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You can’t make me sell a cake

| Wednesday, February 19, 2014

As a Viewpoint columnist, I feel compelled to bring to our readers’ attention political events that have serious implications, ones that threaten our freedom and ones that are just plain ridiculous. Today’s topic falls under all three categories.

With the recent legalization of gay marriage and civil unions in many states, we’ve seen quite a few cases where a gay couple files a lawsuit against a bakery for refusing to sell them a wedding cake. In these cases, the business owners refused mostly due to religious objections. Many ended up with severe fines and some were forced to shut down their bakeries. Laws have been passed in some states to bolster these lawsuits.

Throughout the rest of the article, I will explain why these recent events are unfair and why it should be perfectly acceptable to refuse to sell a gay couple a wedding cake.

First off, I want to emphasize that the main reason the bakery owners refused service was their religious objections to gay marriage. They are morally against it, but I want to point out these business owners aren’t trying to prevent gays from getting married. They just don’t want to be forced to provide a cake for a celebration of something they view as a sin. Nothing about that is unreasonable. Plus, I don’t see why the gay couple’s desire for a wedding cake should supersede someone’s religious beliefs, especially since the bakery owner’s religious beliefs are protected under the Constitution. The couple could have easily gone to another bakery. I severely doubt they would be unable to find a local bakery to make them a cake.

And then there is the larger issue of property rights. Some people may disagree with me when I say that religious objections are a legitimate reason to refuse a cake sale, but these people are missing the bigger point. You see, the bakery owners shouldn’t even have to give a reason for not making a sale. That’s the beauty of owning property. It’s yours.

As long as you don’t use it to cause harm, you may do with it what you please. If you make cakes, you should be free to sell them or not at your discretion. A government with the ability to force someone to sell a product is far too powerful. I would even go so far as to say that court rulings and current state laws forcing the bakers to sell cakes against their will are a form of theft. It is an act of unrightfully taking someone else’s property against his or her will.

Many people will likely disagree with this statement, but those that do probably don’t fully understand my argument. You see, I’m not saying that it’s morally acceptable to discriminate against groups of people. I’ll leave that for you to decide. However, there is a big difference between morality and legality. It is not the job of the government to legislate morality, and the very action of doing so is immoral in itself. So if someone doesn’t want to sell a gay couple a cake, fine. It’s not the end of the world. No harm done. Grow up and go to a different bakery instead of trying to destroy someone’s livelihood just because they don’t support your lifestyle.

In the end, I’m just trying to point out that there are many instances in which upstanding business owners have had their property and religious rights violated in the name of gay rights. The gay movement always talks about tolerance, but I think many of its members have to realize that tolerance isn’t a one-way street.

They can’t expect Christians to tolerate the gay lifestyle if they won’t tolerate Christians’ religious beliefs. Additionally, it’s fundamental to our existence as free Americans to make our own decisions pertaining to our property. And there are certainly many gay people that recognize this.

One of the most powerful examples is a story I heard about the so-called Chick-Fil-A Day. A large group of gay people actually went to support the restaurant on this day because they realized that although the company disagrees with their lifestyle, its leaders have the right to express their views. They realized that their own quest for acceptance does not allow the government to trample on the rights of others, and that’s what it comes down to at the end of the day.

I’ve heard many absurd stories, but hearing that people successfully sued a bakery for not selling them a wedding cake is in a league of its own. One might even say that of all the outrageous stories I’ve heard, this one really takes the cake.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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  • Anonymous

    Replace “gay marriage” with “interracial marriage” in this article and it becomes scarily reminiscent of the past… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8JsRx2lois

    • Alumnus

      Doesn’t matter. If a private business owner doesn’t want to make a cake for a gay couple, or an interracial couple, it their right. It’s not the government’s job to regulate people’s morals and beliefs.

      • nope

        No, it does matter. Like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, many states have anti-discrimination policies that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, just like the federal CRA prohibits discrimination on the basis of race (among other things).

        Educate yourself before inserting yourself into a discussion you don’t understand.

        I would say the same thing to the author here too. Stunning ignorance for someone at a supposed top tier university.

        • Raymond Michuda

          Before accusing me of ignorance, please read the article more carefully. Email me if you would like to discuss further, as I would be more than happy too!

