Sunday, March 9, 2014

Some real religious persecution

I was struck by the juxtaposition of two stories in the media over the last couple of weeks, both of them nominally about religious freedom and persecution.

The first is one that I wrote about, at least tangentially, when Arizona's legislature passed--and its governor was forced to veto--a bill that would immunize from suit and from local ordinance any person who, for religious reasons, declines to provide services to homosexuals.  Similar bills remain pending in other legislatures.

The theory behind these bills is that (a) marriage equality is coming to every state, soon, and (b) marriage-industry service providers are concerned that they will have to provide services on an equal basis to same-sex couples, in violation of their religious convictions.  The crowd of homophobes, finding their numbers dwindling, are desperate to cast their bigotry as a matter of defending against religious persecution.

The other story is one making the rounds on conservative media outlets, and although I would ordinarily be skeptical, this one seems legit:  Kim Jong-Un, the boy king of North Korea, has apparently ordered the execution of 33 Christians who have aligned themselves with a South Korean missionary who has set up some 500 secret churches in the communist North, where religion is banned.

That is, of course, horrible.  As we lawyers say, res ipsa loquitur:  the thing speaks for itself.  You don't have to be religious to understand why it's horrible or to oppose what's happening.

I don't really have any other words about what's happening in North Korea.

But it must be genuinely terrible to be a "baker of conscience" and be asked by a gay couple to accept money in exchange for a wedding cake.  That's some real persecution, right there.

* * * * *

Before some of my readership protests...yes, I agree that even little things matter.  Just because something isn't the worst thing ever doesn't mean it's good, or even okay.  But those bakers don't seem to profit by the comparison to the North Korean dissidents.  My conjecture is that it's because they are using religion as a pretext for bigotry in the context of something that is, at its heart, a commercial transaction.  That is to say, it's not a question of religious persecution so much as a requirement that participants in the market serve all comers.


  1. I appreciate you taking the time to post your opinion regarding this matter. My concern is over the use of the words homophobe and bigotry. It'seasy to use those words to apply to people who don't agree with you. Opinions are just that, opinions. People of faith can make some arguments that they are being discriminated against and people are bigoted towards them for having beliefs contrary to what some call the norm. People of faith (not religion)do not hate a person because they have sin in their lives...all have sinned. We love the person with sin in their lives because we have sins in our lives yet God sent his Son to pay our penalty on the cross(He loved us in spite of our sin). Real people of faith have love for everyone, however that does not mean we are to condone blatantly obvious sin. Should a pastor have to wed gay couples just because he performs weddings? Should an orthodox Jew have to serve barbecue because he/she is a caterer? Should a baker that owns his/her own business be forced to make a wedding cake for a gay couple? I am signing off as anonymous, because like the people who supported the Arizona bill, I have concerns for my employment. If what I posted is construed as bigoted or homophobic I can be terminated from my job.

  2. To answer your questions...regarding the pastor: The solemnization of wedding vows is a religious matter over which the pastor should be in complete control. I think that you will find that even the staunchest advocates of marriage equality will agree that no pastor should or can be forced to officiate at a wedding of which he or she does not approve--and that's true whether it's a same-sex wedding or some other pairing that the pastor objects to.

    As for the orthodox Jew who caters, the types of food he or she offers have personal religious significance, and a caterer in any event has the ability to control the substance of what is being provided. So, no, that person can't be forced to serve pork.

    But your third question illustrates the difference. No baker endorses or condones a marriage by baking a cake for the wedding as part of a commercial transaction. The baker who refuses to sell to same-sex couples is providing a public accommodation, offering cakes as a part of commerce, but seeking to exclude a part of the market for those cakes on a discriminatory basis that has nothing to do with religious conscience because selling cakes is not a religious act. If the caterer in the earlier example operated a commercial catering business but refused to sell food to blacks, that would be a problem as well.

    It's too bad that you can't reveal your true opinions in public for fear of being terminated, but not for the reason you think. Being a bigot is a choice--and using religion as an excuse for treating people badly is not a question of conviction, but of bigotry. There is no religious imperative that requires you to treat *anyone* badly.

    1. Oh, and thanks for the comments and for reading my blog.

  3. So eloquently done. I asked you three sincere questions to which you answered fairly well while indirectly calling me a bigot. Superb job. The third question was regarding the baker and a wedding cake for a same-sex couple...not coffee and donuts. It's all a wore out hypothetical situation, however there's a side to it you choose not to see. I have read some of your blogs and I see that you are very passionate regarding this issue. Bare with me. Many people view marriage as a very religious event (a covenant). The apostle Paul gave instructions regarding commerce (buying and eating meats offered to idols) which was basically the original "don't ask, don't tell"policy. Basically it amounted to if you don't know don't ask, but if it is obviously known don't buy or eat the meat. I am against declining services to anyone for sexual orientation, religion, race, or gender. The baker should serve donuts, cookies, apple fritters...etc. to any person, gay or straight. Being asked to bake a wedding cake for a very public same-sex marriage would put some persons of faith in a situation that would feel similar to them as publicly giving a shot of whiskey to an alcoholic or making a statement that it is ok to steal, cheat or lie only if you have to. I know that there are bigots that hide behind religion just as there are bigots that hide behind social justice issues. Homosexuality is sin according to the Bible. So is lying, stealing, coveting, adultery. All of which we have done in one form or another. If I was this hypothetical bakerI would take as much issue with baking a cake for an openly adulterous couple
    as I would for an openly gay couple.