The Christian Legal Army Behind ‘Masterpiece Cakeshop’
December 5, 2017 12:08 PM   Subscribe

The Nation investigates the Alliance Defending Freedom. An in-depth look at one of the most powerful anti-gay-rights legal groups in the country, with ties to the Department of Justice, Congress, multiple state legislators and state departments of justice, thousands of attorneys who will work pro bono, and donors including Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and noted puncher of journalists Representative Greg Gianforte (R-MT).
posted by mephron (78 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
“An essential component of that is allowing everyone to live out their deepest convictions.”
It seems reasonable until you realize the deepest convictions of gay people is just to be able to live their lives and the deepest convictions of "Christian" bakers is to participate in a society-wide conspiracy to treat them as non-persons.

The solution the Christian Dominionists want is probably some separate lunch counters or shit like that.
posted by Talez at 12:29 PM on December 5 [50 favorites]


Talez: The solution the Christian Dominionists want is for us to die.

NB: This is not saying that all Christians want queer people dead, just the specific sect of awful, hyper-fundamentalist Christians that fall under the Dominionist banner.
posted by SansPoint at 12:36 PM on December 5 [38 favorites]


Talez: The solution the Christian Dominionists want is for us to die.

Yes but I was thinking more immediate and pragmatic.
posted by Talez at 12:38 PM on December 5


The solution the Christian Dominionists want is probably some separate lunch counters or shit like that.

Nah, it'd be closer to sundown towns. When every service is closed to gay/trans/otherwise nonconforming people, they can no longer live in that community. And makes it that much less likely that police who choose to work in a place like that will give a flying fuck about some gay kid getting beaten to death.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:40 PM on December 5 [31 favorites]


Probably all going round jerking each other off about how more-Christian-than-thou they are.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 12:51 PM on December 5


I dislike them and wish them great ill.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:54 PM on December 5 [35 favorites]


The fact that this is being so inseparably connected to a Christian legal group insisting that it is necessary for their Christian values sure does sound like assuming they are working toward establishing Christianity as the national religion whose values are sacrosanct. If only we had some national document saying whether or not the United States allowed such a thing...
posted by Mchelly at 1:01 PM on December 5 [14 favorites]


god i can't even read the fucking article because it's making me physically ill. these people are so unbelievably foul.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:21 PM on December 5 [10 favorites]


ooh, the people who subpoenaed my gmail account and appear once a term in my "email is not secure communication" powerpoint slide! they can DIAF!
posted by Tesseractive at 1:30 PM on December 5 [13 favorites]


“An essential component of that is allowing everyone to live out their deepest convictions.”

I can work with that. My deepest convictions include that sex is a sacrament which should have no legal impediments for consenting adults, including restrictions on choice of location and type of activity. I also have a deep, spiritual conviction that most Christians are afflicted with the Curse of Greyface and they must be exorcised with regular ingestion of psychedelic entheogens and external application of glitter.

I also have a deep spiritual conviction that the two-person marriage is woefully inadequate as a support structure for families raising children, and therefore both poly marriages of 3+ parents and networks of aunties and uncles need legal recognition.

I recognize many holy days throughout the year: the solstices, equinoxes, and cross-quarter days between them, of course, and the full and new moons, sacred days of the Goddess. I should not have to work nor be penalized for not working on those days; my children should not have to attend school on those days; certainly, I should never be required to attend any government function on those days.

I have no objection to serving on a jury, but I reserve the spiritual right to use my best deity-enhanced judgment, enhanced by the devotional tools of my choice (Tarot cards, runes, divinatory dice) to make the requisite decisions. It would be religious discrimination to exclude me from jury duty based on my faith.

Somehow, I don't think they actually mean "everyone" should be allowed to live out their deepest convictions.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:31 PM on December 5 [66 favorites]


I didn't have much sympathy for the baking-as-creative-expression argument until I saw their cakes. Some of them are certainly works of art. But then I reflected on other creative pursuits, like architecture. Why should an architect be compelled to produce house plans for a gay couple? A home is a far more substantial commitment to a shared life than any wedding might be, and the architect's name will be attached to their dwelling for decades. I could make similar arguments for many professions, even some trades.

We can't do anything about private bigotry but we can choose to keep our own hands clean. Any licensed profession (which today is practically all of them) relies on the state to monitor and discipline its members. Any food service establishment relies on the state to guarantee its hygienic standards and those of its suppliers. Any incorporated business relies on the state to maintain the legal fiction that it actually exists. Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd., relies on all of these and makes all of us complicit in its bigotry.

To the extent that making a gay wedding cake is a speech-like act I suppose Masterpiece Cakeshop's gay customers must be willing to take the chance that they won't agree with the speech. But if it's just a commercial matter of producing a cake "like that one there, but with two guys on it", the shop needs to act with the professional and disinterested courtesy that all customers can expect, and deliver a product of at least fair commercial quality. If the ADF wins this battle it will be architects and lawyers and landscape gardeners refusing services, and I have no doubt ADF bigotry will extend to other groups too. Institutionalised legal discrimination was literally the beginning of the Nazi's program and it cannot be allowed to get one little foothold or we are all done for.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:50 PM on December 5 [25 favorites]


There is also the problem that any precedent used to require "dominionist Christians must put their speech/art in the service of people they believe are the underclass," will also be used by dominionist Christians, racists, misogynists, and anti-gay activists against the groups they hate: forcing a feminist bakery to make a cake that says "College Girls Are Sluts;" a Nazi group ordering a cake in the shape of a cross on fire with a plastic family of black people stuck in the flames (even if they have to provide that part themselves); a gay-owned print shop being required to make a male-female symbol banner that says NO HOMO FOREVER, and so on.

The law currently doesn't acknowledge the difference between "punching up" and "punching down." Trying to describe why Christian bigots shouldn't be allowed to discriminate but marginalized groups shouldn't have to create works designed to increase discrimination is a complex argument.

I don't think it's an impossible argument, but it needs a lot of careful attention to nuances that don't generally wind up in news articles or even legal briefs.

Of course, we could bypass all of that if we had courts willing to declare, Yo, the fuck, NO, you are not being oppressed by being required to accept that two guys can get married now. Like the previous claims that "racial integration is against my religion," we're calling that bunk.

