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  • Questions You're Asking About Cakes, Gays, and Religious Freedom

    Cases have been popping up across the country where individuals have declined to bake cakes or take photos for same-sex wedding ceremonies—and government has punished them. This week, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) vetoed a bill that would have put religious liberty protections in place in her state. We sat down with Ryan Anderson, Heritage’s William E. Simon Fellow in Religion and a Free Society, to get some answers about this debate.

    The Foundry: How did people’s beliefs about same-sex marriage become an issue for private businesses?

    Ryan Anderson: In New Mexico, a photographer declined to use her artistic talents to promote a same-sex ceremony because of her religious beliefs. The couple complained and the New Mexico Human Rights Commission ordered her to pay a fine of nearly $7,000. Christian adoption and foster-care agencies in Massachusetts, Illinois, and Washington, D.C., have been forced to stop providing those services because they believe that the best place for kids is with a married mom and dad. Other cases include a baker, a florist, a bed-and-breakfast, a student counselor, the Salvation Army, and more.

    Whose liberty is at stake? Is it just business owners’?

    Everyone’s. When the government starts forcing people to do things that violate their deeply held beliefs, we have a problem. Unless the government proves that there is a compelling government interest in doing so (and that there was not another, less restrictive means possible), citizens should be left free. We need legislation protecting religious liberty for all, because in a growing number of cases, government coercion and penalties have violated religious freedom.

    Why is this a religious liberty issue?

    Many religions teach that marriage is the union of a man and woman, and the religious liberty concern in these recent cases is that people are being coerced into violating that belief. While Americans are legally free to live and love as they choose, no one should demand that government coerce others into participating in activities that violate their sincerely held religious beliefs.

    But isn’t government supposed to guarantee equal treatment for all?

    These are cases of private individuals offering (or not offering) their services, not government officially recognizing same-sex relationships—which is another case altogether. There is no need for government to try to force every photographer and every florist to service every marriage-related event.

    Would laws like these open the door to lots of businesses discriminating against gays and lesbians?

    Claims that proposals like Arizona’s encourage refusing service to gays and lesbians are simply nonsensical. Arizona’s proposed legislation never even mentioned same-sex couples or sexuality; it simply clarified and improved existing state protections for religious liberty.

    Some people have claimed, for example, that it meant a pharmacy could refuse to serve gays and lesbians. But I know of no sincere religious belief that would lead a pharmacist to refuse to dispense antibiotics to gay or lesbian patients. Furthermore, it has long been recognized that the government has a “compelling interest” in protecting public health by combating communicable diseases. Consequently, prohibiting pharmacies from denying appropriately prescribed antibiotics to any patient might very well be the least restrictive means possible of ensuring access to necessary medicines.


    What about people whose religions say different things, or Americans who choose not to practice a religion?

    These types of freedom protections are important for all Americans. As Cato’s Ilya Shapiro put it, “For that matter, gay photographers and bakers shouldn’t be forced to work religious celebrations…and environmentalists shouldn’t be forced to work job fairs in logging communities.” When it comes to this particular issue, all Americans should remain free to believe and act in the public square based on their beliefs about marriage without fear of government penalty.

    Read the Morning Bell and more en español every day at Heritage Libertad.

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    15 Responses to Questions You're Asking About Cakes, Gays, and Religious Freedom

    1. Pingback: Questions You’re Asking About Cakes, Gays, and Religious Freedom : ParrottCPA News

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    5. Thomas B McGowan III says:

      The issue is really one of a “personal service” contract. I want you to do a painting. A wedding cake. A photograph. While the arguments concern same-sex weddings, they can just as well concern issues of strongly held personal beliefs. A Jew might be horrified by being asked to paint a mural depicting the destruction of Israel and the death of the Jewish people.
      But, capitalism has the answer for all of this. If a person is forced to engage in a commercial activity which the party finds against the person’s religion, at least make a profit. Charge two or three times what one would ordinarily charge. The cake just becomes a lot more expensive. The photographs are a bit more pricey. This certainly is the person’s right and runs afoul of no law.
      (please do NOT print my name_

    6. Pingback: Lexington Libertarian | It’s Not Anti Gay, It’s Pro Religious Freedom

    7. wifflewaffle says:

      At least a dozen other states are considering similar legislation, with almost the exact same wording. Chances are, we’ll see this again someplace else. I don’t suspect a huge conspiracy, but I would suggest that groups exist whose goals include providing consultation, recommendations, and paths to success for lawmakers who want to pursue this sort of legislation. But, that’s special interests and lobbying, nothing new there, and it exists for every manner of special interest, not just religious liberty.
      Unfortunately, this legislation is not about religious liberty. In America, we all have the right to observe our religions as we see fit, except when that observation infringes on the rights of others. That is, “you can believe what you want to, but you can’t force me to believe the same way.” This legislation would allow faithers of any sort to push their beliefs on others.
      Under this legislation:
      - Muslim business owners could refuse service to uncovered women and beardless men
      - Jewish business owners could refuse service to uncircumcised men
      - Jehovah’s Witness business owners could refuse service to those who have had blood transfusions

      See? It’s not just for Christians (though it’s readily apparent that the authors framed it for the benefit of the majority religious group in the USA). Be careful what you ask for . . .

      Carry it a step further – all these same businesses might now demand that their employees adhere to the owners’ belief system or risk dismissal. Whose rights are being trampled then?

      If you don’t want to serve the general population then limit your business to those whom you don’t find distasteful. Make it a members-only business where you carefully select your clientelle for their absolute agreement with your doctrine.

      Business, government, and other public-sphere endeavors require no element of faith. Rather, they are about money and management of the population.

      If, as a business owner, you’re willing to accept the benefits of government involvement – such as licensing, health certifications, police and fire support, etc. – then you are tacitly agreeing that you will leave your religion at the door, because governance in America is a purely secular undertaking, and you are obligating yourself to accept all comers.

      Of course, the issue is muddied by the “church as a business” model, but not muddied beyond repair. Churches could reasonably demand that all employees be adherants of the faith, and that would solve most of the issues that would otherwise crop up. But, the moment a church agrees to hire a person who is not an adherant of the faith, the church obligates itself to supporting something outside of its beliefs. That is, once they expand beyond “members only,” they can no longer make a realistic claim to exclusion.

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    15. Pingback: VIDEO: Religious Liberty, Media ‘Lies’: Interview with Ryan Anderson | The Conservative Papers

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