Friday, December 29, 2017

A case from Francis Beckwith on refusing service

Suppose a local congregation of Jews for Jesus plans to conduct several adult baptisms at a nearby river and wants to celebrate the event with a catered post-baptismal reception held at the church. They approach restaurant owner, Mr. Saul, an observant Orthodox Jew, and request an estimate for his services. (Mr. Saul’s business is family owned and run; his employees are all close relatives, all of whom are observant Orthodox Jews like Mr. Saul). After he provides the estimate, the congregation’s pastor, Mr. Paul, tells Mr. Saul that the name of his congregation is “Jews for Jesus Community Church” and that the five people to be baptized were raised in Jewish homes and had converted to Evangelical Christianity just two weeks ago. At that point, Mr. Saul says that he cannot cater the event, since he cannot cooperate with a celebration of apostasy from Judaism. Mr. Paul leaves not only disappointed, but feels discriminated against. After all, he reasons, Mr. Saul is an observant Jew and thus denies the religious efficacy of baptism and would likely have no problem catering post-baptismal celebrations held in Christian churches whose primary mission is not to target Jews for evangelization. So, Mr. Paul concludes that Mr. Saul harbors animus against his particular church and that his refusal to provide services to the church violates a local ordinance that forbids discrimination based on religion in public accommodations. Mr. Paul subsequently files a complaint with the local Human Rights Commission. In his reply to the complaint, Mr. Saul argues that he is in fact not discriminating against the congregation based on religion, but rather, he is basing his denial of service on the nature and context of the liturgical event with which he was asked to cooperate and what his own tradition tells him is an act of public apostasy from the Jewish faith. He also argues that he would be more than happy to provide catering to any member of the congregation as long as the service does not involve him with cooperating with apostasy. The Human Rights Commission does not buy it. They rule: “In conclusion, the forum holds that when a law prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, that law similarly protects conduct that is inextricably tied to religion. Applied to this case, the forum finds that Respondents' refusal to provide catering for a baptismal celebration for Complainants because it was for their Jews for Jesus baptism was synonymous with refusing to provide catering because of Complainants' religion.”

14 comments:

Ron said...

What is the purpose of Beckwith’s story? He’s clearly using this to make some kind of point about bakers/etc refusing to serve gay weddings, but is this fictional intended to serve as a reduction? If so, it’s totally ineffective because I doubt that anyone who thinks bakers must cater to gay weddings would disagree with the HRC in this fictional story. I suspect that Beckwith’s opponents would read this story and say, “Great, this turned otnjust as it should have.”

Ron said...

clearly using this to make some kind of point about bakers/etc refusing to serve gay weddings, but is this fictional story intended to serve as a reductio? If so, it’s totally ineffective because I doubt that anyone who thinks bakers must cater to gay weddings would disagree with the HRC in this fictional story. I suspect that Beckwith’s opponents would read this story and say, “Great, this turned otnjust as it should have.”

Victor Reppert said...

Perhaps he thinks those who want to make Christian bakers serve gay weddings would recoil from the prospect of favoring a Christian group (the privileged group) that proselytizes Jews (an under-privileged group).

Joe Hinman said...

Ron said...
clearly using this to make some kind of point about bakers/etc refusing to serve gay weddings, but is this fictional story intended to serve as a reductio? If so, it’s totally ineffective because I doubt that anyone who thinks bakers must cater to gay weddings would disagree with the HRC in this fictional story. I suspect that Beckwith’s opponents would read this story and say, “Great, this turned otnjust as it should have.”

that is totally beside the point! you are just hiding behind the fictional basis to ignore the issues that scream "deal with me!"

Joe Hinman said...

I don't know the answer but the example is great because it shows hey put the shoe on the other foot, now does the same principle apply? But could be better. What about a christian comes in and says all i want is a cake or my wedding. The backer say "I don't cater christian weddings."

SteveK said...

Driving past several bakers on your way to the Christian baker that you eventually sued tells me you have have not been denied a cake.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Businesses operate under license. A business must conform to a number of laws and regulations or that license can be revoked. The idea some business owners have that they can run their business any way they want is legally false.

A public accommodation must serve the public as a condition of retaining their license to operate.

A public accommodation may choose the style service and the sorts of products they choose to sell, but not who they provide those services to or sell those products to.

A Jewish caterer can specialize in kosher foods, but they have to sell those kosher foods to anybody who wants to buy them. A Jewish caterer cannot be compelled to make and sell Japanese food, but if some Japanese people want to buy their kosher foods the Jewish caterer must sell to them, as a public accommodation under the terms of their operating license.

Nor are trivial deviations permitted as an excuse for a public accommodation to discriminate. A baker can specialize in certain styles of cakes, but not other styles of cakes, but if the only difference is which little figurine gets put on top that is not sufficient reason to refuse service to an interracial couple, gay couple, or or any other couple other than a white man and a white woman or whatever the baker personally finds acceptable in marriage.

Victor Reppert said...

What is trivial is, I am afraid, going to be in the eye of the beholder. If a baker doesn't want to put an interracial figurine on top of the cake, (he may not have one), fine. The punishment, if there is one, will be from the public.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Victor Reppert said... December 30, 2017 1:09 PM

" What is trivial is, I am afraid, going to be in the eye of the beholder."
Or in the eye of the court. A gray scale need not paralyze us into taking no action at all. What is pornography if not in the eye of the beholder?

" If a baker doesn't want to put an interracial figurine on top of the cake, (he may not have one), fine."
No, not fine. That sort of part is as easily ordered as any other.

" The punishment, if there is one, will be from the public."
That's not how public accommodations laws work. Violations of them result in punishment from the government.

Ron said...

I don’t think they would at all. Not saying they’re right or Beckwith is wrong. I just think this is a totally ineffective reductio, rhetorically speaking.

Ron said...

My point wasn’t to say a Beckwith is wrong or that his critics are right. My point was to say that his attempt at a reductio ad absurdum was ineffective. Beckwith was trying to show that when the shoe is on the other foot, his liberal critics would disavow their own principle. But I simply think that this is not true. Beckwith’s critics would be perfectly ok with the fictional story he’s presented.

Ron said...

Maybe a better example would be a black restaurant owner who refuses to cater an event for a Mormon event celebrating white supremacy.

Stardusty Psyche said...


Ron said...

" Maybe a better example would be a black restaurant owner who refuses to cater an event for a Mormon event celebrating white supremacy."
--That would be poetic justice, especially if the black owner specializes in soul food.

As the white folks are eating black food the owner can point out that he is making a profit off of them, who's superior now, cracker?


One Brow said...

Maybe a better example would be a black restaurant owner who refuses to cater an event for a Mormon event celebrating white supremacy.

However, is that equivalent to the cake baker refusing to make a cake for a gay wedding? If the case were about non-Christians requesting a cake for an event to support making Christianity illegal (as opposed to an event the baker merely disagrees with), I might support the baker. At that point, his identity is at stake.