But to do that these days, they'd have to overturn several decisions about how "religious beliefs" are indeed allowed to be singular-person beliefs with no institutional or scriptural support, "deeply held" with no requirement for any foundation in fact or surrounding culture.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:14 PM on December 5 [7 favorites]


Institutionalised legal discrimination was literally the beginning of the Nazi's program [...]

There was more than one Nazi, obviously. You can tell I'm ranting when my apostrophes start misbehaving.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:15 PM on December 5 [5 favorites]


Some of them are certainly works of art.

It's baking, A techne, a craft. Not art.
Art gets protected, crafts do not.
Now, we just need to settle on a definition of art...
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:22 PM on December 5 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure I want to go with "art gets protected." Photography is recognized as an art. On the one hand, I can see that hiring an anti-gay photographer to your gay wedding is likely to be a clusterfuck in many directions. On the other, I don't want department-store photography studios to be able to turn away gay couples.

I really, REALLY don't want school photographers to have the right to refuse to photograph trans students.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:26 PM on December 5 [8 favorites]


racists, misogynists, and anti-gay activists against the groups they hate: forcing a feminist bakery to make a cake that says "College Girls Are Sluts;"

This is categorical bullshit. Being racist, sexist, or homophobic is not a protected class. The feminist bakery can say no at their own discretion if they don't want to do it. Colorado made a law that gay people are a protected class. Asshole says making them a protected class infringes on his free expression.
posted by Talez at 2:27 PM on December 5 [31 favorites]


Politico mentioned an interesting exchange which gave me a pause for thought -

"Liberals had a similar moment as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked the gay couple’s attorney, David Cole of the ACLU, whether Phillips could be compelled to decorate a cake with the phrase “God bless...” and the names of a same-sex couple if he offered a similar cake to a heterosexual couple.

Cole said Phillips would be obliged to do it, if the only difference were the names.

At that point, Kagan jumped in. “Do we have to answer that question, Mr. Cole?” she asked. She seemed concerned that such a direct command to the baker to write something he disagrees with would be seen by a majority of the court as unconstitutionally compelling speech."
posted by asra at 2:29 PM on December 5 [1 favorite]


To the extent that making a gay wedding cake is a speech-like act

There's no such thing as a "gay wedding cake". There are cakes, and you can get a cake for a wedding, and the wedding might have gay people getting married, but I have never walked into a bakery and seen their wares divided up into "straight wedding cakes" and "gay wedding cakes". The only difference between a "gay wedding cake" and a "straight wedding cake" is who you're selling it to. The plaintiffs here wanted the same kind of cake as a straight couple, a kind of cake the shop plainly advertises and regularly produces. It doesn't matter if it's art or not. They're selling it, so they have to sell it in a way that does not discriminate against protected groups.

In the worst case, forcing the cake shop to put two men on the topper is not any more of a constitutional issue than forcing Woolworth's to serve a hamburger to a black man. Business owners in the 60's claimed heartfelt religious objections to serving black people, and we rightly said that's bullshit.

If you walk into a made-to-order wedding dress shop and demand that they tailor you a men's suit, they are well within their rights to refuse you. That does not constitute sex discrimination, because you're asking for a product that they don't offer.

But if you, as a black woman, walk into a wedding dress shop and request to buy one of their dresses, they cannot refuse to sell you a "black person wedding dress". That's plain racial discrimination and society broadly figured that out in the 60's.

You don't get to choose who is allowed to buy your product or service simply on the grounds of who's buying. If your product is legitimately differentiable - you are a tailor making men's clothes and simply don't know how to make women's clothes - that's fine. But you don't get to invent a new category of object that magically changes based on the buyer; it's an affront to both justice and metaphysics.
posted by 0xFCAF at 2:39 PM on December 5 [66 favorites]


It's baking, A techne, a craft. Not art.

You can make sculptures out of fondant and marzipan, and they do. I'm not sure that your distinction can be usefully applied to most works-for-hire. What would be an example of something that is clearly forced artistic expression that a bigoted artist must be free to deny to gay couples?
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:48 PM on December 5


And if it were an honest religious prohibition against an individual making a wedding cake used for a wedding not approved of by your religion, one could comply with the law by simply contracting out cake production to someone who can make the same product equally well.

But, that would be harder/more expensive? Well..

You are allowed to make sacrifices for your religion. You are not allowed to make other people sacrifice for your religion.
posted by Zalzidrax at 2:53 PM on December 5 [6 favorites]


The cake case is leaning heavily on "artistic free speech," with "religious beliefs" as the support claim (because previous lawsuits about "my bigotry is supported by my religion" went nowhere); if the ruling is, "you just produce what the customer asks for; your speech is not part of the production," I can see a push for offensive and bigoted works being allowed "because the store owner isn't allowed to object to someone else's freedom of expression."

It is, indeed, categorical bullshit. But it's bullshit that's hard to draw lines around - can the feminist bakery refuse to use pink flowers for a girl's birthday and blue lightning bolts for a boy's? (Maybe, if they don't provide pink flowers on any cakes normally.)

Setting aside the obvious bigotry at the heart of this particular case, it brings up the question: when a customer wants a product that a provider finds offensive or blasphemous, which of them decides whether the purchase will happen? And if it's "sometimes A, sometimes B," what criteria are going to be used to make that decision?

We're getting into some hair-splitting about what counts as "speech."

While the cake from a catalog is hard to argue as "art," I can see a coherent argument that, "I make these cakes from a spirit of religious devotion. I pray over them; making the cake is a form of prayer for me. I cannot pray for a gay marriage to happen, so I cannot make this cake."

And I can understand that, because I, as a Pagan for whom art is a sacred part of my religion, wish to be able to say, "I have made ritual outfits and gear for Pagans; I cannot make a gown or robe for a Christian priest, because the act of making such clothing is a religious devotion to me; I can't dedicate my art to a god whose followers want to destroy me."

I don't know what the answer is. I firmly believe that in this case, there is no real religious devotion behind the cakes; there's just "ugh TEH GHEY" bigotry in the denial of service. But I don't want a SCOTUS ruling that says, "your religious beliefs are totally irrelevant to your business practices; once you start doing business, you must set your religious beliefs aside."

one could comply with the law by simply contracting out cake production

I'm pretty sure the plaintiffs in this case would not accept, "here's this other cake store that will sell to you." I'm also doubtful that, "well, I won't make it; I'll hire it from this other store instead and hand it to you" would be acceptable.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:59 PM on December 5


can the feminist bakery refuse to use pink flowers for a girl's birthday and blue lightning bolts for a boy's? (Maybe, if they don't provide pink flowers on any cakes normally.)

