|Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop (Lakewood, Colorado),|
was sued by a gay couple for refusing to bake them a cake
celebrating their same-sex wedding.
April 16, 2015
By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, April 16, 2015
You can't have your cake and eat it too. Or so the saying goes. Apparently, in view of the hoopla over gay wedding cakes, some persons not only want to have and eat their cake but also wish to force others to bake it for them.
I've heard (at least) two popular but poor arguments in favour of legally coercing Christian bakers to bake wedding cakes for same-sex weddings, and I'd like to show why I think those arguments are poor.
Argument 1. Because these bakers refuse to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, the bakers are discriminating against gays.
Assessment: Well, yes and no.
Yes, the bakers discriminate against gays by refusing to bake cakes for gay weddings, but, no, the bakers are not discriminating against gays in general. The bakers serve gays in day-to-day business by serving pastries, cupcakes, birthday cakes, etc. But the bakers refuse to participate in what seems to them as contributing to the celebration of an event—i.e., a same-sex marriage ceremony—which goes against their moral conscience or religious view.
In other words, gays are here not being discriminated against as a class as, say, blacks have been discriminated against as a class. Rather, a particular type of event—a same-sex wedding—is not being serviced and celebrated by some—a few—bakers. Significantly, there's no shortage of other bakers who are ready and willing to bake the desired cakes.
Surely, in a tolerant and pluralist society, a few bakers should be free to refuse some business on moral or religious grounds.
Think about it. A Muslim baker should be free not to bake cakes celebrating pornographic images for a stag party. A Jewish baker should be free not to bake a cake celebrating the pork industry. A black baker should be free to refuse baking a cake to celebrate white supremacy. A gay baker should be free to refuse baking a cake for Westboro Baptist Church (of "God hates fags" notoriety).
Argument 2. But because they're Christian bakers, if they're asked to bake a gay wedding cake, they should walk the "extra mile" and bake two cakes—even if they think same-sex marriage is sin. After all, Jesus says that if a Roman soldier asks you to carry his pack one mile you should carry it two miles.
In reply, notice that carrying the soldier's pack isn't a case of celebrating the Roman occupation, but creating a wedding cake is a significant part of the marriage celebration.
So, if one believes, as the Christian bakers (in the news) believe, that same-sex marriage is immoral (and deemed as such by Jesus), then the appeal to the "extra mile" principle runs amok. To be consistent one would have to agree to encourage other sins.
Think of it this way. If you're a Christian baker and you think incestuous marriage is wrong, you'd have to (according to argument 2) agree to bake two cakes to celebrate incest if you're asked to bake one.
If you're a Christian videographer and you think pornography is wrong, you'd have to agree to offer to make two porn films if someone asks for one.
In business in general you'd have to agree to two unscrupulous deals if someone asks for one.
In other words, before the "extra mile" principle is applied, the circumstance to which it's applied should be determined to be moral or immoral. That should be settled first. Those who apply the "extra mile" principle to the bakers assume that the moral issue has been settled—but this is unfair to those whose conscience and moral reasoning say otherwise.
Folks, life in a tolerant and pluralist society won't always be easy. Let's not force people to violate their moral or religious conscience when there are many other, less oppressive ways to get a cake.
Phone ahead—this way nobody will have to walk an extra block, let alone an extra mile.
(Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, teaches philosophy at Providence University College. The views in this column do not always reflect the views of Providence.)