Centuries from now when some future Edward Gibbon writes on the decline of Western Civilization, their contemporaries will probably be shocked that we debated who should bake a wedding cake for whom. But such is the age in which we live, and a Colorado baker found his livelihood threatened because he felt it was against his religious beliefs to bake a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple’s wedding.
It’s bizarre that it came to this point. Even Andrew Sullivan, a gay writer who promoted same-sex marriage before much of the gay community accepted the idea themselves, wrote that he was opposed to making fundamentalist Christians violate their own religious beliefs.
“I would never want to coerce any fundamentalist to provide services for my wedding – or anything else for that matter – if it made them in any way uncomfortable,” Sullivan wrote in 2014. “The idea of suing these businesses to force them to provide services they are clearly uncomfortable providing is anathema to me. I think it should be repellent to the gay rights movement as well.”
But the movement has overtaken Sullivan and, as many on the other side of the gay marriage issue predicted, it’s not enough to allow for individual dissenters from the larger popular culture’s embrace of allowing same-sex marriage. If someone’s religious beliefs conflict with the desires of a same-sex couple to have their wedding recognized as legitimate by everyone, then the religious beliefs must lose to the prevailing liberal orthodoxy. And they’ll demand state power, in a totalitarian spirit, to back up their demand for recognition and acceptance.
We can point out the obvious flaws in such an argument. If a board member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation suddenly opened a bakery in Madison, they shouldn’t be compelled to write on a custom wedding cake, “Marriage is a Sacrament.” Nor should we compel any anti-gun activist to back a wedding cake that says, “shotgun weddings are best.”
This should be obvious, yet there will be the usual lamentations and cries about how a 7-2 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, including two liberals and the moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy, is the return of Dred Scott or Plessy V. Ferguson.
We can wonder, of course, how the multiculturalists and the police of political intersectionality would handle a Muslim baker who made the same decision as a Christian. But that’s the point of the free exercise of religion, is that someone’s individual conscience, informed by their religious beliefs, is to be free of state coercion, regardless of the religion. Liberals once understood that, but not anymore.
There was a time when Sir Thomas More was celebrated in Western Civilization for his refusal to violate his conscience and acknowledge the legitimacy of the marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Now, not only would More lose his livelihood and his life, the mob would demand he make Henry’s wedding cake before being beheaded.
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