That's because gender is a protected class. You can't be treated any differently because of your sex. The protected classes in Colorado are race, color, national origin, ancestry, religion or creed, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions), disability: Physical, mental, or learning, age (40 and older), sexual orientation (including perceived sexual orientation), AIDS/HIV, lawful conduct outside of work, mental illness, military status, transgender status, and marital status or civil union partnership with a coworker (with some exceptions).

This isn't about anyone getting any cake they want. This is about being able to refuse service to a protected class based on beliefs.
posted by Talez at 3:04 PM on December 5 [12 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the plaintiffs in this case would not accept, "here's this other cake store that will sell to you." I'm also doubtful that, "well, I won't make it; I'll hire it from this other store instead and hand it to you" would be acceptable.

it very well might not be. But the fact that the cake shop owner wouldn't even suggest this tells me that their interest lies in gay people not getting cakes, not their individual "freedom of self expression."
posted by Zalzidrax at 3:10 PM on December 5 [5 favorites]


I am honestly shocked people are acting like this is some kind of inscrutable Sorites paradox of artistry. It's not difficult at all. You can't decide who can buy or not buy your product on the basis of their membership in a protected class. It's that simple.

can the feminist bakery refuse to use pink flowers for a girl's birthday and blue lightning bolts for a boy's

Is this really a stumper? "Can I discriminate who I sell a product to on the basis of their sex?" is not a gray area. The answer is "no" and has been for a very long time.
posted by 0xFCAF at 3:14 PM on December 5 [17 favorites]


True story: I know a doctor who is a mohel, a Jewish religious circumcisor. He also gets asked to perform circumcisions for non-Jews; he's done literally thousands altogether and he's reportedly very good. For his Jewish clients he is necessarily performing it as a religious act and I understand that he actually doesn't charge, although he does accept a standard gratuity. He doesn't like the other term for it, obviously.

But, when agreeing to perform a non-Jewish circumcision he has to make it clear to his non-Jewish clients that from his perspective, this circumcision isn't a religious ceremony. This can be quite awkward because they don't necessarily see that, and in fact some of them apparently choose him because he's Jewish for some symbolic reason. At the very least he's harshing the buzz on a very special occasion, but I see his view that while he's happy to help them achieve their practical goal (one circumcised penis) he doesn't want to be a vicarious participant in their ceremony.

I see this as a dividing line between acceptable and unacceptable forced-accommodation. Can it be handed over or performed without being part of the ceremony? Then the "artist" has to make it or do it without regard to the client's race, religion or sexuality. Does it need to be made/done while wearing a special hat and with special words in front of a crowd? OK, that's not the sort of thing that should be compelled.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:22 PM on December 5 [9 favorites]


This isn't about anyone getting any cake they want. This is about being able to refuse service to a protected class based on beliefs.

This lawsuit is about whether religious belief allows speech/acts that wouldn't otherwise be permitted.

A flat "yes" supports bigotry and oppression. A flat"no" claims that religious beliefs need to bend to secular law - you can "believe" whatever you want, but you can't require others to adjust their actions based on your religion.

We already have rulings that deny that - that say no, you have to accommodate religious beliefs (and other aspects of protected classes), without a compelling gov't reason to override them. You can't fire a Muslim for insisting on time to pray during the workday.

How is, "I refuse to make this cake for gay people," any different from, "I refuse to attend this business meeting during prayer time?"

I'm not saying they're not different. I am saying, this lawsuit will need to explain why they're different, or else we're going to lose a lot of religious protections in other areas, and they're likely going to leach into other protected classes.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:27 PM on December 5 [3 favorites]


"They" own the appellate and "Supreme" judiciary for at least 3 decades forward. Visualize a rational congress and even a rational Executive working to undo this fanatical xian death-cult feudal moment in history, only to be undone by wingnut federal justices.
So not so looking good in the near term.
posted by Fupped Duck at 3:37 PM on December 5 [1 favorite]


The fact that this is being so inseparably connected to a Christian legal group insisting that it is necessary for their Christian values sure does sound like assuming they are working toward establishing Christianity as the national religion whose values are sacrosanct. If only we had some national document saying whether or not the United States allowed such a thing...

On the other hand, the guy thrown out of a state judiciary twice for unequivocally stating "God's laws are always superior to man's laws" is pretty close to joining America's most prestigious lawmaking body.

So there's that.
posted by delfin at 3:37 PM on December 5 [1 favorite]


How is, "I refuse to make this cake for gay people," any different from, "I refuse to attend this business meeting during prayer time?"

This is decades-old well-settled law. The rules for businesses and employees are different, because only one of those is a person.

The law already clearly defines a "reasonable accommodation" for employees. You can reasonably reschedule a meeting; you cannot reasonably rewire your call center to be compatible with Amish restrictions on using technology.

And it is already the case that a business cannot refuse to offer services to people on the basis of their membership in a protected class, even they want to do so because of a religious belief.
posted by 0xFCAF at 3:39 PM on December 5 [10 favorites]


Honestly, it's hard to see how the cake-beliefs are serious religious convictions... Because... We haven't heard about all these cake-makers being unwilling to bake cakes for pagan weddings, Muslim weddings, Jewish weddings, etc, etc. Presumably all of those unions would be offensive to their religious beliefs.

My instinct is to have some sympathy for the wedding photographer that doesn't want to spend 10+ hours at an event they find against their own personal beliefs... But then thinking upon it more, I realize that you pretty much sign up for that job when you advertise yourself as a wedding photographer. Again, are you going to turn away Jewish weddings, Muslim weddings, Pagan weddings, Mormon Weddings, Catholic weddings, Evangelical weddings (if you are say, Lutheran)? Hell, I was at a wedding that I thought I wouldn't have a problem with when suddenly the (woman!) officiant starting spouting out these vows that essentially referred to bride as property/a slave and I totally wigged out (and avoided weddings for a long time after that); a wedding photographer doesn't know what kind of fucked-up vows are going to be put forth before agreeing to the wedding. If photographing weddings for people with significantly different deeply held beliefs as you, then you are going to be a very niche photographer (that may not be engaged in legal practices).

So, regarding wedding photographers, unless you 'white list' a tiny segment of weddings that you'll do, you should probably shut the fuck up about the gay marriage; otherwise its not that you have some deeply held religious beliefs, as much as you are an unabashed bigot.

