There’s something very dangerous happening in states across the country.
A wave of legislation, introduced in more than two dozen states, would allow people to discriminate against their neighbors. Some, such as the bill enacted in Indiana last week that drew a national outcry and one passed in Arkansas, say individuals can cite their personal religious beliefs to refuse service to a customer or resist a state nondiscrimination law.
I’ve been watching the responses to this on social media since the entire affair erupted, not just on the Left, but from conservatives as well. Some interesting questions have come up which keep bringing me back to what seems to be the crux of this debate: how much of this is actually about protecting the interests of both parties in a “controversial” transaction or refusal of service as opposed to the usual political spitballs? I wish I had tracked and saved some of the better comments on Twitter, but even without the links to attribute the original authors, two great points were made which I’ve yet to see resolved.
The first example is a direct parallel to the religious freedom argument in question. Opponents of the new law in Indiana clearly have no problem with a Christian business owner being forced to provide a product or service which is directly in conflict with their religious beliefs, but what if there were other religions involved? For one example, let’s say that a small family farmer has slaughtered one of his hogs but his usual butcher has either passed on or retired from business. Selecting a new butcher from the yellow pages, the farmer loads up his truck and heads down to a different shop. If that butcher turns out to be a Muslim, can he refuse to take the farmer’s business because it goes against his beliefs? This can’t be too far fetched of a story since Target has had to make accommodations for Muslim cashiers who don’t want to ring up purchases of pork products. If laws allowing for religious objections are so wrong, should the government come in and force the workers to handle and ring up the bacon? Should the Muslim butcher be sued and have his business shut down for not cutting up the hog?
The second example isn’t specifically based on one religion, but speaks more to the freedom of a vendor to refuse service which they find objectionable regardless of the free speech rights of each party involved. It’s more interesting, though, because it is based on such an exact parallel to the gay wedding cake orders which are at the heart of the RFRA debate. What if the baker is Jewish, not Christian, and the customer in question wants to order a specialty “face cake” depicting Hitler?
The immediate expected response here is to invoke Godwin’s Law and say that such a question is intentionally extreme, unrealistic and distracts from the conversation. I will argue otherwise. It sounds preposterous, but when I did a little bit of searching on the web it turned out that Hitler cakes are in greater demand than you might think. Thankfully they aren’t sweeping the nation, but there are people who order them. I put one on the front page, but take a look at this one as well.
That’s not a box mix product from some wag sitting in their kitchen trying to stir up trouble. Somebody with training made that cake. And I don’t have any link to who the baker was, but I’m willing to bet they weren’t a Jew. But can a Jewish bakery owner turn away some skinhead who comes in and requests one just like that or a similar product with Hitler’s name on it? At this point, opponents are probably rolling their eyes and saying, “yeah, yeah… but it’s not like that’s ever going to happen.”
Oh no? Actually it already did happen seven years ago in New Jersey.
The father of 3-year-old Adolf Hitler Campbell, denied a birthday cake with the child’s full name on it by one New Jersey supermarket, is asking for a little tolerance.
Heath Campbell and his wife, Deborah, are upset not only with the decision made by the nearby ShopRite, but also with an outpouring of angry Internet postings in response to a local newspaper article about the cake.
Heath Campbell, who is 35, said in an interview Tuesday that people should look forward, not back, and accept change.
“They need to accept a name. A name’s a name. The kid isn’t going to grow up and do what [Hitler] did,” he said.
So according to the thinking of the RFRA opponents, I assume that the Governor of New Jersey should have sent in the state police and forced the ShopRite owner to produce the requested cake? After all, aren’t they intolerant haters who are just trying to ruin little Adolf’s birthday because of their intolerance for people with unconventional ideas?
I would like to see this debate expanded on the cable news gab festivals. It’s very easy to stomp on the rights of a class of citizens – Christians, in this case – who draw no popular support in the media. And painting anyone as “hating the Gays” is the easiest thing in the world. But how far will you extend the reach of the government in making sure they don’t “discriminate” against anyone? Think of poor little Adolf. Think of the children!