And now there are FOUR Comments of the Day on the post about the Great Cake Controversy. This is a record number for a single Ethics Alarms post. It is a true ethics conflict: which should have priority in a pluralistic society, the right of all citizens to be treated equally under the law, and to have the government ensure their right to the pursuit of happiness, or the individual right to act and live in concert with one’s sincerely held religious beliefs, and to not be forced into expressive speech, part of the right to liberty? This part of the controversy doesn’t even include the ethical question of whether either party should have allowed this to be come a legal dispute.
When I post the fourth COTD, with was a response to #3, I’ll include links to the other three and include a poll for readers to register their opinion regarding which comes closer to their own view
Here is Extradimensional Cephalopod’s Comment of the Day on the post Back To The Bigoted Baker: It’s Complicated…More Than I Thought:
There’s an obvious question here (well, several) that occurs to me: What if I walked into the shop and asked for a wedding cake for no reason at all? Nobody’s getting married; I just want the cake. Is it against his religion to make that style of cake for anything other than weddings? Do I have to show him a marriage license? I’m an atheist; will he refuse to acknowledge my marriage because you can’t have marriage without a god? Does only the Christian deity count for a “real” marriage?
I would argue that the artistic quality of the cake has nothing to do with who is getting married, or if there’s even a marriage at all–at least, as far as religion is concerned. If I asked someone to draw me a picture of a bird, they don’t have to know anything about me in order to make it. Their art doesn’t have anything to do with me, and they are not expressing any objectionable ideas. They’re not endorsing me in any way by taking me on as a customer. Therefore, this isn’t like refusing to make a swastika cake. This is like refusing to sell a cake to Nazis. (Yes, Nazis should be able to buy cake like anyone else. Preventing them from doing so is just bullying, and won’t teach them anything except more hate. How will they learn how to appreciate different people if only other Nazis talk to them?)
Even if the cake was specially designed, the baker didn’t refuse to create art in support of a union he didn’t believe in; he refused to sell art because he didn’t like the event it would be used for. If it were another medium, I could possibly understand that, but cakes just get eaten and forgotten.
On a separate note, I assert that religion ultimately must be subordinate to the law of the land. Free exercise of one’s religion sounds nice, but a religion could believe literally anything, and their practices could be (and not infrequently are) intolerably unethical by any standard those here would consider reasonable. To recognize “freedom of religion” is just another way of saying, “you’re entitled to your opinion.” That doesn’t mean we allow people to break laws simply because they feel it’s not wrong. If we allow religious people to violate rules (other than culture-centered ones like dress codes) solely because of religion, it allows any person to use their belief that their crimes are mandated by a higher power as a legal defense. Where, exactly, does it stop?