Googling a bit, I do find photographers that seem to only do Mormon weddings, but they don't advertise that they won't do other weddings. It would be weird if you decided on a photographer that only had LDS weddings in their portfolio if you weren't Mormon (could happen).

To the cake bakers; I think its a similar situation - unless you are grilling the folk about their religious beliefs, chances are they hold different ones than yourself, and you would be baking a cake for a union you wouldn't actually approve of. And unlike the photographers situation, you don't actually have to spend 12 hours with the wedding event.
posted by el io at 3:46 PM on December 5 [5 favorites]


And it is already the case that a business cannot refuse to offer services to people on the basis of their membership in a protected class, even they want to do so because of a religious belief.

A business is allowed to refuse health care services to its female employees based on the religious beliefs of the "company."

And if that comparison doesn't match, how about a Muslim-run store that shuts down between 12 and 1 for prayers - and a would-be customer insisting, "you are discriminating against non-Muslim customers by not being open then; this is when my lunch hour happens and the only time I can be here; you need to provide your services to me."

It doesn't matter that that's stupid. What matters is setting a legal precedent that wouldn't allow that claim to go through. This is, from some perspectives, the same kind of case: customer asking for service; provider insisting the service you demand is in the range of "my religion doesn't allow that; go elsewhere or do without."

That we can spot the difference doesn't matter - they need to be described in a ruling, in a way that discourages bigotry (some is always going to slip through) and supports religious diversity. Just saying, "you cannot turn away customers because your religion thinks they are unacceptable customers" is not enough.

Honestly, it's hard to see how the cake-beliefs are serious religious convictions.

Well, yes. But courts are incredibly unwilling to require people to explain exactly how X action is a manifestation of their religious beliefs. I'm with you: this is nothing but bigotry hiding behind a cross. But I don't expect any court in the US to make that claim, or take arguments from either side that support it.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:59 PM on December 5 [2 favorites]


I wish to add my two cents. Or in this case, two words.

INTOLERANT CHRISTIANS.
posted by notreally at 4:11 PM on December 5 [2 favorites]


A business is allowed to refuse health care services to its female employees based on the religious beliefs of the "company."

Yes, and that was a major breach of established precedent in multiple ways and will probably fuck up corporate law something fierce down the line.

And before you say, "well that just proves that the established precedent drawing lines around categories that one is not allowed to use in decisions about entering into a commercial transaction doesn't matter," you can't have it both ways. If the fact of Hobby Lobby means we throw the entire expectation of some pretense of upholding (or explicitly declining to uphold) stare decisis out the window, then it doesn't matter what precedent is set now in terms of restraining or permitting future action so we might as well hope for the morally correct outcome in this instance.

Like, I'm certainly not going to say I agree with all of US equal protection jurisprudence as I understand it. But we live in a world in which there is case law on basically everything you mention. The concepts of 'protected class,' 'reasonable accommodation,' and 'public accommodation' are pretty well hashed out in the US legal context. And they do not encompass any of the parade of hypothetical horribles you've brought out as the likely outcome of a ruling against the bakery.
posted by PMdixon at 4:15 PM on December 5 [4 favorites]


And if that comparison doesn't match, how about a Muslim-run store that shuts down between 12 and 1 for prayers - and a would-be customer insisting, "you are discriminating against non-Muslim customers by not being open then; this is when my lunch hour happens and the only time I can be here; you need to provide your services to me."

You get laughed out of court on summary judgement and told to pay the nice Muslim's legal fees.
posted by Talez at 4:37 PM on December 5 [4 favorites]


If a cake decoration is artistic expression, why not how food is plated at a restaurant?
posted by OverlappingElvis at 4:53 PM on December 5 [1 favorite]


Masterpiece Cakeshop's argument seems to hinge on whether the hypothetical cake in question is "art," or at least, "creative speech," and how much the gov't is allowed to compel speech.

The owner, Phillips, designs custom cakes. He doesn't do Halloween themes, doesn't work on Sundays, doesn't do divorce cakes, etc.: solid history of "Christian business practices." At the time the cake was requested, same sex marriage wasn't legal in Colorado - the couple was going to get married in Mass, and have a celebration ceremony back home in Colorado. He refused to do a wedding cake, but offered to sell them other products.

It's unclear to me whether the couple asked about buying a copy of a pre-designed cake, or were only interested in a custom made one. It was made clear that he considers wedding cakes a form of art and spiritual devotion and that his other goods are not.

So: firm background that this kind of cake would be against his normal interests, and that the couple has other options (there is no way this is the only cakeseller available in two states), and that the owner isn't refusing to do business with them, but refusing to provide one particular service that is against his beliefs - which runs right into the state's rule against discriminating based on the same category those beliefs are about.

The case involves deciding whether "bake a cake" is the same as "give a speech" or "draw a portrait" for the purposes of first amendment protections. And more, whether cakes made by, "this particular person, known for custom-made cakes tailored to the couple," are considered speech.

If the answer is no, can I demand he make me a Halloween cake? Can I require he put the same quality of art into it that he puts into Easter cakes? (Could a Christian demand that I make them an altar cloth with crosses on it? Could they demand that I sell them one with pentacles, so they could burn it?)

I want an end to government-supported Christian bigotry. I am worried that the cost of that will be an end to religiously-focused business activities of any sort. I'd like to believe I'm worried about nothing because it can't happen that way. But the people saying, "your arguments are flawed" aren't saying, "because the religious foundation behind them would be protected."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 5:06 PM on December 5 [2 favorites]


"because the religious foundation behind them would be protected."

If religious foundation meant you couldn't make a cake for an interracial wedding would you see that as worth protecting?
posted by Talez at 5:13 PM on December 5 [1 favorite]


If the answer is no, can I demand he make me a Halloween cake? Can I require he put the same quality of art into it that he puts into Easter cakes? (Could a Christian demand that I make them an altar cloth with crosses on it? Could they demand that I sell them one with pentacles, so they could burn it?)

He is not objecting to the content of the cake. He is objecting to who he is selling it to.

You can run a restaurant and refuse to sell coffee because coffee is against your religion. Not a problem.

You cannot run a restaurant and refuse to serve black people, even if you think serving food to black people is against your religion. Your choices are to not run a restaurant at all, or not discriminate against your customers on the basis of their race.

