 comments:

  1. I'm surprised you come out that way, given your libertarian leanings. Let's recast this a little. The defense the bakery is putting on is actually a First Amendment defense based on "forced expression." The gist is that cakes are artistic, and by forcing the "artist" to do a cake for gay wedding, the law basically makes him engage in speech and creative action in support of something he doesn't agree with. So, let's say KD Pierre has a shop where he sells spanking drawings. A Christian buyer comes in and says they want you to make a drawing for them that both honors belief in a divine creator and says that spanking and female dominated relationships are sinful. You don't want to, and they go to court and ask the court to MAKE you do that drawing.

    That's basically what's happening in the bakery case. I am, btw,a proponent of gay marriage. But, this is my, "You live your life, I'll live mine, and we'll both be just fine," bent. I may disagree with the baker's beliefs, but my sense of moral superiority doesn't give me the right to make him do something for my benefit. Now, I know someone is going to try to equate this to race, but racial discrimination is the subject of both federal anti-discrimination laws and three amendments to the Constitution.

    And, yes, people do have the "right" to pick and choose what the believe in and what they don't and which of their self-chosen doctrinal rules to follow and which not, as illogical or hypocritical as it may be. I honestly hate all this "rights" based talk, because I don't even know what it means or any source from which all these "rights" come, other than some agreed-upon law or constitution. That's one thing that was kind of funny to me about your first commenter on yesterday's post. When the employer discriminates or doesn't provide a benefit, it's evil and denying someone his or her "rights." Well, what is the source of those "rights." If you are anti-religion, which the commenter plainly was, then the there is no "natural law" or "divine rights of man" argument to turn to, and your only "rights" are what your fellow citizens get together and decide you have.

    Finally, I do love the divorce example and have used it myself when arguing with some fundamentalist on sexual and family values issues. You are quite right that is the one and only rule regarding sexual and marital relations that Jesus was very, very clear on. Now, it arose in a context in which a man could divorce his wife by saying three times in front of two witnesses (I think that was the way it worked), "I divorce you," and would then shed himself of all legal obligations to support and care for her. There is a pretty good argument that Jesus was objecting to that aspect of things, i.e. the social and civil ramifications of divorce and how it could be used to abuse man's power over his wife, and not making a larger spiritual judgment.

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    1. You bring up some excellent 'qualifiers' to the basic argument. And to answer your question, as a free-lance artist I would be very tempted to take the job, and because they hired me as an "artist" who must by defnition express my OWN muse as well (that IS the argument, right? that this is an ART thing?) render their drawing so that their god-sanctioned view was being held by carefully and beautifully drawn....Neanderthals. How could they object to MY interpretation if they intentionally came to ME....knowing my reputation as an artist....and complain about the end result? If anyone said I did not hold up my end of the bargain as an "artist" I could counter that as an artist who is not advertising generic caricatures.....something I would find very hard to refuse to do for anyone based on some personal prejudice....only a piece like the one I did would BE a genuine, "KDPierre" work. You also say that my hypothetical studio is advertised as a place to come for spanking drawings, so there is also the argument that if someone came in for an "Anti-spanking drawing" or hell....even a portrait of their dog......I could point to the sign and say, "sorry, that's not what I do." But if my studio was a portrait studio, I think it would be very tricky for me to be the 'Portrait Nazi' and tell random clients, "no portrait for YOU!" based on my personal prejudices.

      I imagine if someone is making unique, designer-quality, works of art rendered in icing....MAYBE that argument might hold. But this is a freaking wedding cake. Something that takes skill, but not unique artistic inspiration. I mean, you bake a cake, smear white icing on it and add some rosettes! Criminy! What if I was a very self-important fry cook and felt my burgers were "works of art" made with Sponge Bob-level love? Could I begin to refuse who I sold my burgers to? We could expand even further on those qualifiers. I used to work for a major national retailer. What if I expanded your question to them? You come in to buy make-up, and because you are male, I don't 'like' the implication and refuse to sell to you.

      to be continued....

