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Posts published in “Day: December 5, 2017”

To bake a cake


In the hotly-contested Colorado wedding cake case - in which the issue is whether a baker should be constitutionally allowed to discriminate and not create a cake for a same-sex wedding - the Supreme Court may be arguing toward a useful dividing line.

It has just heard oral arguments in the case, which probably is months off from a decision. But the justices' questions were, as often, indicative of where their thinking was heading.

The New York Times reported on it, "The more liberal justices probed whether all sorts of artisans — tailors, hair stylists, makeup artists, chefs — could refuse to supply goods and services for same-sex weddings. Conservative justices considered whether artists can be required to convey messages with which they profoundly disagree."

Justice Stephen Breyer asked, “Where is the line? That is what everyone is trying to get at.”

Let's take a stab at it.

The anti-discrimination provisions in the law are intended to keep people from being shut out of society - especially the commercial side. Suppose it were legal for an electric company to deny service to some category of people its chief executive didn't like? That alone would make a mockery of the idea of all of us living together in a cooperative society. That instance may be a made-up-case, but the Jim Crow years in this country, and not just in the South, did lead to bars to blacks and other citizens across a range of businesses where ordinary convenience and even health and safety were at stake. If you had the wrong skin color (or was in an otherwise disliked category), you could forget about eating at many restaurants, staying at many motels, getting served in a grocery or some other stores or even finding a rest room or a place to get a drink of water. That's what the non-discrimination laws in "public accommodations" - in services generally open to the people - were intended to address.

Those kinds of goods and services, though, were not distinctive (or didn't have to be) according to some category of person. Whether you were black or white, a motel room is a motel room, and a burger is a burger. If a business supplied you such things, you were being supplied the same kind of goods or services as everyone else gets. In other words, you weren't asking for something particularized or unique, just a standard good or service.

Now on to the wedding cake.

The bakers involved is open to and says it serves the public. It may be a less-essential "accommodation" than a motel or restaurant but it seems to, at least loosely, fit the standard; members of the public ought to be able to expect to receive general relevant services there if they're willing to pay for them.

Presumably, the shop offers various kinds of wedding cakes. Some may be relatively standard-issue, usable at almost any ceremony. Others may be special in design or in written message, particular to a specific ceremony and its participants.

One of the bakers said in the case that "he should not be forced to use his talents to convey a message of support for same-sex marriage." There's a point here: Should a person in effect be compelled under law to present and make attractive a message with which one disagrees?

But: What about simply agreeing to sell a cake, a generally usable wedding cake, while reserving the right to agree, or not agree, to contribute any specialized design or message - so that the baker would not be in a position of being forced to create a design or statement that he would not agree with?

There may be, in other words, room for a compromise here. It often happens in a society where everyone has rights that people don't get everything they want. But the Supreme Court probably could, in a case like this, give the parties involved - and other cases to come - what they need.

The harm in Muslim-bashing


The President’s statements, tweets and retweets that demean, vilify or ridicule Muslims are harmful to American interests in a number of ways. Whether he is denigrating a Muslim Gold Star family or retweeting anti-Muslim video clips spewed out by a British hate group, it is dangerous for our nation.

Since 9-11, the U.S. has been engaged in an international conflict with radicals who espouse a perverted version of Islam. These people constitute a tiny minority of the world’s Muslims. Islam is the second-largest religion on earth, with about 1.8 billion members. We are allies with many Muslim-majority nations and we count on those countries for assistance in combating terrorist groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda.

The U.S. is currently involved in armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen, all of which are Muslim-majority nations. We have troops in many other Muslim nations in the Middle East and northern Africa. It is essential to the safety of our people in harm’s way that we maintain mutual respect with the people of those countries. When our President is generally characterizing people of the Islamic faith as common terrorists, it is not only a false narrative but it is dangerous for our service personnel on the ground.

Grateful beneficiaries of the President’s anti-Muslim activities are the very terrorist groups we are fighting. They seek to gain followers by claiming America is waging war against Islam. The President has played into that narrative with his words and actions, giving the terrorist groups ammunition to use against us in their propaganda work, not to mention the boost it gives to their recruitment efforts.

Incidentally, the anti-Muslim actions, such as the Muslim travel ban and the recent Twitter activity, are also music to the ears of American neo-nazis. David Duke is loving all of it. In response to the President’s retweet of the British hate-group videos, Duke rejoiced, “Thank God for Trump.” I’m not so sure God would want to claim credit.

The British, our closest allies, were obviously not pleased with the high profile the retweets gave the ultra-nationalist British First group. They could not be faulted for asking why the retweets were necessary--what valid U.S. interest was served by redistributing this harmful garbage.
Of course, the United States has about 3.45 million citizens who are members of the Islamic faith. I have met many here in Idaho and they are wonderful people who love this country, their country. When people in positions of responsibility make broad generalizations casting Muslims in an an unfavorable or menacing light, it is a form of undeserved religious bigotry. There is no place for that in a country that prides itself on religious freedom.

It is no wonder that hate crimes against Muslims increased over 19% from 2015 to 2016. Muslims constitute about 1% of the U.S. population but suffer 4% of the hate crimes. A recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center disclosed that half of the Muslims polled say it has become more difficult to be a Muslim in the U.S. in recent years.

It is wrong to make a segment of the American religious community fearful for their everyday safety and well-being. It violates one of the bedrock principles upon which this great nation was founded. Let’s stand up and demand that our public officials recognize and support religious freedom for all Americans, regardless of their faith or beliefs.