What was that line from Jaws? He’s baaaack….
Remember the Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding, and took his case all the way to the Supreme Court? Although headlines suggested he’d won his case, the Court actually punted, because it found that the initial consideration of his argument by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had denied him “the neutral and respectful consideration” to which he was entitled.
That case thus failed to set a precedent or resolve the issue. So guess what–Mr. “sincere religious belief” is back, this time for refusing to bake a cake for a transgender customer.
Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., on Tuesday filed another federal lawsuit against the state alleging religious discrimination.
This time, the cake at the center of the controversy was not for a wedding. In June 2017, Colorado lawyer Autumn Scardina called Masterpiece Cakeshop to request a custom cake that was blue on the outside and pink on the inside.
The occasion, Scardina told the bakery’s employees, was to celebrate her birthday, as well as the seventh anniversary of the day she had come out as transgender.
Masterpiece Cakeshop ultimately refused Scardina’s order on religious grounds.
The Colorado Civil Rights Commission once again found Phillips guilty of discrimination, and once again, he has filed a federal lawsuit claiming religious discrimination.
I have no idea whether the transgender customer was part of an effort to test Phillips’ assertion–in the context of the original case–that he served everyone, and only objected to using his cake-baking “art” to celebrate occasions he “sincerely” believed to be sinful. I wouldn’t be surprised.
Leaving aside the (strong) legal justification for civil rights laws, here’s what strikes me about Masterpiece Cakeshop, the sequel.
As I’ve previously noted, if I owned a bakery, and I sincerely didn’t want to bake a cake for a customer (for any reason–maybe the customer has just been a pain in the derriere), I would simply say something like, “Gee, Mrs. Smith, I am so backed up with orders that I can’t take any more until after the date you need the cake,” or “I’m so sorry, Mr. Jones, but I’m short-handed right now…”
In other words, there are lots of ways you can refrain from “participating in sin” without issuing a self-righteous sermon to justify the abstention.
People in business who want to stay in business avoid unnecessarily pissing people off–especially people who are part of communities that are likely to take offense and stop patronizing your store. (A couple of years ago, a bakery not far from my house did refuse to bake a cake for a gay couple, and told them the refusal was based upon the owners’ religious beliefs. This is a gay-friendly neighborhood, the couple shared their experience, and six months later the bakery was no longer in business.)
Even if the religious belief that requires you to refuse baking a cake is sincere, I know of no religious doctrine that requires you to be a horse’s ass about the refusal. If your religious beliefs require you to turn away business by lecturing your hapless would-be customers about the wages of sin, you have no business being in business. (And you probably won’t be for long.)
Forgive my cynicism, but Mr. Phillips sounds far more interested in theatrically demeaning LGBTQ folks and being a tool for right-wing legal activists than in running a bakery.