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    2. But you also mentioned what I covered in my post when you mentioned race being "covered". I hate that argument. It basically puts different groups' rights ahead of others. (I kill someone because I HATE what I perceive them to represent, but if their affiliation is not government sanctioned, I am only guilty of murder and not a 'hate crime' even though what I did was precisely a 'hate crime'.) Ridiculous....but essentially the way things legally are.

      And people CAN choose what they believe in, but if you are going to use "religion" to defend discrimination, that is not the same thing. I can 'believe' that redheads are inferior but I certainly can't point to an established religion to justify that 'belief'. And if we say that anyone can establish their own religion with its own dogma....I'm FINE with that. But then we are back to who is protected from discrimination and who isn't. And again, since "redheads" are not a Federally protected group, I guess I CAN discriminate against them if my personal 'religion' deems it a matter of faith. I think that was what I was trying to say in the post. Perhaps a lawyer should have argued that this is, and never was, about 'religious freedom' and used the divorce example as evidence?

      As for rights? You seriously don't think you have the right to be served? If you traveled south and were refused food, lodging, and gas, because you were a "damned Yankee"....you'd be fine with that? Even if the people refusing you felt they had the 'right' to do so?

      As for what Jesus' intentions were when he supposedly said these things? I have no idea. I am not even convinced that this Jesus-person actually existed.....at least not in the way he is portrayed in the bible. So it seems silly to try to guess what this very likely fictional person was thinking.

      I am a libertarian of sorts but not a "L" Libertarian. In fact I think "L" Libertarianism is downright scary. It has been my experience that people should be free....but that without any regulation, they will do bad things. Hell, even WITH regulations, people try to get away with doing bad things to others.

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    3. And to sum it up......after ALL THAT.... LOL. I did conclude that I might be more apt to side with the baker IF I believed this was truly about religious freedom. But the point of these posts was to expose this issue for what it really is....not a case of religious freedom, but a case of clear hatred and discrimination with a crucifix stuck on top for validation.

      It's similar to the anthem/NFL thing. Let's call it one thing, so we can defend something else entirely. I guess I'm just "calling 'bullshit' " on both.

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  2. Here is the primary issue I see with all the above -- to a big extent your post was about consistency. That if people are asserting a dogma, they need to assert all or nothing. I don't agree with that, because I just don't know what rule or law it's based in, though you and I probably have less tolerance than most for hypocrisy -- but that's still our personal preference, not some right or law or rule.

    Similarly, I'm not seeing consistency in your position. I'm seeing the opposite. You seem to be saying that maybe if someone has one set of beliefs there might be caveats to their ability to discriminate, but otherwise there is not? And, maybe if they are a "real" artist they can refuse to serve someone, but not otherwise? Who makes that determination?

    You are an out-and-out materialist, right? So, what is your basis for assuming some baseline principle that people can't discriminate? Under your beliefs, there can't be some natural law or religious reason for it. So, what is this "no one can discriminate, especially if the reason is silly," rule based on? Like not liking redheads. Nothing in the Constitution says I can't discriminate against redheads. Nothing in civil rights law protects redheads. But, you are assuming some baseline rule that prevents everyone from discriminating against them. In reality, what is wrong your Soup Nazi/Portrait Nazi scenario if the law doesn't say there is anything wrong with it?

    Re: your art studio example, do you think that if you did that you would not have gotten sued under a theory similar to the one the plaintiffs are using here? And, you are right, it is just a freaking cake. But, that cuts both ways. You say this was just a clear case of hatred, but I have seen nothing in the facts that support that factual proposition. In fact, as I recall the guy actually told the customers that he had no problem baking a cake for them for any other occasion. He just didn't want to bake a cake for a gay wedding because he didn't believe in gay marriage. I honestly don't even know whether he used a religious justification, or a political one. Either way, he does have a right to hold those beliefs, and unlike the broad "right not be discriminated against for dumb reasons" rule you are proposing, his right to both religion and expression ARE constitutionally protected.