The baker is clearly discriminating on the basis of the identity of the customer, not the content of the cake being created. He can't wave a religion wand and conflate the two.

Stop trying to make it more complicated than it is.
posted by 0xFCAF at 5:16 PM on December 5 [33 favorites]


Being a business owner is a privilege, and you are required to comply with local and federal laws, including those that ban discriminatory behavior. They didn't ask for a Halloween cake or require him to bake and roll fondant on a Sunday; they asked for a service he already provides. If you made altar cloths with crosses on them but refused to sell them to gay people or Catholics, that would be a problem. If you don't make altar cloths with crosses on them, then it isn't a service anyone can request from you.
posted by xyzzy at 5:16 PM on December 5 [7 favorites]


If the answer is no, can I demand he make me a Halloween cake? (Could a Christian demand that I make them an altar cloth with crosses on it? Could they demand that I sell them one with pentacles, so they could burn it?)

We've been over this repeatedly in this thread. He can't treat you any differently than any other protected class. Nobody can force you to do anything unless you do it for other people. If he refuses to make Halloween cakes you can't compel him because nobody can obtain a Halloween cake from him. If you provide cakes with pentacles for Pagans but not for Christians you would be discriminating based on religion and you would be required to provide the cake.

Please stop arguing the same points. It looks like bad faith.
posted by Talez at 5:17 PM on December 5 [9 favorites]


The baker is clearly discriminating on the basis of the identity of the customer

Is that really the case? He didn't refuse to serve them in totality, he refused to make them a specific type of cake. He indicated he'd sell them pre-baked goods to them or custom-baked goods (including cakes) for other events, just not a custom-baked cake for their wedding. I suspect, but can't confirm, that he would have also not sold a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage to anyone else, even if the client was themselves not gay.
posted by saeculorum at 5:23 PM on December 5 [1 favorite]


I suspect, but can't confirm, that he would have also not sold a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage to anyone else, even if the client was themselves not gay.

By that logic anti-miscegenation laws should be legal because both white and black people alike can't interracially marry. How many times must we have to relitigate the 14th amendment?
posted by Talez at 5:27 PM on December 5 [8 favorites]


He didn't refuse to serve them in totality, he refused to make them a specific type of cake

There's not a separate recipe in the cookbook for "gay cake" vs "straight cake". There's just one "wedding cake", which he refused to bake because he knew it was for a gay customer.

I don't even understand the point of the "totality" argument. If you refuse to seat black people in a certain section of your restaurant or refuse to serve them alcohol, it's plainly fucking illegal regardless of what else you allow them to do.
posted by 0xFCAF at 5:31 PM on December 5 [14 favorites]


I have yet to see any marriage ceremony, religious or otherwise, that requires a specific cake - or any cake at all - as part of the rites. You can't argue that a "wedding cake" consecrates a marriage. You can't make a reasonable argument that by baking such a cake - or hand-beading a wedding dress, or crafting a ring out of gold (even though a ring IS required by religious law for at least one religion) - you are participating in or in any way validating that person's wedding as holy, or legal, or binding.

Meanwhile, just to go off on a tangent, a torah is one of the holiest items in Judaism. There are specific religious laws about how it should be handled, how and when it should be used, how it must be disposed of should it no longer be usable, etc. When a torah is dropped, the entire congregation takes on a 40-day fast or must give to charity as a consequence. Despite all this, there is no law - and there can be no law - prohibiting a non-Jew from buying a torah. A non-negligible number of Christians in America have done so, and some of those, under the guise of being "perfected Jews" (their term), use them in what I, as a religious Jew, consider an abhorrent attack on my own religion. There is literally nothing in America that can stop this. You can even get one on ebay, right now. Torahs are handwritten by a scribe, according to incredibly strict standards, over the course of many months. They are every bit as much of a work of art as a cake.

Christians have so bought into the idea that they're a persecuted minority who deserves special protections, that they'll persecute anyone to maintain their majority stake as the Official Religion of Righteous Indignation. It's poisonous, and anyone buying into the idea that this has ANYTHING to do with free speech isn't paying attention to how often others' rights to free speech and free observation of their religion (let alone the constitutional right to freedom from religion) are regularly trampled by American Christians.

So you feel like your ability to worship according to your faith is being curtailed by someone who doesn't follow that same religious viewpoint? Join the fucking club.
posted by Mchelly at 5:59 PM on December 5 [28 favorites]


Trenton Garmon, the attorney representing Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, is among the allied attorneys who have been inducted into ADF’s “Honor Corps” for donating more than 450 pro bono hours to the organization.
So, 'sanctity of marriage' is super-important to them, but... Oh fuck it, I need a drink.
posted by el io at 10:00 PM on December 5 [2 favorites]


Either there's a possible bright-line rule segregating religious commerce from normal life – and I think there mostly is – or there's a slippery slope that means anyone can discriminate as long as they construe their actions as being "speech". If that were the case though, I'd unhesitatingly say that the cakemasters need to bake gay cakes, ErisLordFreedom has to make Catholic altar cloths, and my friend has to smile during foreign circumcision ceremonies, because we've already seen the alternative and it ends with Blacks not being able to sit at the same lunch counters as Whites.

What I'm saying is, proponents of a "speech" or "religion" exemption from discrimination law have the burden of proving that they can create a sufficiently-narrow one; it's not up to the rest of us to argue that their faith is too weak or whatever.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:35 PM on December 5 [6 favorites]


Despite all this, there is no law - and there can be no law - prohibiting a non-Jew from buying a torah.

Have scribes attempted to avoid selling hand-made torahs to Christians? There is no question whether gay people can buy wedding cakes, but whether every wedding-cake maker is required to sell to them on request, to people who are going to violate their religious beliefs.

I have yet to see any marriage ceremony, religious or otherwise, that requires a specific cake - or any cake at all - as part of the rites.

I haven't seen a Christian one that requires cake, but "cakes and wine" is an essential part of many Pagan rituals, including wedding ceremonies. It was part of mine.

That's definitely secondary here; nobody is claiming the cake was part of the ceremony. The guy who makes cakes, says he makes them as a religious devotion. It doesn't matter whether there's scriptural support for that specific action, any more than Muslim women are required to provide a verse that says "you must wear a scarf that covers all your hair and X percent of your upper body."

