On Facebook I follow George Takei (“Lt. Sulu” from the original Star Trek series) because he’s pretty funny, but mostly because I loved that show. Unfortunately Takei applauded the Oregon judge who ruled against the Christian bakers, and put the hashtag #SeparationOfChurchandCake.
Upping the ante, one of Takei’s fans posted this in the thread without further comment:
This is all so muddled it’s hard to know where to start. The traditional notion of “separation of Church and State” comes explicitly from an 1802 letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists. Here’s the key paragraph:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.
Thus Jefferson with this phrase–and the drafters of the First Amendment to the Constitution–was putting a brake on what the State could do. These men were trying to protect the individual’s free exercise of his or her religious beliefs from political interference.
Things have now been turned inside out, with the State forcing people to violate their religious beliefs. There is clearly no duty owed of baking a cake; if the bakers had decided to retire, and thus fail to provide the gay couple with a cake, nobody would have batted an eye. But it was because their action was motivated by a particular religious belief that it violated the State’s rules.
Although Takei and some of his fans were confused on this point–and by the way, I realize he was cracking a joke with the hashtag, but he still is confused about what it means to live in a free society–I was glad to see that many others weren’t. Indeed, several people chimed in along the lines of, “I’m gay and it saddens me to think there are so many people who don’t want me to have the right to marry the person of my choice, but the government has no right telling owners how to run their business. This won’t help us.”
UPDATE: In the comments someone challenged my statement that “it was because their action was motivated by a particular religious belief that it violated the State’s rules.” I admit I didn’t word that in the most understandable way, but here’s what I meant:
==> Suppose the bakers had told the potential customers, “You know, thanks for the business, but about 6 years ago we both decided that as store policy, we weren’t going to do wedding cakes any more, period. The people are just too stressed out with those ones. It’s either Bridezilla coming in, biting our heads off, or the soon-to-be sap husband who’s trying to placate Bridezilla, know what I mean? So in the interest our sanity, we just decided no more wedding cakes. But here are three addresses of our colleagues within 5 miles of here who’d love your business.”
Would the above be illegal? I hope not, and in any event I doubt a customer who had a wedding to worry about would bother suing them, rather than drive 2 miles to the next bakery that would love their business.
==> Suppose the same gay customers wanted a birthday cake for a co-worker. Would the owners have refused on the grounds that “We don’t make cakes for your kind”? I don’t know this particular incident, but I know I’ve read similar accounts where the owner(s) explained they had no problem serving gay customers in general, but rather it was the idea of making money by facilitating something that violated their religious views on the institution of marriage.
==> So in light of the above two points, I hope it’s clearer why I said that the specific reason this was illegal was that their reason for failing to perform the action was a religious one.