You’ve heard it all by now. Bakers are being forced to bake cakes for gay weddings, photographers are being forced to participate in gay weddings, chapels are being forced to officiate gay weddings, etc. And it’s all being done in the name of “equality.” Liberty, of course, is never mentioned.
This is not a religious issue, it’s a liberty issue.
There are those who would make this a religious issue but I believe that it is both short-sighted and unprincipled to do so. Yes, it’s true that most of the cases that we’ve had thus far have involved religion and religious objection, but it is certainly possible to have a case that doesn’t involve religion. Laws that exclusively exempt religious people from following laws that others must follow, do nothing but give religious people special privileges. This is both unconstitutional and inconsistent. There are any number of reasons that a proprietor might refuse service to a customer – and they don’t all involve religion.
But because we have made it about religion, we now have a false argument that has created a division between religious people and non-religious people. This doesn’t have to be the case. After all, at the heart of all of this, it’s not about religion, it’s about liberty. If we would all stay principled, we can avoid problems like this in the future.
Many have a fundamental misunderstanding of what a right is.
There are those who would say that customers have a right to buy something. And this is absolutely true! But here’s the distinction: They don’t have the right to force someone to sell them something. Gay people, straight people, religious people, non-religious people, rich people, poor people and any other group of people have the right, in the United States of America, to purchase a cake. They don’t, however, have the right to force someone to bake them a cake. This should be obvious.
Forcing people to work against their will is slavery.
There is no other way to describe it. The reason they might not want to do the work is utterly irrelevant. If a baker is forced to bake a cake, or a photographer is forced to take pictures, or a plumber is forced to unclog a drain or a farmer is forced to harvest his crops or if any other person is forced to perform labor against his will, it is slavery plain and simple. You can pretend that it isn’t. You can try to justify it by using words like “equality” or “fairness.” You can even demonize the opposition with ad hominem attacks and demagoguery. But the fact will remain, forcing people to work against their will is slavery. And it’s immoral.
Business owners have first amendment rights too.
The typical response to this is always something to the effect of: “if you advertise a service or product, you must be able to provide it with no exceptions.” But this is ludicrous on it’s face. A person does not give up his first amendment rights just because he started a business. Advertising for a business is not the same thing as entering into a contract. I see Lexus ads all the time but I can guarantee you that the Lexus dealership will not give me a Lexus for the amount of money in my bank account. I am ineligible to purchase a Lexus. I am not a potential customer even though they advertised to me as if I was one. “Yeah! But not having enough money is different!” Why is it different? If you have no *principled* response as to why it’s different, then you have no good argument. Furthermore, as I’ve already stated, a business owner might have any number of reasons to refuse service to a potential customer: Lack of money, unruly behavior, difficult delivery logistics, lack of customer license, product or service disputes, age, appearance, etc. It would be a ridiculous fool’s errand to try to determine which of these things should be “illegal” and which shouldn’t be.
We must remain consistent.
A potential response to the above argument is to suggest that all of the other reasons listed for refusing service directly affect the bottom line of the business and, therefore, should be permitted. But, again, not only is this not true, there are plenty of examples that parallel quite nicely with the current controversy. For example, should the gay owner of a community meeting facility be forced to rent it out to, say, The Westboro cult? Obviously not. Should a Christian web developer be forced by the government to design a pornographic website? The vast majority of people would rightly say “no” (remember, this is an analogy, not a comparison). But if they are to remain consistent, those who use the old “If you advertise, there must be no exceptions” argument, must argue that a developer should be forced to design a pornographic web site. These hypothetical scenarios and the current controversy all involve a refusal of service based on (dare I use the phrase) conscientious objection. These businesses should reserve the right to refuse service if they so choose.
Who gets to decide what kind of objection is acceptable?
Whenever analogies like the one above are used, the response often meanders around to the notion that only certain types of objection should be allowed or that we should have certain “protected classes.” In other words, we should define when a business can refuse service and when it can’t. But is that really what we want? Do we really want an all-powerful government determining the things that are acceptable and things that aren’t? Who wins? The people with the most lobbyists? The largest special interest group? Similarly, do we really want the government defining identity groups and then determining which of them should have special rights? Of course not! But that’s exactly what would be (and is) happening.
Free people should be able to enter into contracts with one another.
Rarely have I heard anyone disagree with the notion that people should be able to enter (or not enter) into contracts freely. When a customer purchases something from a business, the two entities have entered into a private contract. The terms of that contract are nobody else’s business. Similarly, the reasons one might choose not to enter into a contract are also nobody else’s business. This is not a hard concept. Yet, for some reason, this principle goes out the window when the feelings of a member of a so-called victim class are on the line.
As usual, liberty is the solution.
You know, I would complain all day if a company didn’t serve me for some petty reason. I would blog about it. I would alert the media. I would protest. I would call for boycotts, etc. But here’s what I would not do: I would not expect (or want) the government to coerce that business into serving me. After all, I’m free to shop somewhere else. I’m free to start my own business and do what I please with it. I’m free to never interact with the business that rejected me. I’m free to live my life as I see fit. And really, that’s the beauty of liberty. All people are free to make their own decisions. No one owns anyone. No one’s identity is defined by bureaucrats. No one is forced to do something they don’t want to do. Yes, within liberty, someone’s feelings might get hurt but that’s life. Yes, within liberty, there will be people who behave badly. But I would take that liberty over an authoritarian government any day.