Should businesses be allowed to deny services on religious grounds?
via AP

Should businesses be allowed to deny services on religious grounds?

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#MyBusinessMyChoice
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The Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple on the basis of his religious beliefs. Critics argue the baker's decision to deny service based on a couple's sexual orientation is discriminatory, and therefore illegal. But religious freedom advocates say the baker has every right to not bake a cake that violates his religious beliefs, and a private business is free to refuse service to anyone. What do you think? 🎂

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In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court sided with the Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, arguing it violated his religious beliefs. The decision was made on narrow grounds, with Justice Kennedy arguing the Civil Rights Commission's treatment of the baker showed "impermissible hostility" toward his "sincere religious beliefs."

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that a Colorado baker had the legal right to refuse to make a wedding cake for a gay couple because of his own religious objections to same-sex marriage.
The landmark 7-2 decision in favor of Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, all but guarantees that business owners now will have a larger legal shield to run their companies in the mold of whatever faith they follow.

Only Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor dissented.

Critics argue businesses are not legally allowed to discriminate, so why should this case be any different? Could a business refuse to bake a cake for a black couple? No. So why shouldn't same-sex couples be allowed the same protection?

You're free to believe whatever you want, but you're not free to refuse service to someone because of who they are. In this case, the baker is refusing service to the gay couple because of who they are. They are engaging in a gay marriage ceremony because they are gay men who want to get married. It's fundamentally about who they are as people. This is discrimination, plain and simple.

The couple’s lawyer wrote that “it is no answer to say that Mullins and Craig could shop somewhere else for their wedding cake, just as it was no answer in 1966 to say that African-American customers could eat at another restaurant.”

As John Corvino argues in The New York Times:

Business owners generally have wide discretion over what they do and do not sell: A vegan bakery needn’t sell real buttercream cakes. A kosher bakery needn’t sell cakes topped with candied bacon, or in the shape of crosses... The problem with this retort is that “gay wedding cakes” are not a thing. Same-sex couples order their cakes from the same catalogs as everyone else, with the same options for size, shape, icing, filling, and so on.
Freedom of speech and freedom of religion do not exempt business owners from public accommodations laws, which require them to serve customers equally. The Court should uphold the commission’s decision and rule against Phillips.

But religious freedom advocates argue the rights of same-sex couples shouldn't supersede an individual's First Amendment right to religious freedom. If a vegan baker isn't required to sell non-vegan items that go against their ethics, why should a Christian baker have to sell same-sex cakes that go against their morals?

Conservatives say people should not be compelled to act against their beliefs. As the baker saw it, creating a wedding cake for the gay couple means tacitly approving of gay marriage—his talents, which he sees as God-given, are being used to create a special celebratory cake originally meant to celebrate the union of husband and wife. It comes down to the First Amendment; the baker sees his cakes as a form of self-expression and he's entitled to practice his religion without government interference.

A private business should be able to run their business in accordance with their faith. This was upheld by the Supreme Court in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. where the court found in favor of Hobby Lobby, saying the company has the right to exempt itself from providing birth control to its employees because of the company owner's religious beliefs. The court found the government cannot compel Hobby Lobby to provide birth control to its employees because it would violate the employer's religious beliefs.

In a similar vein, business owners should not be forced to participate in something that violates their religious beliefs. This isn't discrimination—it's religious freedom.

Thomas Kidd argues in The Gospel Coalition:

Phillips says that baking a cake is an artistic expression subject to First Amendment free speech protections. Phillips has provided bakery services to gays under other circumstances, so his point is not that he won’t serve gay customers. It is that he objects to gay marriage and does not believe that the state should force him to create an artistic product under any circumstances, much less one that violates his conventional, traditional religious beliefs. As a matter of policy, Phillips also won’t produce Halloween cakes, or cakes that feature any profanity or suggestive themes.

As Kidd notes, the baker didn't outright refuse to make a cake for the same-sex couple, he just refused to use his artistic expression to endorse a behavior he felt violated his personal beliefs, similar to his refusing to make explicit or devil-themed cakes. Kidd seems to believe precedent in on the baker's side.

Court precedent has generally frowned upon the idea of the government forcing people to act against religious conscience. Even at the time of America’s founding, political leaders were well familiar with extending conscience exemptions to groups like the Quakers.

Many feel the ruling has legitimized discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community.

But others note the ruling does not invalidate discrimination laws about sexual orientation.

The Supreme Court has yet to resolve the First Amendment issue about the line between discrimination and religious freedom.

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