Thursday, December 08, 2016

Religious freedom and commerce

Much is being written about serving gays violating a merchant’s freedom of religion.  But what is the real question here.  Is the merchant being forced to serve people he or she doesn’t like or being forced to participate in activities that he or she doesn’t like.

The latest case I’ve seen is about a photographer being forced to photograph a gay wedding.  In this case, the photographer is being requited to participate in something he or she does not approve of.

On the other hand, if two men showed up at the studio can the photographer deny them service?  Not if they act as any two buddies might having their picture taken.  If they put their arms on each other’s shoulders the photographer should not have a complaint.  But if they insisted on a picture of them kissing each, then the photographer would have a complaint.

Similarly with a baker being asked to bake a wedding cake.  If two men showed up to order a wedding cake, then the baker should provide it, even if he knew they were gay.  However, if they asked him to put two male figures on the top of the cake, then the baker now becomes a direct participant in the choice of the two men.

Suppose a neo-nazi asks a Jewish baker to make a cake with a swastika on top. The baker has every right to refuse on both religious and ethical grounds.  However, if the neo-nazi just asks for a cake off the shelf, then the baker should serve him.

Suppose a Roman Catholic grocer is asked to deliver groceries to a nudist camp.  He has every right to refuse.  However, if one of the nudists comes to his store fully clothed to buy groceries for the camp, then the grocer should serve him.

Essentially, we should not be expected to participate in activities of which we disapprove, but we can’t refuse to serve those of whom we disapprove when they are acting in a socially acceptable manner.

A good case in point is the shock jock, Fred Tupper, in “Little Mosque in the Prairie”, who spreads all kinds of misinformation about Muslims.  He is welcome in Fatima’s restaurant, as long as he doesn’t spout off too much.