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    1. Before I make any further points I just want to say that regardless of the intensity of this debate.....I am LOVING this and respect a lot of the points you are making.....not because you are just legally entitled to them, but because they are well thought out. So I just wanted to drop this in here.

      The other thing about the exchange rather than the points themselves is that the nature of comment vs. comment in a forum setting and how it is not necessarily the most efficient form of debate.....mainly because it lacks the immediacy of a conversation where a specific sticking point can be hit immediately and cleared up. But this is what we have, so I will do my best.

      First as to my perceived inconsistency.....there is just one baseline that I am adhering to and it's not some happenstance law, ruling, or passage from an old book that people like to quote. It's fairness. That's it. You don't need religion, a god, a rule book, or anyone to tell a person what is fair and what isn't. It is my personal belief that when people act unfairly, they know it. And to justify it they rationalize it with anything they can get their hands on that someone else will give a nod to. But not all laws are fair. Not all religious dogmas are fair, and life itself is certainly not. But the driving desire for fairness is as simple as saying: "how do I want to be treated?"

      As for the art example, Yes I sort of took a shot at cake decorators calling themselves artists, but it was not a point of argument. My point was there are levels of art for all of us and even in my own case, if I am just doing my own thing and then selling it after, working on a commission doing my own thing, or using my skill to provide a basic service (like a family portrait), all are different. The first is all me.....don't tell me what to do, or don't buy it. The second does require me to give my patron something of what they want and if the request is incompatible, I should be able to refuse the commission. But if I am just knocking out a portrait, I would feel obligated to give the same level of execution to whomever came in for one. I see the cake decorator that way. It's not a private venture. He sells wedding cakes.....publicly. The customers came in and asked for a wedding cake. At that point it should not matter who they are or why they want it.

      That's why I made the burger analogy. A public diner should not be able to refuse service to someone for some discriminatory reason.....including being a redhead. It's just........fair.

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    2. I agree on your first point. There definitely are worse ways to spend an afternoon!

      Also, I can't help but note, that the overarching rule for you -- "how would you want to be treated" -- is EXACTLY Jesus' overarching rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." See, you have more in common with the religious people than you think!

      I am actually not hung up on the law at all. What I am pointing out is that, while you and I may value something like fairness above all else or above most everything else, others may not feel the same. In the end, we have our personal preferences, and others have theirs. When you say that a cake baker can/should be sued into submission for placing his religious or political views above your notions of fairness, you are very much saying that your values trump his values. And you aren't pointing to anything that says you should win that argument just because you see fairness as the highest value and he doesn't. My point about the law is that unless you believe in something like natural rights or some other "objective" source of right and wrong, then the only "rights" you have are what the law says you have. All the rest is just either (a) personal preference; or (b) whatever someone with power can make happen. I totally agree that public businesses should server everyone and should not discriminate. Where you and I differ is I don't see my personal preferences on that issue as binding on everyone else.

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    3. I agree on your first point. There definitely are worse ways to spend an afternoon! { here, here. the only things missing are a few shared glasses of some delectable beverage.}

      Also, I can't help but note, that the overarching rule for you -- "how would you want to be treated" -- is EXACTLY Jesus' overarching rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." See, you have more in common with the religious people than you think! { LOL! OK, now I think you are just trying to provoke me into launching some 'overarching' sarcasm! Not taking the bait....tempting as it is.}

