Monday, February 09, 2015

Random thoughts on discrimination

Baking cakes in Oregon
It has been two years since January 2013 when Oregon bakery Sweet Cakes by Melissa refused to bake and decorate a cake for a lesbian wedding. Now an administrative law judge ruled that the owners did discriminate according to Oregon law against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. This paves the way for the Bureau of Labor and Industries in Oregon to be fine them up to $150,000 ($75,000 for each person who filed the complaint).* The Kleins closed their business in Septemeber 2013 and say that the large fine will bankrupt the family.

I find it hard to comprehend the contempt that is so deep that it will go so far as to bankrupt a family to prove a point. Prove a point? Yes, prove a point; teach a lesson, or however you want to describe it. There were any number of bakeries where the couple could (and one where they did) get a cake for their wedding. So they want to prove a point (and perhaps earn a little cash in the process?). Anyway, I don't get the spite. In fact I see it as an evil trait that we all should want to root out of our responses. If I found out that XYZ Bakery didn't want to bake a cake for me, I wouldn't want to force them to bake a cake for me. I wouldn't want them to bake a cake for me. And I wouldn't have a hatred so deep as to want to put them out of business and drive them into bankruptcy. Oh, yes, I have felt that feeling about some things deep down inside. I have burned for revenge at times. But, if my memory doesn't deceive me, I have never acted on it. At least in no large way. By the grace of God I hope never to do so.

Hold the hate; pass the love
An interesting contrast to the couple who filed the complaint is Matt Stolhandske. Stolhandske describes himself as "a gay evangelical Christian." He is a board member of Evangelicals for Marriage Equality, which supports the end cause -- same-sex marriage -- of the two lesbians who complained about Sweet Cakes by Melissa. Though he states, “We strongly disapprove of the Kleins’ discriminatory act towards the women who simply requested a cake for their reception," Stolhandske is trying to raise funds for the Kleins to pay their fine. He says he wants to demonstrate what love looks like in the face of discrimination. Other same-sex marriage supporters apparently do not feel the love that Stolhandske does -- far from its goal of $150,000, to date the account has received less than $4,500 in donations, according to Yahoo News.

We do discriminate, but when is it alright
I am probably a quirky guy in the whole of thought about the business world anyway; but in my opinion there are instances in which a business owner should have the right to discriminate. For example, if a person is the single owner of a business and is the one investing the money that makes it go, I believe that owner should be able to hire whomever he or she wants to hire, government be damned. If he or she doesn't want to hire the person because that person is homosexual, hetrosexual, Muslim, Christian, white, black, too ugly, too pretty, gave a bad first impression, or even has a beard -- I think that is the way it should be. Well, you say, that is because you've never suffered hiring discrimination. Au contraire. I have been the victim of "religious discrimination" -- not hired for a job because I was a preacher. They didn't tell me that directly, but an insider in the company told me and even wanted me to pursue a claim against them because of it. But I practiced what I preach. If they didn't want to hire me because I was a preacher, I thought that was their business and their right. (And in my own belief I chalk it all up to God's providence.)

Concerning "discrimination" as practiced by Azucar Bakery, Masterpiece Cakeshop and Sweet Cakes, I see two different aspects. As far as a person walking in off the street to buy the regular products of the bakery, all are equal. But when people want to contract for a specific product that engages their ideas and the baker's creativity together the baker should have discretion to provide or not provide the item desired. So if you want a wedding cake for a homosexual wedding or a "God hates Fags" sheet cake, the baker should be able to opt out of using his or her skills in a way that he or she finds offensive. If a couple want a groom's cake shaped like a penis and testicles, should a baker who finds this offensive be allowed to opt out? I believe so. It may be hard to find the consistency, but let's search for it.

Three test cases
A representative of the Ku Klux Klan goes to a black baker and requests a cake for the 100th anniversary of their local chapter. There is no obviously offensive message (of course, it's a white cake with white icing). It just says "100th Anniversary." Should the black baker be able to refuse providing this service?

The pastor of an evangelical church goes to the bakery down the street ran by an atheist. They want several sheet cakes for their "God is Alive" conference. There is no ostensibly offensive message, just "Welcome to the God is Alive Conference." Should the atheist baker be able to refuse providing this service?

The priest of a Catholic Church goes to a bakery run by a baker who was sexually abused by a priest as a child. The church wants a cake decorated with a priest in the middle and children on each side. There is nothing offensive in the message or decoration, but it reminds the baker of his abuse as a child at the hands of a priest. Should this baker be able to refuse providing this service?

* According to USA Today; OregonLive reports up to $200,000. The exact amount of the fine will be determined at a BOLI hearing March 10, 2015.

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