Last week, Fox News talking head and columnist Kirsten Powers wrote a column for USA Today that accused legislators in Kansas of creating a new system of "Jim Crow" laws with their efforts to protect religious believers from being forced to violate their consciences by providing services to gay nuptials.
Four days later, she published another piece, this time in The Daily Beast, taking aim at similarly minded legislation in Arizona.
There's some debate about the breadth and effects of the Kansas and Arizona legislation. I'm not particularly interested in the specifics of the proposed laws, mainly because the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn them in the blink of an eye as they did with California's Prop. 8.
There's no doubt, however, that there is need for this type of legislation. From Colorado to Oregon to New Mexico, religious believers are being threatened with fines, the shutdown of their businesses and even jail time for refusing to participate in same-sex "wedding" ceremonies.
Pope Powers conveniently absolves any Christian wedding service supplier of what they might see as complicity in a sinful act because apparently gays don't see their relationship as sinful or something.
This is why the first line of analysis here has to be whether society really believes that baking a wedding cake or arranging flowers or taking pictures (or providing any other service) is an affirmation. This case simply has not been made, nor can it be, because it defies logic. If you lined up 100 married couples and asked them if their florist “affirmed” their wedding, they would be baffled by the question.
Well, if the gay couple doesn't see it that way, then you're absolved. That makes everything so easy. In her first column, Powers likened serving the gay couple to prison ministries. I never really thought that prison ministries provided shivs to inmates who wanted to use them on guards or other inmates, but there are plenty of grossly imperfect analogies to go around.
Everything that should be said on this topic has already been said, somewhere, online. So I'll just highlight a couple of parts of responses that mirror my thinking on this issue.
First, I've mentioned it before, but remember when this whole issue was all about tolerance? This headline says it all: "When 'leave us alone' became 'bake us a cake!'"
Second, this bit from Elizabeth Scalia:
Powers ends her piece writing, “Maybe they should just ask themselves, ‘What would Jesus do?’ I think he’d bake the cake.”
Perhaps he might; it seems to me that baking a cake for a same-sex wedding, even if one does not agree with the concept, may well come under the heading of walking along a road for two miles with someone who “presses you into service” for one.
But perhaps he wouldn’t; all we can do is make our best guesses. True, if the road is heading toward that nebulous region of “tolerance” that has become so difficult to locate in American society, we should all be willing to walk a ways with each other, but eventually we will reach departure points that can and should be respected. Many can travel as far as Powers’ “he’d bake the cake” exit, but then must get off, before the road reaches “Jesus would officiate at a same-sex wedding.” That is the logical next stop, and a place we simply cannot get to, if we are following Jesus’ map.
It is not staggering that there are aggrieved gay rights activists who think the state should be able to force people to recognize as normal that which most Christians view as sinful. What is staggering is the number of Christians who apparently think the State has the right to decide and enforce this issue.
You might think Jesus would bake a cake for a gay wedding. I think you are wrong. I do not think Jesus Christ would participate in the ratification of a sin — and a marriage between two people of the same sex is a sin. Are you really going to tell the millions of Christians in the United States who think otherwise that not only are they wrong, but the state should be able to force your opinion of what Jesus would do on them? In your pride, you might think 2000 years of Christian orthodoxy and the majority of practicing Christians in the world today are wrong — but don’t think among people of practicing Christian faith you are in the majority.
I understand if you are not a believer and define yourself based on your sexual preference that you think the government should legitimize you by forcing others to treat you in a particular way. But it boggles my mind to think any Christian should want the government to force their view of Christianity on another believer.
If you think the government should be able to force Christians to provide goods and services to a gay wedding or risk losing their business, why not command a preacher’s service? If a Christian baker cannot opt out, why should a preacher be able to opt out? And why not take from churches their tax exempt status if they fail to participate?
Christians should serve. But the government should not force them to.
When George W. Bush is in the White House, the shrill screams from the left was about the imminent theocracy that was going to be forced on the nation because Christians believed abortion was wrong. Now, the same leftists who were waving the bloody flag are intent on forcing religious believers into second-class citizenship. You may not operate a business according to your conscience or your principles or the HHS with its contraceptive mandate or gay-rights activists with their "human rights" commissions and allies like Powers will stop you.
And it's not clear how far Powers would actually allow the standard that she has set to be applied. Would a Christian IT worker be forced to get a porn site up and running? Would a gay business be forced to cater a Westboro Baptist Church social?
Finally, Ed Morrisey:
The religious beliefs of these vendors can and should be assumed to be sincerely held, and under the law the government is required to assume that about religious beliefs. Wedding cakes and photographers are not exactly scarce commodities, nor are they an overriding state interest in the same sense that housing might be in discrimination claims. Both sides have used the legal and legislative systems like sledgehammers, and states have been too eager to impose forced participation rather than foster tolerance and let adults figure out their options.
Tolerance does not mean acceptance or participation. It means allowing people to make their own choices about what they choose to do, and to respect the ability of their fellow citizens to do the same as long as it does no injury to them. What this contretemps shows is that America is getting a lot more intolerant the more "tolerant" we become.
Other interesting reading on this issue: