Monday, October 09, 2017

Bar Mitzvah Catering Services, and the Cake debate

 What if I set up a catering service to provide catering to Bar Mitzvahs. Would I be discriminating against non-Jews if I did that? After all, I would be willing to cater anyone's Bar Mitzvah, whether or not they were Jewish. 

Are Christian bookstores discriminating against nonbelievers because their stores carry only Christian-oriented books? Could an atheist sue Lifeway Christian Stores because they refused to special-order The God Delusion?

If one were to open up a Christian bake shop, or a Christian flower shop, could one then refuse to serve a gay wedding? If you define your product sufficiently, could you avoid the discrimination charge? What we sell, you might state, are Christian-compatible flower arrangements or wedding cakes. Anyone, gay or not, can get a Christian-compatible flower arrangement or wedding cake. How is this different from having a Christian bookstore or a Bar Mitzvah catering service. 

Apparently you can define your product as something that appeals only to one group without being accused of discrimination. 

27 comments:

Hal said...

Do Christian bookstores refuse to sell their books to atheists? Would a Christian bookstore refuse to sell its books to a gay person? Would a Bar Mitzvah Catering service refuse to cater for gay Jews?

Victor Reppert said...

No, refusing to provide service to someone because they were gay would be discrimination if gays were a protected class. On the view I'm proposing, a baker would have to bake a cake for a gay wedding. The baker, however, would not be required to provide any congratulatory speech on the cake, and including nothing on the cake to indicate that it was going to a gay wedding. This would be to provide a product outside the provenance of the bakery, which is defining itself as a Christian bakery.

In fact Christian bakeries might say that they would be happy to bake a cake for a gay person who is entering an opposite-sex marriage. The fact that the person is a same-sex attracted person has nothing to do with the legitimacy of the marriage.

Eric Sotnak said...

I really don't understand the refusal to bake a cake for a gay wedding. It's a cake. The purpose to which the cake will be put is that it is going to be eaten by people some of whom are gay and some of whom are not. The same is true of cakes made for straight weddings. There is something weird to my mind about someone wringing their hands and thinking, "Heavens, what sinfulness have I contributed to by baking a cake for them? Will the Lord turn me from his blessed company because I have not defied their sinful request?" It's just a cake.

Hal said...

So this Christian baker would also not write any congratulatory speech on a cake for a Jewish wedding or a Muslim wedding or a Hindu wedding?

Hal said...

Eric,
Agreed. Baking a wedding cake does not confer any legitimacy upon the wedding. The cake does not make the wedding legal. Nor does making the cake entail that the cake maker approves of the wedding.

I wonder, do these cake makers throwing a fit about making a cake for a gay wedding also refuse to make cakes for people that have been married and divorced multiple times?

Victor Reppert said...

Traditional Christians don't typically believe that Jewish marriages aren't marriages. But I think people assume that the cake is "white cake with chocolate frosting," when in fact it often contains inscriptions to congratulate the couple on getting married. The idea is that if you don't think these people are entering into a real marriage, then, at least from the stand point of the conservative Christian baker, you are being expected to lie and say that it is.

Bakers don't typically know the marriage history of the couples that come to them, but you are right, a Christian baker should have as big a problem baking one for Donald and Melania as for a same-sex couple.

But it all depends on product definition. If you define your product as Christian-compatible wedding service, then I don't see that that is any different from a Christian bookstore.

Hal said...

Victor,
Bakers don't typically know the marriage history of the couples that come to them, but you are right, a Christian baker should have as big a problem baking one for Donald and Melania as for a same-sex couple.

But if they are really that concerned about whether or not their cake is going to be used to celebrate a "real wedding" then they would screen their customers to see if they met the criteria that establishes a "real wedding".

Also, many Christians actively support gay marriage and believe it to be compatible with their faith. So how can these cake makers support the claim that they cannot provide a Christian-compatible cake for a gay wedding?

Hal said...

In any case, given the current make up of the Supreme Court I will be very surprised if they don't allow cake bakers to refuse service for gay weddings.

Joe Hinman said...

Eric Sotnak said...
I really don't understand the refusal to bake a cake for a gay wedding. It's a cake. The purpose to which the cake will be put is that it is going to be eaten by people some of whom are gay and some of whom are not. The same is true of cakes made for straight weddings. There is something weird to my mind about someone wringing their hands and thinking, "Heavens, what sinfulness have I contributed to by baking a cake for them? Will the Lord turn me from his blessed company because I have not defied their sinful request?" It's just a cake.


I agree Eric, those are good points

Miguel said...

No one should be forced to bake a cake for anyone; it shouldn't be up for the State to decide who can or can't sell baked goods according to their own guidelines. It's their business, their work, they choose whether or not they take an order. Voluntary contract. If a gay baker doesn't want to make cakes for christians, it should be okay too. Why even discuss that.

