What Can’t Be Said

Willis Eschenbach slices this up perfectly. Trigger warning: he uses forbidden words. 

Now, the issue in these cases has been, should a baker be forced by the government to make a special cake for something that offends the baker’s deeply held beliefs? In order to clarify the issues involved in this matter, let me ask the following two hypothetical questions, remembering that I am using forbidden words for effect. Here are the questions:

Should a Jewish baker be forced by the government to bake someone a special cake that says “Hitler was right to turn the kikes into soap!”?

… and …

Should a black baker be forced by the Government to bake someone a special cake that says “The KKK should hang every nigger that they can find!”?

That’s it for the banned words, they leave a bad taste in my mouth, but they make the point very clear. For me, the answer to both these questions is, Hell no, they shouldn’t be forced to do that!

And that highlights what I see as the difference between the Colorado baker case and the  Woolworths case.

The difference is, in the baker’s case the Government is forcing one person to carry a message for another person. This is NOT what was going on at Woolworths. This is not about refusing service, religion, civil rights, or gay rights.

It is about refusing to be a messenger for words we disagree with, which is a very different thing.

What Can’t Be Said

I’ve been mulling over the recent case of the Colorado baker refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. It has led me to finally understand how this kind of case differs from, say, Woolworths refusing to serve black people in the South in the 1960s.

6 thoughts on “What Can’t Be Said”

  1. Scott Dredge

    If the baker doesn’t want to ice the cake with a message he/she/it doesn’t agree, that typically can reasonably explained and understood. However, if the baker is refusing to sell an unmessaged cake simply because he/she/it becomes aware that it be severed in a [horror of horrors] gay wedding, the they have little footing against anti-discrimination laws. Same thing florist refusing to sell flowers when they become aware they’ll be displayed at gay wedding. Kennedy’s wrote “Future cases that raise those issues “must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market,””

    1. So you do agree with him?
      Should a Jewish baker be forced by the government to bake someone a special cake that says “Hitler was right to turn the kikes into soap!”?
      … and …
      Should a black baker be forced by the Government to bake someone a special cake that says “The KKK should hang every nigger that they can find!”?

  2. Scott Dredge

    No – no one should be forced to write a hateful message. And it would be easy to defend that stance if a dispute on that even made its way into the courts. My point is simply that if customers request an unlettered wedding cake or even a wedding cake that is simply lettered with “Congratulations!”, the baker ought not be allowed to refuse a gay couple a message neutral cake that would otherwise be sold to a straight couple. How does the baker make compelling case for denying such a generic cake to the gay couple?

    The line here can be quite broad. Clearly the messaging you write above is far over the line. But lettering of “Congratulations!” would also clearly be within reasonable bounds. Florists, caterers, printers, etc. have little change of prevailing in a denial of service lawsuit. Photographers in my opinion would have a good chance of declining taking pictures of two males or females kissing or engaging in other intimate poses. At same time, there’s a polite way to decline and explain why vs an over the top response of “God hates fags and thus I must be cruel to you subhumans!!”. SCOTUS ruled that Jack Phillips didn’t receive a fair hearing because the ruling contained hostility toward his “sincerely held religious beliefs”. It was actually a good decision by the court. However, when future decisions are made at the local and state levels in a manner that adheres strictly to the anti-discrimination laws on the books, the business owners who are clearly denying service to gays just because they’re gay, will lose and either will be ordered to comply with the law or stop providing that service altogether.

    Sorry for the long-winded response on this. The legalization of same sex marriage only happened 3 years ago so there’s bound to be issues of acceptance to this especially with the older generations who don’t accept change well especially when they’ve lived their lives so long with their opinion of “the way things ought to be”. I’m guessing you still remember the mid-1980s when Idaho was forced to raise the drinking age from 19 to 21 “immediately” and instead they defied the federal order and instituted a grandfathering clause whereby if you were 19 before the state imposed deadline, you were legal to drink. If you missed the cutoff you were prohibited. It was all moot 2 years later because everything just timed out. Same thing will happen with same sex marriage. Over time, there will be less and less of these types of disputes.

    1. What if the majority of Americans didn’t find the word “kike” offensive, but the Jews did?
      What if the majority of Americans didn’t find the word “nigger’ offensive, but blacks did?
      Do you base what is offensive upon the majority? Or something else? And how do you decidee?

      The reason I ask: the Dred Scott decision was based on the majority of the SCOtUS. If the majority were to decide that something were not offensive (and should not be offensive), does that indeed make it not so?

  3. Scott Dredge

    Your comment regarding majorities is coming out of left field, but I’ll answer it directly all the same. Our system of government does not allow the majority to deny rights of the minority. A clear majority in both North and South was against inter-racial marriage and thus were in favor of inter-racial marriage bans. It didn’t matter because the bans were unconstitutional and thus were struck down. Two different people can look at message and have completely different reactions on it. One can find it quite humorous. Another can find it offensive. I took a package to our shipping department this afternoon with the proper export form filled out and with straight-face told them that the contact information I received was to ship it to this guy named “Wang” at a company address that with a street name “Long Dong Avenue” in Shanghai, China. It is was it is unless one of my coworkers is punking me. Is this offensive, humorous, other, none of the above? Proof is left up to the reader.

    Regarding who decides, you already know the answer. It’s the Supreme Court. And sometimes they get it wrong. That said, the Dred Scott decision was subsequently rendered moot from a legal standpoint.

    I’ll end my comments here. I’m sure there will be many more cases to be decided within the arena of religious freedom vs anti-discrimination laws and some will be decided one way and others will be decided the other way. Again, it’s a broad line but that’s why there are courts to weigh the arguments on both sides.

    1. It may seem that my comment was from left field, but it wasn’t.

      For 5000+ years, Judeo-Christian, Islamic (and other) teaching has been that marriage is between a man and a woman. In one SCOTUS decision, that entire moral history was swept away? And now the major religions of the world must bow to the new majority? And they have no recourse to say no.

      It’s just like forcing a Jewish deli to serve ham or unkosher food because the majority want it.

      This will not end well.

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