      I am actually not hung up on the law at all. What I am pointing out is that, while you and I may value something like fairness above all else or above most everything else, others may not feel the same. In the end, we have our personal preferences, and others have theirs. When you say that a cake baker can/should be sued into submission for placing his religious or political views above your notions of fairness, you are very much saying that your values trump his values. And you aren't pointing to anything that says you should win that argument just because you see fairness as the highest value and he doesn't. My point about the law is that unless you believe in something like natural rights or some other "objective" source of right and wrong, then the only "rights" you have are what the law says you have. All the rest is just either (a) personal preference; or (b) whatever someone with power can make happen. I totally agree that public businesses should server everyone and should not discriminate. Where you and I differ is I don't see my personal preferences on that issue as binding on everyone else. { While I see your point that not everyone values fairness, I think that anyone admitting to a life philosophy that does not value fairness above all, while 'entitled' to the view.....is made dangerous by that view. Since these folk apparently are just out for what's best for them, how could they object to the logic that others should look out for themselves......and in this instance maybe strike first and eliminate those with such a dangerously, selfish and unpredictable code of behavior. Who knows what such a person would be capable of? (Imagine if someone like that ever became president!) You should read Kafka's "The Penal Colony"....."be just." ;-) }

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    4. "Who knows what such a person would be capable of? (Imagine if someone like that ever became president!)" Yes, how many potential novel plots have been undone by his election. Just no way to top this reality.

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  3. To address the question of whether I would fine not being served driving through the South on the basis that I am a Damn Yankee. No, I wouldn't be fine with it. I'd be pissed. Doesn't mean I don't think the person doing it has the right to unless a clearly defined law says he can't. I suspect he'll pay a karmic price for it, but that isn't really the issue. There just isn't any real rule against discriminating for dumb reason. On the race issue, again, you can maintain that there should not be a special rule for it, but there is, and it is an actual law. Not some personal non-discrimination preference. And, those laws were enacted to try to undo 300 years of slavery and Jim Crow laws. That is why I think your reference to the triviality of the cake cuts the other way. Last year I read Parting the Waters, the Pulitzer-winning book about the Civil Rights years. You had people getting on buses to confront segregated lunch counters in the South, knowing that they would be lucky if they *only* got beaten *almost* to death, and many were. I think it really trivializes both the that discrimination and what it took to make any strides to get rid of it to equate that with someone could not get a wedding cake baked by this one particular baker.

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    1. You seem very hung up on what is a law and what isn't as if that mere fact makes something right (fair). What if that state not only didn't have a law forcing him to give you gas, but had one that permitted him to take a dump on your hood because you had East Coast plates? No special Federal protection for discrimination based on state of origin? But.....it wouldn't be right (fair) would it? He would not like it if he was refused gas up north and had someone shit on his hood, right? (See how easy this can be? You just ask: "how would I feel if this was me?"....something that seems to be sorely lacking from every debate from healthcare to freedom of speech.)

      I don't equate a beating with lack of cake as far as importance. But they are both issues of fairness/unfairness. Kind of like you have ice cubes and icebergs....very different on one level....but both are still frozen water. In fact, a snowflake is even more 'trivial' than both prior examples........and it is STILL frozen water.

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  4. Also, I too am a little L libertarian. A party that believes that jury duty is a form of involuntary servitude probably isn't going to get much traction.

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    1. No argument there.

      Dan, basically, I know you are a pretty ethical guy and I suspect most people are....or try to be. But not everyone. You and I both hate hypocrisy and yet it has become nearly a prerequisite for political office. There certainly are a lot of things that just ARE. (It doesn't mean they should be.) And to know what should be, no one has to ask me for a ruling.....you just apply the question of 'how would you want to be treated?' and the answer....even if it is an uncomfortable one, becomes apparent. And that's probably all this comes down to.

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  5. I have a solution for the wedding cake. Order it without a "topper."

    Considering that you can find (and purchase) them nearly anywhere (including Wal-Mart) you can make your own "topper" without being condemned by religious loonies.

    When I married the future father of my children, we had a friend make our wedding cake.
    Problem solved!

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    1. Certainly there are always solutions. Question is: should one have to go around something like this?

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    2. Have to? No.

      Be willing to? Sure! It would be less expensive, that's for sure!

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