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The Bill of Rights Protects Even Stupid Reasons for Not Providing Services To Customers

Four years ago I wrote a Clash column about discrimination. In it I said:

A free society must allow people to choose to do business with whomever they wish. And I’ll say something radical here: That means they should be free to discriminate against anyone for any reason. Remember that sign “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone”? That’s gone.

As Ben Shapiro said on his podcast Monday and in his Creators column this week, the 7-2 majority ruling that sided with the Colorado baker who refused to decorate a cake for a gay ceremony, it’s about as twisted a victory as you can get:

Instead, the court ruled that the baker didn’t have to bake the cake because the members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission were unduly mean. You see, the commission pilloried the man’s religious viewpoint rather than giving it a respectful hearing; it compared his viewpoint to pro-slavery and pro-Holocaust viewpoints. This was extreme and nasty. Thus, Justice Anthony Kennedy concluded: “The commission’s hostility was inconsistent with the First Amendment’s guarantee that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion. … The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts.”

I must have missed the “be kind; rewind” section of the First Amendment.

Of course, the Supreme Court likely ruled on narrow grounds in order to achieve a 7-2 majority including liberal Justices Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer. But the ruling bodes ill for the future: It doesn’t protect religious Americans, nor does it protect freedom of speech.

The conclusion was not: “We have free speech and free association in this country. The guy can do what he wants.” It was “The Colorado Civil Rights Commission was mean to the baker, so we’re overturning the lower court’s decision.”

To the limp-wristed extent that the Supreme Court has decreed we are for the moment free to run our own lives – which may mean denying products or services for gay ceremonies due to a deeply-held religious belief — I have to ask: What if the first requirement (religion) isn’t met? What if we have no religious or deeply-held conviction? What if we simply don’t want to serve a [black, yellow, brown, white, Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Presbyterian, religious, non-religious, fat, skinny, rich, poor, beautiful, ugly, tall, short, English speaker, non-English speaker, New Yorker, Midwesterner, Californian, anyone from North Dakota, anyone who drives an El Camino, anyone who loves Nickelback, anyone who doesn’t have a Facebook account, Millennials, left-handed people, people who wear paracord survival bracelets, people who never let any cars go ahead of them in traffic, people who always lets other cars go ahead in traffic, people who only go to church for Christmas and Easter, people who always go to church and never stop talking about it, people who put bull testicles on their rear bumper hitch, people who won’t shut up about Orange Theory or CrossFit, any member of PETA, any member of the Nazi Party, any member of Black Lives Matter, people who wear patchouli oil as a substitute for showering, men who wear Crocs, women who wear makeup to work out, anyone who drives a Prius, people who talk during a movie, people who eat their steak well done and with ketchup, people who take thirty minutes to order off a menu and then return the order because it’s still not quite how they like it, people who say they don’t want to take away our guns and then propose laws that make gun ownership impossible, people who lose their tempers with low wage restaurant or retail staff…)

These stupid reasons are still valid under the First Amendment. Even if you think it’s immoral, mean-spirited, bigoted, racist, or [insert victim class] phobic to refuse service, It. Is. Your. Right.

We can be temporarily happy for Jack Phillips and his Masterpiece Cakeshop, but if we don’t continue to fight for the freedom to operate our businesses as we wish and let free people chose to participate as they wish, we will be held to the capricious leanings of a “little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol [who believe they] can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

Fascism is only great in a tailwind.

Image: Excerpted from: Robin klein – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24250149

Michael Cummings

About the author, Michael Cummings: Michael A. Cummings has a Bachelors in Business Management from St. John's University in Collegeville, MN, and a Masters in Rhetoric & Composition from Northern Arizona University. He has worked as a department store Loss Prevention Officer, bank auditor, textbook store manager, Chinese food delivery man, and technology salesman. Cummings wrote position pieces for the 2010 Trevor Drown for US Senate (AR) and 2012 Joe Coors for Congress (CO) campaigns. View all articles by Michael Cummings

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