          • none

            I read it plenty carefully. Federal law and the law in several states says that the government can in fact make someone sell you a cake. If you want to hold the position that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the ever-so-slightly expanded versions that exist in states throughout the country are unconstitutional…. well that’s your prerogative. But frankly, I find that pretty gross.

            Your casual dismissal of discrimination based on an innate characteristic (although hey who’s to say you wouldn’t dispute that fact too) of a minority group in this country is disturbing. “Hey, just go find another bakery” is so trivializing.

    • Anon

      This argument is so stupid it doesn’t even need to be addressed. Marriage has a definition and teleology. This is obviously beyond your ability to grasp.

      • JCR

        except we don’t live in a theocracy.

  • Doug

    This is a hilariously shortsighted, idiotic opinion piece. First, switch out “gay” with “black” and I’m sure anyone would recognize the author is just straight-up being bigoted. Second, as far as I know, “baking cakes” is not a tenant of Christianity. No one’s religious rights are affected.

    • Raymond Michuda

      I naturally saw this argument coming. Even if you did switch out gay with black, why should the government at this point in time be able to tell people what to do with their property?

      • Eric

        because that’s called racism buddy

        • Nick

          You calling him a “bigot” is also discrimination and racist. You uneducated people only look at it from one side. Its a two way street.

      • Kathryn

        That’s sort of like saying that the government shouldn’t require business to acquire permits, proper zoning, or adhere to health and safety codes–except worse because you’re defending discrimination.

    • Ryan

      When gays are being attacked by police using dogs and fire hoses in the street you can make a legitimate comparison to what blacks endured in this country.

      Your arguments are ignorant and bigoted as well. There is a massive difference between refusing to serve a person based on their orientation, and refusing to participate in a ceremony one finds to be objectionable.

      • Doug

        I seem to have missed the part of the wedding ceremony where the baker who made the cake walks down the aisle. Could you point me to that?

        Also “bigoted”? Words have meanings. How could what I said possibly, in any universe, be bigoted.

        And Ryan, why don’t you go check some hate crime statistics on the LGBT community, check the current laws on the amount of states where you can be fired solely for your sexual orientation, and get back to me. The comparison can be made without 1:1 suffering.

  • w.m.young

    Mr. Michuda- while appealing to a seemingly mundane and unimportant issue like wedding cakes- you are overlooking the ramifications of allowing this sort of discrimination. It is just a small logical (and even a smaller legal) step to see where this would be terribly discriminatory with dangerous societal implications. If a court rules that a privately owned cake company can prevent a gay couple from purchasing a cake- what is to prevent a privately owned grocery store from refusing to sell groceries to a gay woman? what is to prevent a privately owned hospital from refusing to treat a gay man? Would a privately funded ambulance be permitted to pass up a car accident because of a rainbow flag bumper sticker? Could all the businesses in a town refuse to serve a gay couple? If a Christian shop owner disagrees with the teachings of Judaism, Islam, Buddhism — would they be permitted to refuse service to them? “Listen, they aren’t PREVENTING people from being gay, jewish, Muslim or Buddhist – they’re just not treating them at the hospital or not letting them enter their restaurant…or just forcing them to move out of their homes in search of a place that will serve them” – they are not allowing these groups to engage and live in the very society from which the business and shop owners benefit and the very society in which gays, muslims, and buddhists contribute.

    If I lived in a largely Hindu community could I be prevented from moving into a specific private housing development or apartment complex because I am Christian? — and I think it is important to look at questions from this angle- because as Christians we are operating from a place of privilege with concentrated current and historical power (see: the current and past religious views of presidents, congresspersons etc) so when you approach these topics you need to imagine yourself as the minority or non-power-centered classification and ask the same questions. And maybe it wouldn’t change your mind…maybe you would feel the same…perhaps you do not believe you have any rights to be served by any business if business owners do not want to serve you based on your classification— but then I hope you are a huge proponent of expanding funding to public housing, public education, public medicine, and welfare for when private business owners decide they don’t want to hire you bc your religious views, sexual orientation, race, gender, etc.

    We live in a pluralistic society- and businesses operate within the public sphere of this pluralistic society. Business benefit from this society ( a society full of different religions, races, ethnic backgrounds, genders, and sexual orientations) and this public sphere – they do not exist in a vacuum. Businesses also have a responsibility in the public sphere. As other commenters have mentioned- this was codified more clearly during the civil rights movement when we acknowledged that companies had the responsibility to serve the public- even a coffee shop owner who was a member of the KKK could not refuse service to an African American. They cannot refuse service based on any number of protected categories.

