Wedding cakes and flowers

wedding cakeAllow me to be the “contrarian”, but before labeling the author of this article and its main thrust, “anti-gay” or “homophobic”, fundamentalist or a “fun the mentalist”, please, please consider his proposition. Then, call it whatever your emotion prompt you to call him.

Read here. “Of Consciences and Cakes: A Response to Kirsten Powers”

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10 Replies to “Wedding cakes and flowers”

  1. Sorry, but a cake is food, not art. Art does get eaten. This is self-styled egotism. Think of the wedding as a Selma, AL lunch counter. The cake maker doesn’t participate in the wedding. Just don’t provide a two man, or two women, figurines on the top. Make it “user provided”, and live with it. Otherwise, do not provide wedding cakes to previously divorced people. Or hire a gay person to decorate the cake, and feel good about providing more employment to the economy.

  2. My understanding is that, in states that have such laws, bakers are not allowed to refuse service on the basis of religion, race, sexual orientation and other characteristics, but that they retain the right to limit customers in the kinds of customization that they offer. You have the obligation to provide goods and services to all that come into your shop, but you’re not required to accede to all their demands as long as you treat people equally.

    For instance, I believe that a baker would have a right to refuse to bake a Nazi cake but that it would be safer for them to put clear guidelines as to what is and isn’t acceptable (e.g. “we do not bake cakes that carry a political message”). Regardless, the courts might be more supportive of a refusal to bake cakes that have elaborate decorations that can be construed as speech.

  3. Sadly on this issue it works both ways… One can’t dress up bigotry with “sexual orientation” either. I am sure that there are plenty of bakeries down the street that will bake a cake and take everybody’s business. No need to force someone out of pure vengeance. Some activists were lurking in the shadows for an opportunity to exact vengeance and make their sentiments against Christians to be finally be brought in the open. This is not an indictment on gays, but even the gay people I know believe that this activism is akin to what they despise about Christianity: imposition of one’s view over another using the power of the government through the court system. Christians may view gay lifestyle in their way without oppressing or bashing them; Gays can view fundamentalist Christians in a way without interrupting their normal conduction of their affairs and their business. What a wonderful world that would be! In the end, why would anybody want a cake for a celebratory occasion baked by someone who does not like them anyway? Pure activism! “Like me, accept me, or else!!!”
    But I am the “contrarian” anyway…

  4. Oh, and if cake baking is not art, why then one doesn’t bake his own cake? In a very special way every type of specialized labor that is done for profit is in a sense an art. If in this case the baking of a wedding cake is not considered a specialty, or an art, then my point that, seeking a bakery, specifically one whose owners are more than likely not approving of the gay life style for religious reasons, is merely vengeance and activism,
    Now, if a couple sincerely seeks the business of a bakery sincerely because of the quality workmanship of that bakery, because of its reputation, then, they are making the work of that bakery as special as art.
    The argument here should not be unavoidably two sided: There is no need for me or anyone to do business with someone who rejects, for whatever reason, as a person. We can mock the stupidity of a businessman who rejects a customer, but we shouldn’t file for penalties when it does unless “there is irreparable harm” (a frequently used term in cases of discrimination) to the person who was object of the rejection. What is the irreparable harm here? There is no irreparable harm to the gay couple in this case or in any case, as there is, for example in ethnicity related cases. They can bake their own cake; or buy a cake elsewhere.
    But then again, besides being the “contrarian” I am also not a judge!

    1. “Oh, and if cake baking is not art, why then one doesn’t bake his own cake?”…you are kidding, right? The supplier of wine and beer for the wedding? Why not make your own wine from grapes? Prime rib or fish? The bride and groom are suppose to cook it up. Please, a cake is food! But anyway, not an issue in AZ anymore.

  5. Milton, no. It doesn’t work in the two ways you mention. Where we’re dealing with a law that prohibits discrimination by a business on the basis of sexual orientation, the law means that the business is not supposed to discriminate. The law doesn’t mean that the victims of discrimination should avoid businesses that discriminate. While I doubt that many gay couples use the occasion of their marriage to confront Christian business owners, history shows us that confrontation with people who discriminate is an important part of the process of ending (or at least reducing) discrimination – think of the confrontations that took place at lunch counters all over the South during the 1960s.

    The language of your comments is unfortunate: you pit on the one side “activists” out to “exact vengeance” and express anti-Christian sentiments, against Christians who only want the freedom to “view gay lifestyle in their way”, without oppressing or bashing anyone. What a wonderful world it would be if we could just avoid “activism” and live in separate but equal worlds! I will put to one side the disturbingly one-sided way you’ve chosen to paint these portraits. Even if we take a more even-handed view of the motivations on both sides, the problems with your argument remain obvious: first, it appropriates victim status solely for the Christians, and second, it applies with equal force to justify discrimination based on race, religion, gender or anything else you’d like to mention.

    But I’m not likely to change your mind on any of the points I’ve raised so far. Where I MIGHT reach you is in an appeal to please leave Christianity out of this discussion. There is nothing I see in Christianity that requires Christians to discriminate against gay people. The fact that some Christians may object to providing business services to gay people does NOT make the objection a question of religious freedom. Not everything a Christian does is Christian. My appeal is based on the fact that if Christians claim the religious freedom to discriminate, Christianity will come to be associated with discrimination. This seems far to me from the message of Jesus, who ate with sinners and tax collectors.

