Right to Religious Liberty

I caught a portion of the Libertarian Town Hall hosted by CNN last night — specifically, the question about protecting our right to religious liberty. And I recall feeling ambivalent about the response from Gary Johnson. I think he said something like this:

The bakery ought to sell the cake. But they don’t need to decorate it, or customize it in any fashion if they don’t share the buyers’s religious creed or their intent to marry.

That gave me some pause because the response was so vague and yet Anderson Cooper moved on.

The Democrats are very clear on this issue: whatever services and goods are offered for sale by a business, they need to be offered to people of all kinds, regardless of how the business feels about its customers. In other words, no selective practices — ahem, discrimination — of any sort.

The Republicans are also very clear on this issue: a business has the right to sell whatever they want, to whomever they want. In other words, the right to conduct a business transaction is willful and not binding until both seller and buyer establish agreeable terms.

Sidebar: I disagree with the Republican platform’s sentiment even from an economic perspective, leaving human rights aside, because the terms in this situation have nothing to do with conducting business. They aren’t related to price, availability, customer satisfaction, inventory, quality, and so on. And these terms are bound to change over time for non-business related reasons.

To play devil’s advocate, let me draw up a hypothetic scenario.

Imagine I set up a store where I sell wedding cakes. And I only choose to sell those cakes to those that practice Buddhism. (Yes, I’m picking on one of the kindest religions known to man. Just for argument sake.) Let’s make that more specific: I recently decided to only sell cakes to Buddhists of Tibetan origin. It also so happens that cakes baked in my store are so famous. Steve Jobs, Tina Turner, and Orlando Bloom were all part of my clientele in the past, and they’re just ecstatic because they had the chance to buy cakes before my remarkable sense of clarity and specificity. Food & Wine has had my cake on the cover of their special issue in three separate decades. New Yorker and The New York Times couldn’t have drooled enough over them. They’re just so damn delish, you get the drift.

Donald and Ivanka Trump saunter into my store, spend a half hour picking a 10–layer tower cake perfect for an occasion, and as they begin to go over intricate details about how much gold-tinted foil they want, the store manager says: “We won’t be able to sell this cake to you. Sure, you’re nice people perhaps, and can certainly afford it. But, you’re not Buddhists and those are the only customers we’d like to serve.”

I’d suppose we would see more than just an obnoxious tweet or two about this. And not just from Republicans, but also from other well-meaning people.

But, I thought my right to religious liberty was par for the course with the Republican platform. Hmm.

If it’s still not easy to see through the bogus argument around the right to religious liberty, then I’d say you’re either born in the wrong era. Or sadly, your views haven’t changed one bit from the era you were born in.

A cliché caveat: No cakes or Buddhists were harmed in the conception of this piece. Go Tibet!

A real caveat: I’m lazy to actually look up what Gary Johnson said, and then quote it. But I pray and trust that my recollection is close enough to being accurate. Hey, if our politicians can make stuff up as they go, then I should be given some slack to rely on my memory.