As attention was understandably focused on the big news items – the Democratic National Convention, the embarrassing decision by the Big Ten to cancel their fall season, the arrest of Steve Bannon, etc. – something just happened in Detroit, Michigan that deserves more attention.
It seems a gay baker was approached by a conservative Catholic group and asked to bake a rainbow-themed cake with what was termed an “anti-gay” message on the top. What happened next is both instructive and important for all of us.
April Anderson owns a shop in Detroit called Good Cakes and Bakes with her lesbian wife Michelle. In mid-July she received an online order that read,
I am ordering this cake to celebrate and have PRIDE in true Christian marriage. I’d like you to write on the cake, in icing, “Homosexual acts are gravely evil. (Catholic Catechism 2357”).
Since it was ordered online, the full $40 payment was made, as well as a $10 tip included. According to news reports, Anderson said she was confused what she should do. She feared she might face a lawsuit if she refused to complete the order.
Stop right there. Is there anyone in their right mind that thinks this woman should have to fill that order? This is, to any fair observer, an obvious attempt to force her to use her talent to advocate a message she undoubtedly finds personally and ethically offensive. This is her shop, these are her talents, they are her convictions. She should be able to operate her business in accordance with those convictions without fear of a lawsuit.
There’s only one reason that she can’t, and I think we all are smart enough to know what it is.
In the end, Anderson completed the order but did not write the personalized message that was requested. You know, kind of like agreeing to sell a cake for a gay wedding but not being willing to personalize a message for it.
You can read the rest of the account here if you’re interested. Suffice it to say that Anderson included a taunting note in the box with the cake, including wishing the purchaser, “PRIDE, rainbows, fairy dust and a good GAY!” but that the man who ordered the cake never showed up to pick it up. He told local media that he was “denied services…at a place of public accommodation.”
Frankly, there’s nothing that impresses me too much in the attitude, approach, or overall demeanor of any of the players in this little drama. But it does bring up an important discussion point for the rest of us.
Rights of association matter. You should be free to associate with who you want to associate with, and to not associate with those you choose not to.
Rights of conscience matter and are sacrosanct to all of us. Even if not religious, we all have a higher good that we live for, things we believe in, and dogma we submit to. Being forced by law to violate our consciences or face legal consequences is not the hallmark of a healthy society. The idea that government should be able to force one person to celebrate a message that attacks them personally, OR the idea that government should be able to force another person to celebrate a message that they believe offends God, is warped and destructive.
Freedom matters. Let people live by their own convictions (within reason, of course), and let the market decide how to respond. Surely there are a couple of lesbian bakers that would happily agree. And knowing that means that somewhere else, Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop is smiling.