Politics & Policy

The Right Fights Wedding Cake War on Overly Narrow Battle Field

Gay wedding cake displays at a bakery in West Hollwood, Calif. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

When Allied forces assaulted France’s Normandy Coast in June, 1944, they stormed five distinct beaches code named Gold, Juno, Omaha, Sword, and Utah. Had they landed on just one such spot, they might have become bottled up, bogged down, and beaten.

In today’s Wedding Cake War, conservatives are floundering on one beach named religious liberty. While that remains a central and legitimate combat zone, the Right should fight on at least three other constitutional grounds — freedom of association, freedom of speech, and involuntary servitude.

As someone who always has supported gay marriage, I disagree with conservatives who would limit marriage licenses to opposite-sex couples. As a public good, government should treat gay and straight couples equally. Government bakeries, if any exist, must bake wedding cakes for anyone who asks.

But the private sector is another matter.

I agree with conservatives and libertarians that private, gay weddings should mirror straight ones: They should be joyous occasions in which everyone involved willingly participates, and no one is dragooned into attending or contributing.

RELATED: Religious Liberty: The Necessary Fight

Traditional-marriage advocates include religious people who strongly believe that gay weddings and marriages violate their Christian, Jewish, or Muslim faith. Unfortunately for such devout people, America is an increasingly secular nation where appeals to the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran often earn as much respect as invoking The Hobbit.

(Islam usually gets a pass from the Left, although American liberals have not yet had to choose between the demands of gay-rights activists and outspoken Muslims.)

“There are now approximately 56 million religiously unaffiliated adults in the U.S.,” up from 37 million in 2007, according to the Pew Research Center’s May 2015 Religious Landscape Study. “Indeed, the unaffiliated are now second in size only to evangelical Protestants among major religious groups in the U.S.” Pew’s telephone survey of 35,071 adults also found that “nearly a quarter of Generation Xers now say they have no particular religion or describe themselves as atheists or agnostics, up four points in seven years. Baby Boomers also have become slightly but noticeably more likely to identify as religious ‘nones’ in recent years.”

RELATED: Turning American Law Upside Down for the Transgendered

Whether conservatives like it or not, religious-liberty claims increasingly enter deaf, if not hostile, ears — many of which trigger very loud mouths. This First Amendment freedom, nonetheless, is worth defending. But it clearly is not enough.

Thus, conservatives need to battle on other beaches, starting by more vigorously invoking the First Amendment’s freedom of association.

Conservatives need to battle on other beaches, starting by more vigorously invoking the First Amendment’s freedom of association.

Americans enjoy the freedom to associate with and without whom we wish. This liberty is enshrined in merchants’ placards that read: “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.” An atheist baker who prefers not to associate with Bible-waving Baptists should be free to refer them elsewhere. Conversely, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim bakers should be free to invite gay couples to order their cakes from bakers who welcome their business.

Likewise, a baker who also runs the Houston chapter of the Climate Action Network should not be forced to make a cake honoring Exxon’s Oil Man of the Year.

“We all have a right to our personal beliefs, but we do not have a right to impose those beliefs on others and harm them,” said American Civil Liberties Union attorney Ria Tabacco Mar. She successfully sued Masterpiece Cakeshop, a Denver-area bakery whose owner chose not to make a cake for a gay couple. However, Tabacco’s comment is a two-way street: If Jack Phillips does not have the right to impose his beliefs and harm Charlie Craig and David Mullins, this gay couple does not have the right to impose their beliefs and harm this Christian baker.

#share#The First Amendment’s Freedom of Speech clause should be another conservative battlefield.

If a judge can force a Christian baker to use her frosting pen to write on a cake, “Happy Wedding Day, Bill and Ted,” that same judge could force a pro-NARAL baker to use a frosting pen to adorn a cake with the words “Abortion is murder.”

If frosting pens do not involve free speech, how about calligraphy pens? Compelling a fundamentalist Muslim calligrapher to write an invitation to the wedding of Simon and Shlomo is no less oppressive than mandating that Rachel Maddow whip out a pen and write the words, “America needs Donald J. Trump.”

If calligraphy is not art, photography surely is.

EDITORIAL: Capitulation on Religious-Liberty Laws Is Shameful and Shortsighted 

Denying a woman the right to choose whether or not to take pictures at a wedding constitutes art at gunpoint. Just ask Elaine Huguenin, whom New Mexico’s supreme court ruled must photograph a lesbian wedding. (The U.S. Supreme Court spurned her appeal.) What could be more un-American than that?

Rather than militate solely for religious liberty, conservatives and libertarians should rail against coerced speech and compulsory expression.

Rather than militate solely for religious liberty, conservatives and libertarians should rail against coerced speech and compulsory expression.

“Bakers, florists, photographers, caterers, and so on — when directed to serve a gay wedding — must perform an expressive act that implies support for the institution of same-sex marriage,” Cato Institute chairman Robert Levy observed in the March/April 2016 Cato Policy Report. After Jim Crow, Levy noted, “hotel owners were asked only to provide rooms to black travelers, not participate in a ceremony of religious, philosophical, or expressive meaning.” Levy also warned that today’s forced participation in gay-weddings could devolve into “expanded schemes that might require Jewish bakers to provide cakes at Nazi weddings, and black florists to supply flowers at a Klan funeral.”

Meanwhile, “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude . . . shall exist within the United States,” the 13th Amendment holds. While professionals likely need less time, BridalMusings.com advises: “Set aside a whole day to make your cake.” If bakers must spend hours and hours creating cakes unwillingly, this is involuntary servitude. Is this picking cotton in the blazing sun while being whipped? No. Is this exerting one’s labor against one’s wishes? Yes. This insults the free society.

#related#The Right also should stress that the Left — ultimately — wants people behind bars if they refuse to bake cakes, write invitations, or take pictures. Such entrepreneurs will be fined if they do not obey government orders. Those who do not pay those fines will be prosecuted or found in contempt of court.

Next stop: jail.

Conservatives should make liberals admit this vile truth.

The darkness at the end of this tunnel is totalitarianism — courtesy of the self-styled sentinels of openness, tolerance, and diversity.

Ironically, Christians are losing the Wedding Cake War because they are too Christian. Rather than forgive, they need to fight.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.

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