Does Religion Have the Right to Discriminate?
Last week the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a baker who refused to serve a gay couple in Colorado. It was a narrow decision. That means the court’s ruling only effects that one case. Basically the court avoided the real question: can service be refused based on religious belief?
To explore this we need to talk about discrimination. In the classic Seinfeld episode “The Soup Nazi” Jerry and the gang go to the best soup place in New York. The chef is called the Soup Nazi because if he doesn’t like you, for any reason, he’ll yell “NO SOUP FOR YOU!”… and you will get no soup.
As scary and mean as the Soup Nazi is, he’s not discriminating. He treats everyone, regardless of race, sex, class etc. in the same horrible way. This is a good test for discrimination. If you treat everyone equally, you pass the Soup Nazi Test.
Now let’s consider the Masterpiece Cake Shop baker. Does he pass the Soup Nazi Test?
I’m sure the baker is honest when he says serving gay people is against his religion. However, that doesn’t matter. In America, if you have a business that is open to the public you have to serve anyone who comes in. You don’t have to give them special treatment. If someone is causing trouble you don’t have to serve them. The gay couple that was denied service wasn’t causing trouble, and they weren’t asking for special treatment. They were just gay. Would the baker have treated them differently if they were straight? YES. Is he as fair as the Soup Nazi? NO.
Conservatives argue that because the the baker doesn’t believe that the gay couple should be married, on religious grounds, he shouldn’t have to serve them. Let’s imagine for a moment that instead of a gay couple it was an interracial couple. The law is very clear that he couldn’t deny service in that case.
When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed, Americans agreed that businesses can’t treat you differently because of your race, ethnicity or gender. Black people and women need to be treated the same as anyone else (i.e., straight white dudes). We all agreed to that . So, the question the Supreme Court did not answer, and continues to linger is should the rights of LGBTQ+ people be protected? What do you think?