There’s a good discussion going on over at Samizdata regarding the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop which is currently before the Surpreme Court. A summary of the case is as follows.
A gay couple approached Masterpiece Cakeshop and asked the proprietor to make them a wedding cake with a unique message for their upcoming nuptials. The baker, who is a devout Christian, refused to do so on the grounds that his religious beliefs forbade him from participating in such a ceremony, and that making a cake and decorating it in the manner requested would constitute doing so. He was happy to sell them an existing cake off the shelf, but not make one and decorate it specially. At this point I should mention that the gay couple could have gone to any one of hundreds of other bakers, but instead they deliberately sought out a Christian one in the hope he would refuse and they could run around screaming about how oppressed they are. As such, they took the baker to court which found him guilty of discrimination on grounds of sexuality, and dismissed his defence that in refusing to comply with the couple’s request he was exercising his right to free speech. The matter has now reached the Supreme Court and they are busy tying themselves in knots over it.
The reason they’re tying themselves in knots is because Americans, like so many other advanced nations, have spent decades writing ever-more detailed and prescriptive laws attempting to control what people do, say, and think. A feature of modern governments is they believe there is absolutely nothing on Earth which cannot be subject to legislation, and the more the better. Unsurprisingly, these laws have started contradicting one another. If freedom of association is a right guaranteed in law, it logically follows that freedom to not associate is similarly protected. The Founding Fathers, being sensible folk and not the cretins which pass for modern-day politicians, didn’t see the need to actually write this down because it is so bleeding obvious, but our current ruling class blithely assume these guys would be progressives and hence fully supportive of the idiocy we see today. Personally I think the Founding Fathers, were they permitted to see contemporary America, would wonder why they didn’t just take up beaver trapping and fishing and give nation-founding a wide berth.
Some at Samizdata are arguing that it is a free speech issue, others that it is one of property rights, in the sense that the baker’s labour is his property. Both are undoubtedly true in the abstract sense, but in the context of US law I don’t think either is true. Fraser Orr sums it up well in this comment:
In regards to the baker himself, let us be clear on what the case says. It does not force him to use his labor to make a cake, or force his store to support something which he doesn’t believe in. In fact what it says is that to engage in the business of cake making in Colorado you have to meet certain standards, such as hygiene, treat your workers fairly, provide for disabled customers and, yes, provide your services without discrimination.
And again here:
The bakers are not required to make the cake, only they may not sell any cakes unless they do so without discrimination. So there is no involuntary servitude here, only involuntary non servitude.
Note that Fraser isn’t saying that this should be happening, he’s simply stating what the case is. What it boils down to is whether the baker’s personal beliefs extend to how he makes cakes and for what purposes, and whether they override any customer’s right to be served regardless. Frankly, any society that struggles over this question for more than twenty seconds is probably in its last century of existence, at least in its current form. There may be some genuine instances where society needs to get their heads together to work out a compromise, e.g. if a group of people are going without vital goods and services due to wholly artificial restrictions on supply, but I remain to be convinced that gays being denied bespoke wedding cakes from a single bakery is one of them.
But here we are, with the Supreme Court trying to decide what happens when an irresistible force meets and immovable object. I have no doubt they will rule against the baker, because to do otherwise would drive a coach and horses through decades of progressive legislation which, however you cut it, most of the population seems to endorse (if you disagree, kindly point out that last time American conservatives voted in enough numbers to install a government which conserved anything). When the ruling is handed down, progressives will cheer heartily about how bigoted bakers have no place in American society and make lots of noises about how decency prevailed over hate and other such nonsense. The decision will be presented as evidence that society is moving forward, inching towards progressive utopia, as they did when the Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was in fact enshrined in the constitution even though its authors neglected to mention it. Not for one moment will they think the societal arrangements that, in defiance of most of human history, prevents people massacring each other for fun have just had another pillar kicked from under them.
Where they think this is heading is anyone’s guess. Where gay men like the ones persecuting this baker think they’re going to hide when Daddy Government takes a turn for the worse or doesn’t show up to protect them I don’t know. I’ve mentioned this before, but if I was a minority in any society I’d probably not go around deliberately antagonising people, and I certainly wouldn’t put my future well-being in the hands of people who shit themselves because Trump said “pussy”.
I suspect this case will become an amusing footnote of history, along with so much else that progressives think is inevitable and will therefore last forever. The rate we’re going, we’re going to make the Incas look sane.