Last week, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colorado baker, making someone completely able to refuse service to another because of their sexual orientation.
A few disclaimers:
- This is NOT a post about same sex marriage.
- This is NOT a post about choosing a political side.
I wanted to bring up a quote from the attorney for the baker, named Jack.
(From CNN) Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner, who represented Phillips, praised the ruling. “Jack serves all customers; he simply declines to express messages or celebrate events that violate his deeply held beliefs,” Waggoner said in a statement. “Creative professionals who serve all people should be free to create art consistent with their convictions without the threat of government punishment.”
I want to extract two phrases out of there.
- Deeply held beliefs: while I understand that the issue before the Supreme Court was one of religious liberties, it did set a precedent for other liberties which could be claimed by someone. Liberties of being anti-racist or a socialist. Under the first amendment, these are “protected forms of expression.” They can be deeply held beliefs, and must not be religious in nature to be so.
- Without the threat of government punishment: if we are going to agree that we are allowed and able to have deeply held beliefs, it only makes sense that we shouldn’t fear our government is going to use any means or mechanism to punish us. If freedom of religion or speech to have those deeply held beliefs has been upheld, fear should not be on the table.
Last week, Sarah Sanders was asked to leave the Red Hen Restaurant by its owner, Stephanie Wilkinson.
(From the Washington Post) “And she (Wilkinson) knew — she believed — that Sarah Huckabee Sanders worked in the service of an “inhumane and unethical” administration. That she publicly defended the president’s cruelest policies, and that that could not stand.”
Wilkinson says, “this feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals. I explained that the restaurant has certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty, and compassion, and cooperation.”
“Several Red Hen employees are gay, she said. They knew Sanders had defended Trump’s desire to bar transgender people from the military. This month, they had all watched her evade questions and defend a Trump policy that caused migrant children to be separated from their parents.”
Of course, there was outrage. The restaurant owner was attacked by the President, pundits from most networks, was cyberattacked and was even chided by many Democrats. It has sparked a debate on civility and how we shouldn’t refuse service to someone on the basis of who they work for or what political party they represent.
(From CNN) “I don’t want red gas stations and blue gas stations,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Virginia Democrat. “I don’t want red restaurants and blue restaurants. We’re one country, and we got to try to bring ourselves together.”
Astoundingly, not three weeks after SCOTUS ruled on the Colorado baker case, this happens. As much as it had the potential to be a learning moment, we have failed that test miserably.
Rep. Dan Kildee’s comments take the cake. “To invade people’s personal space and their personal lives is something we wouldn’t want to invite upon ourselves.”
I want our nation to heal and come together. But I also don’t want gay cake bakers and non gay cake bakers. The precedent set by the Supreme Court lays the groundwork for more division and derision on the basis of these “deeply held beliefs.” The hypocrisy of cheering a ruling on one side which can turn gays away and on the other is appalled someone was turned away for their political affiliation is mind numbing. The same is true for the other side. How is it that many can be so mad at the SCOTUS ruling and then criticize the restaurant owner for wanting to support her employees beliefs?
Thomas Jefferson said, “Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a Censor morum over each other. Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.”
We are living in a moment where roguery and error are undeniably prevalent in our day to day lives. It is wholly reprehensible for arbitrary side choosing when it comes to the convenience of political beliefs. We are, as Jefferson noted, turning half the world into fools and the other half hypocrites.
I am glad Sarah Sanders was refused service. The restaurant owner had a right to do that. She had a right to refuse service without fear of government punishment, which to me includes threats from our President.
Do religious beliefs and political beliefs carry the same weight? It depends on who you ask. For some, immigration is a political issue seen through the eyes of their religion. For others, it’s a religious issue seen through the eyes of their politics.
We still have a long way to go. The vitriolic rhetoric which has permeated the very molecular structure of our country’s DNA is disturbing. It seems as though it’s getting worse.
Now, thankfully, we have a right to stand up for our beliefs by using our businesses as a means to filter out who we do and don’t like on the basis of deeply held beliefs. Since both sides agree, (one side is happy gays aren’t required to be served and the other is mad that Sanders was kicked out), perhaps we can start there. Both sides are, in their own way, justifying discrimination at the expense of the others interpretation of it. Just don’t look too deeply into it, or we’ll all recognize our own hypocrisy and probably end up right back where we started, and continue to support roguery and error all over the place.
Jeremy Farmer is a former Mayor, a current author (his book “Tico” will be out in 2019), speaker and Leadership Coach. You can find more at www.jeremythefarmer.com or on Twitter @jeremythefarmer.