    Now, in regards to religious freedom. Yes- we have a freedom to PRACTICE our religion- and there is a rich history of jurisprudence that outlines what it means to “practice” our religion. But nowhere does this religious freedom give us the right to abrogate another’s rights. We are not a theocracy and no single religion’s views is entitled to undermine the public rights of any other individual. Yes- it’s part of living in a pluralistic society. (an aside: as a Christian- I’m not sure what part of Christianity forbids us from serving or engaging with sinners, prisoners, atheists or ::Gasp:: homosexuals). The unsettling thing about equating this to religious freedom is that all over the world there are people fighting for serious, legitimate religious freedom- the freedom to practice their faith- and this really undermines that reality.

    As for the Chick-fil-a comparison. I’m not sure HOW you think the government was trampling on anyone’s rights…? The government didn’t do anything in that case. Chick-fil-a didn’t refuse service to homosexuals…they were giving donations to anti-gay groups. There was a boycott done by individuals privately (which is one of those freedoms you cherish- they exercised their right to protest and boycott). The government didn’t do anything- didn’t trample or restrict anything. The government had nothing to do with it. These were private citizens- and Chick-fil-a has since scaled back many of the protested donations… so that was all individuals and businesses exercising all sorts of freedoms. So, at best, that comparison is out of place and misguided on the “government” argument. At worst, it’s revealing a bit of a persecution complex.

    And you speak of gays “tolerating” the religious. I would agree…if there were gay shop owners refusing to serve christians- if there were gay cake makers refusing to make cakes for heterosexual weddings…and….well you understand where I am taking this.

    And as for the property rights argument- well there is a lot more to dig into there including questions of future property interests… but I think I’ll stick with the notion that human rights > property rights (not that they are altogether mutually exclusive)

    • Dave

      You’re missing an obvious distinction. The bakers regularly served gay clients. They simply refused to participate in a gay wedding ceremony.

      Does a baker have the right to refuse to make a cake for a Satanic worship service? What about for an anti-gay rally? There is a difference between refusing to serve an individual and refusing to serve an event.

      • J.C.R.

        First of all- under the law there is no distinction as to whether one is baking a cake for a gay client who will serve it at his home or at a wedding reception. Because it is for an “event” does not matter. The cake could be for the “Event” of a birthday party or the “event” of celebrating their first adoption. There is no legal distinction just because where or how the cake will be used- so the conversation really ends there – but I think it is important to dispel this idea that they are “participating in a wedding ceremony.” I’m not sure you understand about how wedding ckaes work- but they aren’t part of the “wedding ceremonies” — They are not serving as a witness for the paperwork, they are not required to be there and watch the couple recite vows — there is no “participation in the ceremony.” People eat cake at the reception. Cake they purchased, as individuals, from a bakery. And as for the satanic worship service- no- they would not be required to “participate” in the service. However, the baker would have to bake a cake and sell it to someone to eat or serve at WHATEVER celebration no matter whether they are Catholic, a member of a Satanic Cult, or an atheist.

        • w.m.young

          Right. Whether this consumer is purchasing a cake through a vendor at a reception venue or directly in the shop has no legal distinction. It is still a consumer being denied service due to his or her sexual orientation.

  • JJW

    The second he used the words “the gay lifestyle” I stopped reading.

  • Raymond Michuda

    WM, Do your research before you start making things up. There were multiple large cities that threatened to prevent Chick-fil-a from getting licenses…Additionally, there is no reasonable threat preventing gays from buying what they want. Just because one business refuses service, doesn’t mean every other one will. The free market will prevent this from happening. Years ago, there was need for these laws in regards to blacks because there was a legitimate threat that black people would be unable to purchase necessary goods and services. That threat doesn’t exist anymore, and it is quite absurd of you to suggest it does.

    • Doug
    • Guest

      Oh Raymond… yes…they did THREATEN, symbolically, but no one for a second actually thought they would be able to…why? because there’s laws protecting against that sort of discrimination. And if they did think they could- they were misguided. Even Mayor Menino said there was little he could do to prevent a license even though he was one of the fiercest in coming out against them. And the punch line is- unlike the situation with gay couples eating cake, THEY WERE NOT ACTUALLY PREVENTED FROM GETTING A LICENSE…the law protected them…