Wedding Cake 192520

Liberty vs. Religious Liberty

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In the most recent update to the Denver cake-baker saga, Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, according to an article in the Denver Post, “cannot cite his religious beliefs or free-speech rights in refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.”

Although this case is being hailed as a loss for religious liberty, I’d like to examine it from a different perspective. I think it’s a loss for liberty. Liberty encompasses religious liberty, but it is also bigger than religious liberty.

In Jack Phillips’ case, he refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. The couple sued, and has won on two appeals. Phillips said he’d rather stop baking cakes than make a cake for a same-sex wedding. The principle at work is this: Whose liberty is more important? The baker’s right to do business only with whom he wishes, or the customer’s right to do business with that specific baker.

During the civil rights movement of the 1960s, doing business with those you didn’t want to felt much different. If one restaurant wouldn’t serve you at their lunch counter, it was likely that no restaurant would serve you at their lunch counter. There were sit-ins, protests and marches. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed outlawing such discrimination.

Today, in the case of the same-sex couple wanting the wedding cake, there are dozens of places they could have gone in Denver where bakers would be happy for their business. The couple chose to go to the one baker who didn’t want to make the cake. I ask the question again: Whose liberty is more important? The baker’s right to do business only with whom he wishes, or the customer’s right to do business with that specific baker.

The problem I have with the religious liberty argument is that it is too exclusive. What if the baker was an Atheist and didn’t want to bake the cake? Freedom covers the Atheist baker as much as the Christian baker. I side with the business owner over the customer. It’s a different world than it was in 1964.

In my utopia, the couple would have chosen a baker who wanted their business. When they found out that Jack Phillips didn’t want to bake the cake, they would have gone somewhere else. Given that we are in a free market full of choices, the couple would also have been free to give Phillips a review on Yelp. They could have taken to Twitter and Facebook to talk about his refusal to bake the cake.

Since the rest of us also operate in a free market full of choices, some would shop at Phillips’ bakery, and some would refuse to shop there. If enough people shop there, Phillips would stay in business. If enough people refuse to shop there, Phillips would go out of business. And all of that would happen by letting the market sort it out. No government. No courts. No one trying to boss anyone else around.

This has similarities to the Hobby Lobby case, where they didn’t want to comply with the mandate to provide certain types of birth control —those they considered to be abortion inducing— in their employee health plan because it was an affront to their deeply held religious values. I would have loved to have seen this case argued not based on religious freedom, but based on the fact that it should be none of the government’s business to dictate the contents of an employee’s benefits package. It’s simply not their job.

Then people could choose to work there or not work there. Customers could choose to shop there or not shop there. Everyone has the choice.

The freedom to run your business the way you wish should be part of our freedom and liberty as Americans. If customers don’t like it, they are free to run you out of business. That goes for whether you are religious or not.

Liberty is bigger than just religious liberty.






This Post Has 16 Comments
  1. Laura – IF the courts can say that you MUST bake a cake for gays, that is stepping on the religious rights of the owner – and where does it stop? Can the courts say that you must bake a cake for criminals? For people who walk in naked and want a naked person featured on the frosting top? This decision is why Coloradoans should have supported the CLEAR THE BENCH initiative in the last election. I suggest to all your readers that they get the book, Men In Black by Mark Levin and read how the Supreme Court is destroying America. Local courts also make rulings that go against common sense and they promote personal agendas. Shameful decision by a most stupid judge!

  2. I’ve gotta believe the cake bakers went out of their way to ensure everyone knew exactly why they didn’t want to bake the cake. I’ve kicked people out of my shop and refused to do business with them just because I didn’t like their attitude. I don’t give them a long explanation, I just told them to get out.

    I’m sure if a baker doesn’t want to do business with someone for whatever reason, there are easy ways to turn business away without making the news. If you put people on the defensive or suggest that their existence is an abomination before the creator, yeah, they’ll probably sue you if they have the resources to do so.

    1. Jack Phillips never told the two homosexual men that their homosexuality was an abomination. He simply told them their wedding conflicted with his Christian beliefs. Which is exactly why they were in that bakery: to force this principled conservative bakery owner to bow at the altar of sodomy.

  3. “And all of that would happen by letting the market sort it out. No government. No courts. No one trying to boss anyone else around.” BRING ME THAT WORLD! Well done, Laura!

  4. A very well thought out write-up, thank you, Laura!
    Brings to mind the fact that businesses such as Starbucks elects to not allow/ serve those who open carry- even uniformed police. The liberal “logic” seems to implode over this one…. Can disallow for doing a job, yet use force majeure to get their way in other “shops”?

  5. The problem is that if it is okay for one baker to refuse service, it is okay for any and all bakers to refuse service. We already decided that it was not okay for all bakers to refuse service. It does not matter that all bakers are not currently refusing service, that is just a matter of timing, not rights.

    1. You and I may have a fundamental disagreement. I believe that the business owner has the right to do business with whom they choose. That is more important than a customer’s “right” to do business with that particular business.

      1. In general I agree with the principal of individuals being able to make their own choices and live with them, but if you offer your services to the public, you have to accept whatever form that public takes (unless your safety is threatened). Now if you offered your services only to members of one or more specified churches, that isn’t the public.

  6. Laura,

    I personally don’t have a care about what consenting adults do privately, but intentionally bringing mousetrap conflict into the world is just plain wrong.

    What if the Baker agrees to provide a cake and just has a bad day and the delivered cake collapses and its a failure? This can happen to the best of professionals. Is it a failure to deliver or would some see it as more. Would such a circumstance rise to the level of a Tort (Tort, not Tart)? Would ‘damages’ for a wedding cake gone-bad be any worse for a birthday cake, or anniversary cake gone-bad? Image this phone call, “I ordered 2 dozen bagels for this important business meeting. They were horrible and we lost the account. It’s your fault and we’re suing!” A Court would laugh at this comment and many might say, “I may not get my bagels at that place”, or others might say, “They had a bad day.”

    Does the Baker promise a guarantee on a cake?
    on a delivery?
    on the product being to the customers satisfaction at the time of exchange?

    Isn’t the Baker’s public reputation for ‘great product’ the market force that ultimately prevails? Market forces and opinions are powerful; they can build or tatter a business overnight.

    1. Don’t take a deposit.
    2. Don’t make promises of quality or fitness in advance
    3. Don’t accept payment unless the customer is satisfied when they pick it up (Don’t deliver).

    Have you ever heard of McDonald’s being sued like this? No, but they also follow know 1, 2, and 3.

    I don’t know if Jack Phillips is still putting himself out as a Baker but I wonder if for every person put off by his action another didn’t fill the gap. Don’t know, just curious.

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