I'm hearing a whole lot of "it doesn't matter what his beliefs are; he is a bigot, and this particular type of discrimination is against the law." And I hope for the courts to uphold that - if not this case, than sometime in the near future, when same-sex marriages are so common that the only people who speak out against them are considered to be "archaic kooks," like the judge in Louisiana a few years ago who was disbarred for refusing to preside over interracial marriages.

If you're not particularly devout, it all looks very simple: here's the protected classes; you can't discriminate based on them without a whopping good reason, and "it makes me feel like a sinner" is not good enough. If you are devout, you have to wonder - what might I be required to do, if some category I currently believe is sacrilegious becomes protected in the future?
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:48 PM on December 5


If you're not particularly devout, it all looks very simple ... If you are devout, you have to wonder

Religious people do not hold a monopoly on deeply-held ethical beliefs.
posted by 0xFCAF at 11:53 PM on December 5 [20 favorites]


If you are devout, you have to wonder - what might I be required to do, if some category I currently believe is sacrilegious becomes protected in the future?

Well, if the class of protected persons is expanded to include, say, Catholics; and for some reason a Catholic wants to buy an altar cloth from you, you should probably sell them one. If you only sell altar cloths produced as part of a religious ceremony then what you're doing is not the same as the cakemasters, whose wedding cakes were only distinguished by being unavailable to TEH GAYZ. So I don't think you've got anything to worry about, even in the unlikely event that religion becomes a protected class.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:16 AM on December 6 [1 favorite]


Religious people do not hold a monopoly on deeply-held ethical beliefs.

Yeah seriously.

Didn't realize a pagan rhetorically aligning themselves against my rights and with the religious Right would disappoint me but here we are.
posted by PMdixon at 5:21 AM on December 6 [3 favorites]


If you are devout, you have to wonder - what might I be required to do, if some category I currently believe is sacrilegious becomes protected in the future?

I think that's definitely the metric which a lot of religious groups are using to measure this by - if selling a wedding cake to a couple whose marriage goes against my religion is required, then it stands to reason that someday my religious clergy will be required to perform the ceremony. But the problem with the slippery-slope argument is twofold. A) The court absolutely will and does step in on the side of the legal system when the religious group's actions are illegal (santeria, medical attention for children of Christian Scientists, Amish people refusing to put safety reflectors on their buggies). And B) there's a difference between saying that a business that sells goods is not allowed to discriminate against protected groups and refuse to sell the identical goods to them, and that the government can or can't dictate what the religion teaches - that's a clear violation of the Establishment clause. If your religion teaches that a man can only marry a woman, gay or straight doesn't come into it - a gay man can marry a gay woman (yes, they wouldn't want to, and it would be a travesty, but that's beside the point - just like who would ever choose a wedding cake baked by someone who thinks you're an abomination?). You can't force a priest to marry someone who doesn't meet the Catholic criteria for marriage. It's equivalent to forcing him to sell something he doesn't already offer.

What's at issue here is that the bakers (and others) are now advocating a new standard of what it means to be a practicing Christian, in which baking a cake is now somehow a devotional or religious act. And the Court has to negotiate that now, how do you say "this is a religious act, but this is not?" Why is the cake-maker protected, but not the caterer? So I think "is this actually a religious action?" is an incredibly important question here. How devout the person is has nothing to do with it. Every religion has people so devout that they do things that are outside the accepted norms. And some religious people respect them, and a lot of religious people call them crazy, but no one wants those practices to become the norm by which they're all judged. It's not about being required to point to a scriptural verse - it's about not being able to point to a verse, or an exegetical statement, or a theological responsa, or any proof that any established religious group's practices include cake-baking as part of devotion. If it's these guys coming up with it on their own, then they should absolutely have an uphill battle proving that their practice is so mainstream that they can break the law over it. Otherwise the answer is the same as you give any monk: you're welcome to practice however you see fit, but you need to separate yourself from the community if you can't abide by its laws.

If I can't do my job and follow my religion, I look for a new job. It sucks, but that's the price you pay for not living in a theocracy. These people are trying to create a theocracy here, so damn straight I believe we should fight it on religious grounds as hard as on secular ones.
posted by Mchelly at 6:38 AM on December 6 [11 favorites]


Religious people do not hold a monopoly on deeply-held ethical beliefs.

No, they don't, but AFAIK only religious beliefs fall under the protected categories here. (Which is why these bigots are waving a cross around, because they have no legal standing for, "it is my sincere moral belief that gays are horribly wrong and therefore I should not have to do business with them.")

even in the unlikely event that religion becomes a protected class.

Religion is a protected class. Most religious groups manage to slide around each other's requirements, with, of course, Christians getting the handwave past most inspection, and easy support from legal and social structures.

ell, if the class of protected persons is expanded to include, say, Catholics;

Let's imagine the collected class of persons expands to includes "former criminal status" - it becomes illegal to discriminate on the basis of whether someone has committed a crime, as long as they've completed their sentence.

Throw out Megan's Law, and also you're not allowed to decide whether to hire a teacher based on whether or not they've been a sexual predator in the past, as long as they're not actively on probation for it.

("Could never happen?" Thirty years ago, same-sex marriage was a moon shot, and look who got elected. We don't have any "that couldn't happen" anymore. We absolutely need to understand the principles behind our choices, because we're being tested on all of them.)

If I can't do my job and follow my religion, I look for a new job. It sucks, but that's the price you pay for not living in a theocracy.

So, if the baker had said, "I can't make this cake," and immediately closed his bakery and gone out of business, would he have been immune to the lawsuit?

I can accept, "at some point, the law and my religion are likely to clash, and I'm going to have to decide which one to follow." I'm not actually saying "the law should be reshaped to match my religion."

I get that a lot of Christians are. I understand the impulse, but I am more than happy with, "nope; if that's your faith, you're going to be stuck in a society where you have to break the laws of your faith ALL THE DAMN TIME. Society has made aspects of your faith archaic. Cope, or leave." Which is what happened after Loving v Virginia and Brown v Board of Education.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 8:29 AM on December 6



So, if the baker had said, "I can't make this cake," and immediately closed his bakery and gone out of business, would he have been immune to the lawsuit?


... Yes? That's what the corporate veil is.
posted by PMdixon at 9:05 AM on December 6 [4 favorites]


That is: Masterpiece Cakes Ltd would be immune because it doesn't exist in the hypothetical. The corporate veil makes the owner of the corporation immune from personal liability except under some pretty narrow circumstances. So yes, the baker would almost certainly be immune to lawsuit in that instance.