People just want to impose rules on private businesses that operate on the basis of voluntary contracts between adults, it's silly.

If you think it's stupid that some bakers don't want to make cakes for gay weddings, that's alright. But it's how they feel, and they should not be forced to take up work they don't want, and it shouldn't be a requirement in order to run a bakery. Disgusting statism.

Mike Felker said...

Victor, I think you showed some really helpful parallels here and i'm amazed that the commenters here aren't quite getting it. Honestly, I don't think the parallels are even necessary, for as long as the service isn't discriminating *the person*, then the state shouldn't step in. For example, I would never ask for or expect a Jehovah's Witness baker to make a birthday cake for me. That would violate his or her convictions. Why should I be offended by that? They aren't discriminating against *me*, but against the message they'd be writing in the cake or the celebration itself.

Hal said...

Mike,
If a Jehoavah's Witness baker did not offer birthday cakes as one of his products then there would be no issue of discrimination. In the same way if a baker did not ever offer wedding cakes then he would be justified in refusing to make one for a gay couple. Both of these bakers would be treating all of their customers equally.

Joe Hinman said...

Mike Felker said...
Victor, I think you showed some really helpful parallels here and i'm amazed that the commenters here aren't quite getting it. Honestly, I don't think the parallels are even necessary, for as long as the service isn't discriminating *the person*, then the state shouldn't step in. For example, I would never ask for or expect a Jehovah's Witness baker to make a birthday cake for me. That would violate his or her convictions. Why should I be offended by that? They aren't discriminating against *me*, but against the message they'd be writing in the cake or the celebration itself.

you are not asking a person to violate their religious convictions by asking a cake or birthday party of a person in another faith,that's nonsense, If I give a gay person a birthday card am I gay too?

Victor Reppert said...

Here is the product definition: "We provide Christian wedding cakes that reflect a biblical understanding of marriage." If a gay couple wants one of those, they can have one.

Or they can say "We always put a Bible verse on our wedding cakes, one that we choose. In your case we're doing Romans 1:26-27."

(Ok, that's a little dirty. But it's not discrimination).

Victor Reppert said...

In addition there is the obvious point that creative work like this is much more difficult for someone who disagrees with the sentiments expressed. "I don't approve of gay marriage, so you really would be better off with a baker who does."

I think there is a difference between providing what is, in effect, speech, and providing a product. I don't think government should be controlling speech, whether it's kneeling during the anthem or wedding cakes.

I believe in separation of church and state. I have no problem with the state providing state benefits to gay couples. But I think, as the exchange in the Seattle coffee shop shows, activist gays are demanding a freedom from disapproval, or expressions of disapproval. The coffee shop owner saying "Do you tolerate me" is an interesting one. I am inclined toward the view that you have to either disagree with something or disapprove of something in order to tolerate it. Otherwise, there's nothing to tolerate. What the gay owner of the coffee shop wants is NOT toleration.

Miguel said...

Mike,

There is a diffrence between discriminating a person and discriminating his or her beliefs. True. But there shouldn't even be an issue here. I personally think it's silly to try and force small business owners to serve everyone; it's their business, they do whatever they want with it, it's just a voluntary contract (about CAKES) between two adults. The State should have no business intervening in that.

And if the baker doesn't want to sell you a cake, go find another bakery. Period.

I should not be forced to receive people I don't want in my private property. I should not be coerced to sell something I did to a person I don't feel like serving. It's nobody's damn business.

Hal said...

Miguel,
Do you realize your property rights are granted to you by our government?

Miguel said...

Property rights are a natural right, they do not depend on the government to exist. I work for it, or earned it, and keep it, and can give it to others, or trade with them. And even if, for whatever reason, you don't believe in natural rights, having a natural human right to private property is still a best way to organize government -- just as a natural human right to life shouldn't be dependent on government. Government exists to protect those rights and keep us safe so we can live our lives in peace.

The government has no business whatsoever coercively dictating someone to bake cakes to everyone.

Hal said...

Miguel,
Interesting. And do you think humans have other natural rights such as being treated equally?

Victor Reppert said...

Hal: How would you respond to a straightforward "no" answer to your question?

Or, rather, this answer. People do not have the right to have all their choices treated equally. Whether a person is gay or not is not a choice. Whether a person acts on being gay or not is a choice, and we cannot accord the same equality for things that proceed from choice that we accord to things that do not proceed from choice.

Hal said...

Victor,
People do not have the right to have all their choices treated equally.

That statement can be interpreted differently.
I would say that if a couple has a legal right to choose to marry then the right to make that choice should be applied equally to all couples.

Victor Reppert said...

Miguel, I wonder how your argument could be applied to racial discrimination in the Jim Crow south? Why couldn't it be used by Lester Maddox?

Miguel said...

