The Left's Crackdown on Free Speech
This is very different from turning away a customer merely because of their sexual orientation. After all, the Kleins had already sold Rachel Cryer and Laurel Bowman a cake for Rachel’s mother’s wedding previously. Laurel herself testified that “In November of 2011 my fiance and I purchased a wedding cake from this establishment for her mother’s wedding.” If the bakers refused to serve the women based on their sexual orientation alone, why agree to bake a cake for Rachel’s mother and her husband?
In 2014, another bakery denied baking a cake with a message - “Homosexuality is a detestable sin Leviticus 18:22.” The second cake would have said “God loves sinners,” but the Colorado Civil Rights Agency ruled that the baker, Marjorie Silva, was within her rights to deny service because the writing was “hateful and offensive.”
Why can one baker deny service on the grounds she disagrees with the message, while another cannot? Just like the “Sweet Cakes” case in Oregon, the Colorado Civil Rights Agency ruled that “Masterpiece Cakeshop” discriminated against a gay couple on grounds of sexual orientation. Again, the owners of “Masterpiece Cakeshop” gladly serve gay customers - they just wouldn’t bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.
Bakers should have the right to choose which messages to support with their business. Instead, a double-standard emerges between the faith community and the LGBT community, which should be equal before the law.
An Unjust System
In both Oregon and Colorado, these cases were decided by state bureaucracies. A BOLI agency judge accepted the suggestion of a BOLI agency prosecutor, who was in turn tipped off by a BOLI agency investigator.
As National Review’s David French explains, the ruling against Aaron and Melissa Klein was not the result of a conventional court proceeding, where a jury of peers decided the Klein’s guilt and a judge passed the sentence.
Instead, discrimination complaints originate in state agencies (BOLI) or “human rights commissions.” These agencies and commissions follow the ideological goals of state bureaucrats who make no pretense of impartiality. In fact, emails acquired by The Daily Signal reveal a close relationship between BOLI and LGBT group Basic Rights Oregon, which had previously condemned the Kleins.
Avakian himself has made no secret of his “progressive” ideology in support of same-sex marriage and other LGBT causes. While judges ought to be impartial, Avakian speaks out on these issues like a politician.
Agencies run by officials like Avakian can act as “judge, jury, and executioner,” and the process of appealing their decisions can be long, exhausting, and expensive. In Oregon, courts are required to grant discretion to BOLI’s ruling, setting aside its legal conclusions only if they’re “clearly erroneous.”
The Path Forward
Despite this powerful and unchecked assault against freedom of speech, there are reasons to hope for the Kleins. While the crowdfunding website GoFundMe suspended their account, another website, Continue to Give, has raised over $350,000 to help the Kleins pay their settlement and avoid bankruptcy.
Also, according to a new study, Americans increasingly favor a baker’s right to decline service to gay weddings. In 2014, 52 percent of Americans believed no business should have the right to deny service to gay weddings. In 2015, 62 percent said businesses do have this right.
Jeffery Tucker, Director of Digital Development at the Foundation for Economic Education, even argues that allowing businesses to discriminate will help the very group it allegedly harms - gay customers. “Gays themselves need the freedom to discriminate,” he explains.
When a bakery advertises that it will not serve gay weddings, homosexuals planning to get hitched know to shop somewhere else. Their dollars will support a baker who values their business and agrees with their cause - after all, do you really want people who think your marriage is an “abomination” to be baking your wedding cake?
As for those of us who believe marriage is between a man and a woman, we will gravitate toward those bakeries who share our viewpoint. In a free market with multiple options, where businesses can act on their beliefs, everybody wins.
While Tucker defends what he calls discrimination, I only defend a baker’s right to refuse to promote a message with which he or she disagrees. Turning someone away from your business merely because they are black, white, male, female, gay, or straight is not OK. But forcing a Christian to bake a wedding cake for a gay commitment ceremony while allowing another baker to refuse to bake a cake with a Christian message is an unjust double standard.