After watching the debate about religious freedom unfold over the past week, I decided to subject myself to an interview by an imaginary — but representative — member of the press. Here is our conversation:
O.K., enough pleasantries. You’re a semi-reasonable Christian. What do you think about the terrible Indiana “religious liberty” bill?
I favored the original version. Based on past experience, laws like this protect religious minorities from real burdens. As written, the Indiana law probably wouldn’t have protected vendors from being fined for declining to work at a same-sex wedding. But I would favor that protection as well.
Seriously? Shouldn’t businesses have to serve all comers?
I think they should be able to decline service for various reasons, religious scruples included. A liberal printer shouldn’t be forced to print tracts for a right-wing cause. A Jewish deli shouldn’t be required to cater events for the Nation of Islam.
But those are issues of belief, not identity. Denying service to gays is like denying service to blacks under Jim Crow.
None of the businesses facing sanctions are saying they wouldn’t serve gay people as a class; they just don’t want to work at nuptials. This isn’t a structural system of oppression, a society-wide conspiracy like Jim Crow; we’re talking about a handful of shops across the country. It seems possible, and reasonable, to live and let live.
I think discrimination is discrimination. What about you? Would you bake the cake?
Honestly, since so many of my friends aren’t religious or conservative, I’ve always taken for granted that being part of their lives meant accompanying them through life choices that belong to a different worldview than my own. (And I’m very grateful that they’ve accompanied and tolerated me.) My family has its share of divorces and second marriages; my friends’ romantic paths are varied; my closest friend from high school just exchanged vows with his longtime boyfriend. I’m going to a party celebrating them next month. If they asked me, I’d bring a cake.
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