IANAL TINLA
posted by PMdixon at 9:07 AM on December 6 [2 favorites]


("Could never happen?" Thirty years ago, same-sex marriage was a moon shot, and look who got elected. We don't have any "that couldn't happen" anymore. We absolutely need to understand the principles behind our choices, because we're being tested on all of them.)

This is so ridiculously stupid because rights can be given for bad life choices that aren't all or nothing. For instance you can prohibit discrimination against ex-cons finding a place to live without forcing a school to hire a rapist as a teacher.

Can you stop making such ridiculous assertions?
posted by Talez at 9:56 AM on December 6 [5 favorites]


I mean, let's look at the 14th amendment...
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;
In the case of a rapist being allowed to be discriminated against, that person has had their liberty restricted in the due process of law. They have been duly convicted of sexual assault and their liberty is being restricted for it. There's no question of equal protection here because it's all due process.

For you to claim gays can't have something because they're gay is not due process. It's denying by fiat based on something a person can't choose, not by due process.
posted by Talez at 10:01 AM on December 6 [3 favorites]


"If we pass bad laws, bad things will happen" is a useless tautology that doesn't deserve further analysis.
posted by 0xFCAF at 10:05 AM on December 6 [5 favorites]


So, Talez, what happens when a ridiculous amount of people decide that it's something they can choose?
posted by Melismata at 11:30 AM on December 6


So, Talez, what happens when a ridiculous amount of people decide that it's something they can choose?

I'm not Talez, but they'd have to change Title 42 at the very least. There's a cause of action here that is based on law, not any person or group's interpretation of psychobiology.
posted by rhizome at 11:48 AM on December 6 [3 favorites]


You are allowed to make any type of cake you please however you want for whoever you want as a religious devotion. This is a question if you are allowed to sell a them as a product. If your cakes don't meet the standard of "available to everyone regardless of race, religion, disability, or sex and sexual orientation," then you cannot sell them in the state of Colorado.
posted by Zalzidrax at 11:57 AM on December 6 [7 favorites]


So, Talez, what happens when a ridiculous amount of people decide that it's something they can choose?

Also not Talez, but the implied rebuttal here, "if the [case-]law was different there would be different outcomes" is true but not especially meaningful.
posted by PMdixon at 12:08 PM on December 6


It was actually a genuine question. I don't know anything about the law, and rhizome's and Zalzidrax's answers were helpful.
posted by Melismata at 12:12 PM on December 6


OK, then with less snark - in any political system approximating democracy, there is by definition no long term legal bulwark against the mass of the populace deciding unjust acts are A-OK.

Yes - if the bulk of the populace decides that sexual orientation is a choice and as such is a morally legitimate basis to refuse service, it will eventually not be legally prohibited to refuse service on that basis. But there's no legal framework under which that wouldn't be true except an authoritarian one. The only defense against that is persuasion.
posted by PMdixon at 12:18 PM on December 6 [2 favorites]


And I think that's an important point when it comes to the flip side: you can choose your religion. You can opt in or opt out of the one you're born into, you can convert to a new one, you can cherry pick which religious practices or tenets of your faith are most meaningful to you. And you can choose your occupation. If you know that being a pharmacist means sometimes filling prescriptions for drugs you find religiously objectionable, don't go to pharmacy school.

They are trying to paint Christianity as not a choice, and therefore deserving the same level of special protections. And I just don't see how you can make that case.
posted by Mchelly at 12:30 PM on December 6 [9 favorites]


Transcript of yesterday's oral arguments: Original PDF

Converted to more readable format: Google Doc version (apologies if I missed some line breaks; also, I italicized what I could recognize of case names.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:56 PM on December 6 [1 favorite]


Naive question from a non-US person who has followed this tangentially... From what I gathered reading about this so far, the initial ruling and the decision to uphold it when appealed at state level were very clear and don’t seem to allow for any further attempts to justify denying service to customers based on their sexual orientation; and the appeals court specifically distinguished from other cases where the refusal was based on the contents of the actual message requested on the cake, rather than a refusal based on the sexual orientation of the customers. So there seems to be no reason to go looking for theoretical cases that could hypothetically be compared to this one and pretend they’re complicated - the differences and distinctions were already made clear, no?

(Interestingly, there’s this other pretty much identical case from Nothern Ireland where the judge ruled the same way the courts in Colorado did, and with the same distinction from cases of refusal motivated by the contents of the message rather than the identity of the customers: “The supplier may provide the particular service to all or to none but not to a selection of customers based on prohibited grounds. In the present case the appellants might elect not to provide a service that involves any religious or political message. What they may not do is provide a service that only reflects their own political or religious message in relation to sexual orientation.”)

My question, and I do apologize if it sounds naive, but honestly I don’t understand: why would the Supreme Court find it any more difficult to uphold those previous rulings and their justifications?

The laws on which the initial ruling was based are still the same, so why would it be more complicated now?
posted by bitteschoen at 1:29 PM on December 6


The laws on which the initial ruling was based are still the same, so why would it be more complicated now?

Because conservatives on the court are always trying to find new loopholes to allow discrimination against marginalized groups, and this case has presented a very convenient one wearing a First Amendment fig leaf.
posted by 0xFCAF at 1:47 PM on December 6 [5 favorites]


Also, the case has good optics for conservatives because they call it being "forced" to do something by the government. It just sounds particularly nefarious. Even though the government forces you to pay taxes.
posted by Talez at 4:01 PM on December 6


Because conservatives on the court are always trying to find new loopholes to allow discrimination against marginalized groups, and this case has presented a very convenient one wearing a First Amendment fig leaf.

Expanding on this a little - Roberts especially is a master of decisions that look tiny and incremental that result in sweeping changes in outcomes in other cases down the line at lower levels. At some point one of those cases will come back to SCOTUS and he gets to sign off on the sweeping outcome while leaving minimal ideological fingerprints. Shelby County is the masterwork here.

