It’s not about free speech. Cakes aren’t speech. That much is obvious, yet the oral argument at the Supreme Court spent lots of time talking about free speech. The case is really about the free exercise of religion.
Conflicts arise over people’s free exercise of religion. For a long time now courts have dealt with those conflicts under the doctrine of reasonable accommodation. Those words don’t just signify a legal doctrine with all the complexities of language and thought that includes. What is meant is that when people of diverse religious beliefs face a conflict they should try to find a way accommodate each other that respects the religious views of both.
Back in law school many moons ago we discussed cases where employers were refusing to accommodate employees whose sabbath was not on Sunday, or who wanted to have days off for observance of a religious holiday. Applying the reasonable accommodation doctrine the courts usually held that the employer must accommodate employees by changing schedules to allow certain employees time off for their religious observance while other employees could fill in on those days in exchange for days off at other times.
Jewish employees wanted Saturday off and were willing to work on Sunday. That was a simple and reasonable solution. The Pennsylvania blue laws that prohibited retail businesses from being open on Sunday were an obstacle. Pennsylvania had to give up its blue laws. That was reasonable accommodation. All parties gave a little and still got what they needed.
The Wedding Cake Case can be resolved as easily. Since gays can easily obtain wedding cakes from numerous, in fact most, wedding cake bakers, there is no reason not to accommodate the Lakewood, Colorado wedding cake man whose religious views dictate to him that gay weddings are against God’s instructions.
The insistence by the gay couple that this man must be forced to bake them a cake, their refusal to obtain their cake from one of the many other stores that will happily serve them, indicates a certain meanness in their hearts. They would rather persecute this man for his religious views.
They need to learn that the way to get respect is to give respect. The Supreme Court should not accommodate their spiteful hatred for people who refuse to join in their celebration. The Court should require them to accommodate the Lakewood baker by taking their business to one of his many, many competitors who will gladly bake them the cake they want. That is reasonable accommodation and the only reasonable solution in this case.
Are the justices on the Supreme Court reasonable? Are they enlightened? Are they in favor of mutual respect or will they bless the hatred of the gay couple? That’s exactly what Colorado did. Will the Supremes honor the legal doctrines used in the past to work out reasonable solutions for all parties?
We’ll find out in a few months.