Is religion a valid exemption?

Although this issue is a few years old now, it is finally arriving at the Supreme Court. The way I see it, the issue boils down to a few main points: Do business owners have the right to refuse service for any reason, and if so why? And does this change when the business is working for a specific event? Prior to this incident, business owners have been able to object to the people they serve in the restaurants with only one question. Are they refusing service based on someone’s race, religion, economic status, how they look, or anything else that is discriminatory? If the answer was yes, then the business owner would be violating that individual’s 14th amendment right. If the answer is no because the person is either a bad patron, causing some sort of a disturbance, or any other nondiscriminatory reason, then the individual has no right to demand to be served.

But now this case adds a new domain to the issue: Can a business owner refuse service to a gay individual who is not seeking a service for an event related to a wedding or any other event having to do with homosexuality? In this case, the answer is no. Business owners do not have the right to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, for instance if you were to go to a local coffee shop and simply order your favorite drink or go shopping for furniture for your new house. However, if the gay individual wanted a wedding cake, or anything related to that wedding from any business owner, they have the right to refuse based on religious reasons. In the eyes of the business owner, baking them a cake is morally and spiritually wrong. I’m not saying that these people are morally right in their objections, but I am saying that they have the right to do it.

It’s like if a Jewish bakery was asked to bake a cake for a Christian or Muslim religious event. They clearly do not hold the same beliefs and can refuse to bake the cake on religious grounds. But if a Christian were to just walk in and ask for a birthday cake the issue of religion is no longer valid, unless there is somewhere in the Jewish religion that says birthdays are not to be celebrated. I, nor does anyone else, have the right to violate your religious beliefs.

There is also a constitutional argument to be made here since two key portions of the first amendment read: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…” On one hand, if the supreme court were to side with the baker they protect the first portion of that clause on religion. On the other hand, if they side with the couple they destroy that part of the first amendment. I also included the freedom of speech because you can not force a person to agree with your speech – you only have the right to voice your opinion and attempt to change minds.

However, there is still good news in this for anyone who is refused service. First, you can bring your business somewhere else that supports your cause. Second, the free markets and the “invisible hand” begin to take over. When word gets out that they refused you service, people will probably stop going to them altogether and take their business elsewhere. This will lead to one of two things: either the business will close due to lack of revenue, or the business will take corrective action by changing their position and serving you in the future.

Personally, if I were in the shoes of the gay couple, I would rather go somewhere else. Why? Because if they bake my cake, there’s a good chance that they will not put their best quality work into it, kind of like when you piss your server off at a restaurant and they spit in your food right before they bring it out. It is rare that a town has only one bakery or only one of any business. I am not here to defend what these people believe, only their right to do so. I think it is wrong that they refuse service, but constitutionally, they have the right to refuse.