Hal,

No, and certainly not to the extent where other people are forced to sell you cakes. We can't even force ourselves to treat each other equally -- otherwise we'd have to end free speech and force everyone to never say mean things about gays, christians, disabled people, or anything else, for example. Besides, we don't treat everybody equally -- we all have preferences and ties. People should be *equal under the law*, which must guarantee every human being his natural rights to life and private property, etc. You have a right to not be attacked (much less killed) for being gay or straight or whatever; but you don't have a right to buy cakes from a baker who doesn't feel like selling it to you for whatever reason. You have a right not to be coerced or pestered about your personal life choices that don't directly harm others; you have a right to live your life in the best way you can without infringing upon other people's freedoms and consciences. You have a right to not be a victim of fraud in a voluntary contract you agreed to. You don't, however, have a right to "being treated equally" by someone who doesn't like you, or who for whatever reason doesn't feel like taking part in a voluntary contract with you.

Again, it's just a voluntary contract about cakes between two adults. If one of the parties doesn't want to participate, it's his decision. The State has no business coercively dictating anyone to bake cakes for gays, christians, or anybody else.

Victor,

Perhaps my argument could be used for racially discriminatory businesses (businesses, not laws). But if that's the case, then what's the issue? I think racism is ignorant, and a baker who refuses to bake cakes for black people (for example) is stupid, prejudiced, will make less money and possibly run out of business. But it's his business, it's his cakes, it's his work, and he should be under no obligation to provide cakes for everyone. Many people think Christian bakers who refuse to sell cakes for gay weddings are also ignorant and prejudiced, but so what? It's the baker's business, and so long as he is not infringing upon other people's lives and property, I think it's hard to make a case for forcing the baker to provide his services to everyone, under pain of losing his job or even freedom. It's silly.

My argument, however, does not need to be taken in absolute terms. I am talking about bakeries and wedding cakes. We may (or may not), on a case by case basis, have reasons to insist on certain businesses to provide services indiscriminately. For example, everyone has a right to life, and if the only hospital in a town refuses to give treatment to a specific group of people on discriminatory basis, then there can be a reason for the State to step in and force this hospital to provide equal treatment, because it's a health issue and the situation aggravates it. I don't believe property rights are absolute, either. However, this is a very different case from Christian BAKERIES refusing to sell WEDDING CAKES for gay marriages; no one should be forced to bake cakes to anyone. It's supposed to be a voluntary contract between two adults, and the State has no business in it.

Hal said...

Migel,
No, and certainly not to the extent where other people are forced to sell you cakes. We can't even force ourselves to treat each other equally -- otherwise we'd have to end free speech and force everyone to never say mean things about gays, christians, disabled people, or anything else, for example.

Not sure why you think adhering to the right of equality entails abolishing free speech. Rather, equality entails that if one citizen is granted free speech all other citizens are granted free speech. If one citizen is entitled to the right to purchase property then all citizens are granted that right. Of course a citizen can lose some of his rights by engaging in illegal activity. And sometimes there will be conflicts between rights leading to the curtailment of one or the other of them.

I couldn't disagree more with your position that a store owner has a right to discriminate against a black person. I'm old enough to have traveled extensively through the southern states in the 60's. The stark poverty resulting from that sort of racial discrimination and segregation is quite painful to recall. A baker or store owner or cafe owner at that time had no fear of losing money for discriminating. Actually the reverse was the more likely result.

Hal said...

Victor,
I believe in separation of church and state.

Am glad to hear that. I can recall that used to be the dominant position among religious people. That position didn't limit the input religious people had to the common marketplace of ideas.

Anyways, thanks for providing a place where such exchanges as these can take place in a civil manner. Or at least more civil than it used to be. Afraid I at times contributed to that incivility and I apologize for doing so.

Miguel said...

Hal,

The sort of equality you described is what I said *should* be protected: the fact that we are all equal under the law and have natural rights. But that's all. It does not include the "right" to buy cakes from whoever is baking them, or to be well-received anywhere you go. That's why I mentioned free speech; because if we're really going to implement ths kind of equal treatment, we will have to force everyone to be "treated equally", to not be "badmouthed" or whatever, which is preposterous.

The fact that we all have equal natural rights does not mean that any of us has a right to get into a specific contract with someone who DOESN'T want to take part in that contract wi us. That's coercion and it's absurd to consider that a right. I don't have a "right" to buy something from you if you don't want to sell it for me -- for whatever reason.

As far as racially discriminatory businesses go, as I said, I believe we can make some exceptions for essential services or cases where it's clear that people are actually at risk of losing their rights to life and property. Still, the issue with christian bakeries and gay wedding cakes doesn't even come close to that. And whatever your personal moral views, it's silly and absurd to force free, adult men to bake a cake they don't want to. I think it's sad that people even consider using State coercion for things like that.

Hal said...

Miguel,

Thanks for sharing your views. Think we are just going to have to agree to disagree on this matter.