  6. Larry, balanced words. Thank you!
    Perhaps because of first-hand experience I may think, albeit incorrectly, that this gay couple just wanted confrontation or just wanted a cake. I will not go into details because I can only surmise, but there is always the aspect of the figurines on top of the cake of two men or two women kissing and people can object to that (without Christianity thought involved) and simply refuse to do it. But I don’t know how far my first hand experience can allow me to think that anything similar is okay on this case.
    The argument that Jesus dined with supped with sinners and tax-collectors is true, but it never implied endorsement of their life style and tax-collectors were called to be his disciples as well as sinners. This argument cannot mean that Jesus 1st) endorsed their life style; 2nd) that he accepted; 3rd) that His goal was not to lead this people into fulfilling what in those days was considered the Word of God or the Torah, which includes the book of Leviticus. He, Jesus, Himself, said that he came to fulfill the Law, again, in those days, the Word of God, for him and the other Jews, sinners of all kinds that He supped and dined with. So, it is not endorsement.

    I believe that this issue can only be resolved when people find happiness in being what they are the way they are and believe they were born. A business owner should not reject taking the money of a gay couple by baking them a cake. I put money in a money pool for a present and a honey moon for a friend of mine who wanted to marry her same sex partner without blinking and I could explain this to whatever I called my congregation those days. As a manager of a huge recruiting company, I hired more gays, rejected by all the others, really really gay people, the gayer people one may found, and sent them to my clients without flinching and not even considering that I could lose the accounts. My problem is with the purposeful pursuit of disturbing one’s ability to lead their own life affairs as gay couples who look for the most traditional and fundamentalist church to marry expecting to be denied and then suing later. I see no point! They make themselves an imaginary victim because this people are often wealthier than the poor little pastor. At the same time there is a beautiful, refined, brand new building in an Episcopalian Church that does agree in marrying gays, but they don’t go there… So Christians are not victims, they were warned that they would have these kinds of problems in their lives here in earth. But they are made victims by having to pay attorneys, and court costs that may put them out of “business” as a church. If you don’t see that, then you will never understand my point!

    Yes, discrimination issues were resolved with lawsuits and confrontation. But when there is no irreparable harm, to harm someone is just plain unfair! Blacks in the 50’s and 60’s could not find any business in their communities from which to buy goods. So if a white person was rejecting to sell them goods because of color, they would be causing an irreparable harm to them. I don’t think the refusal to bake a cake is in that category. The moral equivalence here (which you didn’t do that I see it) is really not fitting. There are things that are “irreparable harm” against gays, such as not allowing them same rights in insurance with their partners, not allowing hospital visitation and I have intervened on behalf of gays in these cases. You won’t find this in Google search, but they really happened. Now, baking a cake? Putting a figurine of two males or females kissing each other on the top of the cake? Pshaw, the refusal to do such should not cause all this uproar with lawsuits, reportage, and articles. What these activists will end up doing to gays is very much what two very known (but not distinguished) leaders of the black community managed to do: these guys trivialized racism and now real cases are hard to prove and to be even believed. I think that all of us, Christian, Gays or any other group that society divides, should “pick their hills over which to fight”.


    1. The issue of “irreparable harm” doesn’t distinguish racial discrimination from discrimination on the basis of sexual preference. In the South of the 1960s, there were lunch counters that served blacks, and separate hotels, and separate schools. It was never (or at least not commonly) a matter of nowhere to go, though there were certainly cases where denial of service (say, at the emergency room of a white hospital) had deadly consequences. Granted, the right to receive emergency medical treatment is of greater consequence than the figurine on a wedding cake, but those states and localities that have chosen to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual preference have chosen to outlaw discrimination at the bakery as well as the hospital, and from my point of view it’s hard to justify discrimination anywhere.

      I won’t argue that we’re all making a fuss in the area of baked goods, where instead we might try harder to get along. You’re right that there are plenty of bakeries, and I’m right that it isn’t a big deal to sell a cake to someone. I understand your point about condoning sin (though from my point of view there is no sin involved in gay marriage), but selling a cake to someone is not condoning what they do with the cake. If your problem is with grandstanding, I think we’d struggle to figure out which side is contributing more to that problem.
      But at the end of the day, this is a LAW, and I think it is constitutional, and I think we all have a right to expect people to obey the law. Yes, there is such a thing as conscientious objection to a law, and yes, conscientious objection does not exempt anyone from punishment.

      As an ex-attorney, I’m sympathetic when it comes to court costs, though there are plenty of organizations willing to pay for lawyers to defend conservative Christian causes. I don’t see how any of this affects the ability of a church to operate, unless the church is running the bakery. As for individual business owners: their legal costs result from their refusal to obey the law, and not from the failure of the rest of us to look the other way. Disobeying the law is costly, whether the law-breaker is Christian or Druid. The expense is part of the incentive we use to get people to obey the law.

      As for Jesus? He ate with sinners and did not condone the sin. We agree on that much. My guess is that Jesus the baker is selling wedding cakes to gay couples. He’s probably dancing at their weddings, too. I admit, I’m no theologian. But I think Jesus’ point is that you don’t ostracize anyone, or at least you resist the urge to ostracize for as long as you can. You make the strongest possible Christian statement by witnessing your Christianity to others, and you do this most effectively by example, and your example doesn’t serve as a witness to those you refuse to have contact with.

      Full disclosure: I’m Jewish. I’m not a “messianic Jew,” but I love and admire Christianity, and I like to see Christians represent Christianity in the best way possible.

      I am glad to know that you’ve fought for gay rights in meaningful ways. It helps illustrate your point about picking hills. Thanks for your patience in talking this out.

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