If this case is found for the bakery, it will be the first in a line of cases hollowing out the rights to equal recognition of marriage upheld in Windsor and Obergefell until there really is no significance to a marriage between two people of the same sex beyond the piece of paper.
posted by PMdixon at 4:06 PM on December 6 [4 favorites]


LGBTQ rights just had a horrible day in the Supreme Court - "There are almost certainly five votes for the anti-gay cake baker Jack Phillips."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:41 PM on December 6 [2 favorites]


Do Supreme Court Justices get to write their own facts as well as their own opinions, because from that article Kennedy sounds as though the Cakeführer had been asked to produce a cake depicting Jesus crucified between two gay men with matching wedding bands. Oh, and a speech bubble coming from Jesus' mouth would have said "I approve this message, signed me, the Cakeführer".
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:10 AM on December 7 [2 favorites]


Do Supreme Court Justices get to write their own facts as well as their own opinions

Pretty much - who's going to stop them besides another justice finger-wagging from a concurrence or dissent?
posted by PMdixon at 5:40 AM on December 7


I'm so sorry, folks. I've read the transcript now. I'm sympathetic to the argument, "I don't want to be forced to make art I abhor," and I couldn't follow Waggoner's logic.

I forgot that not only are most conservatives just bigots looking for an excuse, they're theologically incompetent bigots. I'm used to religious arguments being founded on hair-splitting issues of how faith or doctrine applies to nuanced situations, not this prattle about "this cake for a gay marriage is totally about the MESSAGE the baker is having to state, so he can refuse, but he'd have to make the same cake for an interracial marriage that he objected to, because that would be about WHO the customers were."

Erm. No. In either case, the customers are from a protected class, and the message is the same. Nobody managed to define any difference between those.

If this gets decided for Phillips, it'll be in a ruling that'll be back before the court soon, because the options there look like:

1) "It's okay to discriminate if there are other options available" (triggering a long series of smaller lawsuits about whether or not that was the case in the specific circumstances), or
2) "It's okay to discriminate if it's ART and not just a product" (triggering a long series of lawsuits about what is art vs not-art).

I'm hoping the SCOTUS has the sense to recognize both of those as causing more legal hassles, not less, and going with, "we're sympathetic to Phillips' wish to not make goods for purposes he finds sinful, but we already had that discussion in the court, and the answer is no: he can't discriminate on the basis of a protected class, regardless of what his religion says. There may be reasonable exceptions to that, but we haven't seen them in this case."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 9:52 PM on December 7 [2 favorites]


That part where Waggoner responded, "A cake baker and decorator is an artist, but the makeup artist isn't", that was great.
posted by mikelieman at 10:44 PM on December 7 [1 favorite]


This is the same bullshit rage as that not-signing-marriage-licenses thing brought out in me.

I was raised Christian - both school and church. By about 8 or 10 I had doubts, for many reasons. I'm an only child and mostly a rule-follower. As a kid we were taught so much about god's love, his final judgement, to love our neighbor, that all sins are equal.

Then slowly, starting as early as 11 or 12 messages of "but THIS sin is WORSE" started being taught. And it was extremely prevalent by the time I was in junior high (youth group, etc.) I remember my mega church brought in people who had been "cleaned of their evil ways" and went to pray-the-gay-away camps. This was literally in like 2003.

And NONE if it made sense to me. Where were the messages of ALL sins being equal? That were were ALL sinners? That we are to show LOVE to those who need the most support? That were are to show unconditional love and allow god's judgment NOT our own? And HOW THE FUCK did everyone I had grown up with since kindergarten just go along with this? How did they not see that these WEREN'T the rules we were taught?? When did 2+2 become 5 for them?

It has never failed to completely baffle me to be honest. And it makes me enraged. How could the clear messages and parables of love be turned into "exclude gay people and tell them they're going to hell!!"

So yeah, they don't give a shit about "sin" or their "religious beliefs." If they did, they wouldn't sell to anyone, even themselves. They wouldn't sell to people who lied, had sex out of marriage, cheated on their spouse, killed someone! Do you think they ever ran a background check to see if someone ever had served time for manslaughter? I don't think so.

And THAT to me is the biggest issue. They are cherry picking sins against a protected class, and people they are actually told to love. Many people made great points above. It's about WHO they are selling to.
posted by Crystalinne at 4:00 AM on December 11 [2 favorites]


US News and World Report: U.S. High Court Turns Away Dispute Over Gay Worker Protections
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear an appeal by a Georgia security guard who said she was harassed and forced from her job because she is a lesbian, avoiding an opportunity to decide whether a federal law that bans gender-based bias also outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation.
posted by hanov3r at 11:29 AM on December 11


Hang on.

Why is "freedom of artistic expression" the legal leg they're trying to stand on when the issue isn't the art itself, but the patron of that art?

We're not talking, like, "Hey Michaelangelo, you need to make it so God is creating Eve before Adam when you do our ceiling." We're talking, "Hey, Michaelangelo, love what yuo did with the Sistine Chapel - can we get one of those for our synagogue?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:37 PM on December 11 [1 favorite]


One thing I find annoying about the entire mess is the resurgence of what might be termed Purity Christianity.

A lot of ancient religions focused on ritual purity, and it's still a component of many extant religions though it often isn't emphasized as much as it was in the past. Associating with certain despised people was often a way to lose your ritually pure status, and regaining it often involved expensive or unpleasant rituals.

One of the big things that distinguished Christianity from Judaism and the other competing religions at the time was the abandonment of the idea of ritual purity.

Christianity teaches that **EVERYONE** is equally awful, degraded, filthy, and unworthy. that's not exactly what I'd consider the best possible message, I'd rather it had taught that we aren't all horrible vile and disgusting, but at least it is a message of equality. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" isn't exactly a great message, but it at least puts us on the same plane.

Peter's vision of the food very explicitly states that caste distinctions, tribal distinctions, and professional distinctions don't matter. After getting his vision he went to eat with people who had jobs that made them ritually impure and would make anyone eating with them ritually impure.

This was one of the huge, major, distinctions of Christianity at the time. The inclusive message (however badly formed I think it is) was, and still is, a good thing.

But beliefs of ritual purity tend to creep in, and there's always been a tendency towards Purity Christianity, one that in America is really enjoying a resurgence.

That's what these bakers are espousing, a version of Christianity that tells them they are pure, saved, and that their salvation (their ritual purity) is at risk by associating with ritually impure people.

It's heresy by traditional Christianity, but it's a fairly common belief among modern American Christians. They decide that certain sins put them at risk of losing ritual purity, while others don't. Gluttony is fine, gay people aren't. Greed is fine, uppity women aren't. Usury is not only fine but totally what God and Jesus hold up as an example of perfect and pure human behavior nevermind the part where Jesus condemns it, uppity black people are a risk to ritual purity.
posted by sotonohito at 4:59 AM on December 12 [5 favorites]


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