Lance Scranton: Baking cakes and our conscience
June 12, 2018
The big news of the past few weeks has been the U.S. Supreme Court's decision regarding a Colorado bakery owner's refusal to bake a cake for a homosexual couple. The owner of the cake shop yielded to his deeply held conviction that he could not participate in the promotion of something that he did not agree with as a matter of his religious preference. Based on his First Amendment rights, he believed it was within his freedom and responsibility to refuse service.
The voices against his particular form of expression, or in this case, his lack thereof, compared him and his beliefs to those who used such forms of thinking to justify just about everything from slavery to the Holocaust.
The intent was to portray the Masterpiece Cakeshop owner as someone outside the boundaries of present-day thinking and attitudes toward same sex couples.
The ruling by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission described the owner's views as, "despicable and merely rhetorical," meaning his convictions were clearly based on some wrongheaded view of the world, and his reasoning skills lacked diversity. The Supreme Court reprimanded the commission for its language and approach to how we act upon our convictions. The baker, it turns out, was well within his rights under the First Amendment to make a decision not to participate in the promotion of an idea with which he disagreed.
The obvious question is why the couple didn't just take their business elsewhere and find a baker who would make them a cake to celebrate. Part of living, and getting along, in a free society demands that we are sometimes going to be disappointed by the views and ideas of those with whom we come into contact as we make our way through life.
What the Supreme Court wisely concluded in the case was that, just because we individually disagree with someone else's views, it does not give us permission to infringe upon the rights of that person with which we disagree. The important distinction moving forward was that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission is bound to respect the deeply held convictions and forms of expression the baker employed in making his decision not to make the cake.
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In simplest terms, the baker followed his conscience and made a decision that displeased the couple, but the baker was not discriminating against their individual form of expressing love but was simply refusing to support or promote an idea he disagreed with by baking the cake.
I am often put in a position where I don't agree with an individual's way of thinking, and I am compelled as a decent and fair-minded person to be tolerant. But I should never be compelled to promote the thinking with which I disagree.
Lance Scranton is a teacher and coach at Moffat County High School.