The judge in the most recent case against Phillips suggested that the law he was enforcing was designed to ensure that certain people “are no longer treated as ‘others.’” And I daresay it was. But this is a silly and illiberal aim, and those who seek to achieve it are ultimately demonstrating an inability to live among people who do not share their core beliefs. It is one thing for a person to demand that he be treated as an equal by his government or by a monopoly or by anyone with whom he is forced by custom to interact; but it is quite another to demand that every last person in this nation of 330 million approve of him, endorse him, or consent to speak on his behalf. We hear a great deal these days about the importance of “diversity,” and yet the definition we see most commonly prescribed seems in practice to cut against the bedrock value of pluralism, rather than in favor of it. With her decade-long crusade against Jack Phillips, Autumn Scardina has done just that.
Far from seeking utopia, a truly liberal person will accept that there will always be some among his fellow citizens who will strongly disapprove of him — and, for that matter, that there will always be some who will dislike and maybe even hate him. It can certainly be difficult to come up with laws that strike the right balance between individual rights and commercial regulation, but it is not so difficult to come up with personal conduct that does, and it seems self-evident to me that the correct course of action for a person who meets resistance when demanding artistic work from an ideological foe is simply to walk away. In a truly tolerant culture, it would not especially matter whether the law demanded that a Jewish baker make a Holocaust-denial cake or a black baker make a pro-slavery cake or a Christian baker make a “transition” cake, because the instinct of the person requesting such a cake would be to seek out a vendor who was not caused anguish by the request.