Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Refusal of a Colorado Baker To Write Anti-Gay Message

    Earlier this week, in Colorado, a local baker name Marjorie Silva refused to bake a cake for a customer. Silva is the owner of Denver’s Azucar Bakery. The customer, named Bill Jack, asked Silva to bake a Bible shaped cake with anti-gay images and messages written on it. Originally, Silva had agreed to bake a Bible shaped cake. However, upon learning of these specific demands Silva refused to satisfy the requests of her customer. Reportedly, the request was for Silva to write, “God hates gays” on the cake with two men holding hands and a cross on top of them. As a compromise, Silva baked the caked and offered to give Mr. Jack icing and a pastry bag so he could write the words for himself. Mr. Jack was not satisfied with this compromise, and he filed a complaint with Colorado’s Civil Rights Division.
            When asked why she refused to write the message on the cake, Silva was quoted as saying, “It’s just horrible. It doesn’t matter if, you know, if you’re Catholic, or Jewish, or Christian, if I’m gay or not gay or whatever. We should all be loving each other. I mean there’s no reason to discriminate.” Ironically, that’s exactly what she is being accused of, discrimination. Silva whole-heartedly believes that she did nothing wrong, and has even gone so far as to say that Jack should be the one accused of discrimination, not her.  Mr. Jack alleges that Silva is blatantly discriminating against him based on what he refers to as his creed. In this case, Jack is using the word ‘creed’ to refer to his own religious convictions. The question is whether or not the government has a right to step in and force Silva to bake the cake because she is discriminating against Bill Jack for his religious beliefs.

          The Jack v. Silva case comes in wake of a similar Colorado court case in which courts ruled that baker Jack Phillips was obligated to bake a wedding cake for a same sex wedding or face a large fine that would surely put him out of business. Phillips had originally refused to bake a cake because he felt it was against his religious beliefs to endorse a same sex marriage. Now, for the next two years, Phillips will also be required to submit quarterly reports to the commission to confirm that he has not turned away customers based on their sexual orientation. I did not agree with this ruling and felt that the court should not be able to take away the right of private business owners to refuse service based on belief. I felt that this ruling violated the establishment clause by creating a law that prevented Phillips from freely exercising his religious beliefs. If the public did not agree with Phillips they have the right to protest or to boycott his bakery.
           If the courts equate these two cases they must be consistent with their original decision and compel Silva to bake the cake to Mr. Jack’s specifications. The precedent was set in the Phillips case that the government has a right to trump an owner’s beliefs and compel service if those beliefs encourage discrimination. If this precedent is applied to this case courts will say that Silva is discriminating against Jack for his religious beliefs which violates anti-discrimination laws.  
However, the courts may not equate the two cases. In the Phillips case, his religious beliefs guided his decision to not endorse a same sex marriage. This is blatant discrimination to all same sex couples which violates established law and gives the court the right to trump his religious convictions. In the Silva case, she allegedly discriminated against Mr. Jack for his religious beliefs. The difference between the two bakers is the requests of their clients. Silva has the right to discriminate against Mr. Jack because his religious beliefs lead him to request a hateful message to be printed on his cake. The courts may rule that because this message is discriminatory in nature Silva has the right to not serve Mr. Jack no matter his religious beliefs.  
      In my opinion, I believe that the court should rule against Mr. Jack. His message in itself is discriminatory and therefore I find it difficult to believe that the courts would force Silva to write the message. There is a distinct difference between Silva and Phillips. Phillips claimed his religious beliefs did not allow him to endorse a same sex marriage by baking a cake. This belief would allow him to discriminate against all homosexual couples in the future. This is why the courts ruled against him. Conversely, Silva’s convictions are actually preventing discrimination towards the LGBTQ community. However, her beliefs are in fact discriminatory towards Mr. Jack’s religious beliefs. I believe the courts will allow an exemption for Silva because Mr. Jack is utilizing his religious beliefs to explain his offensive cake design. The message the cake is displaying is discriminatory in nature, and although I do not believe that he should be prevented from displaying it I do believe that Silva should not be compelled to make the cake and that her compromise of providing Jack with the supplies is sufficient. I agree with Mark Silverstein, the legal director of the ACLU in Colorado when he says, “there is no law that a cake-maker has to write obscenities in the cake just because the customer wants it.” Although Silva is admittedly discriminating against Mr. Jack for his religious beliefs the court should rule in her favor because she did attempt to compromise and even if Mr. Jack’s religion guided him to request that message it is still hateful in nature and should not be forced upon Silva.


Liz E said...

I agree with your sentiments in regard to these two cases. To me, it seems clear that a person should not be forced to write hateful and discriminatory remarks on a cake if he or she does not want to. If anything, I could see the case against Jack in that he is promoting hate speech. If he wishes to promote that type of message in his own home, that is one thing. But to force those beliefs on the public is another issue. I think the Colorado case involving Jack Phillips is a bit more difficult. Though I recognize that it is his own private business and that he can accept customers based on his choosing, this is clearly sexual orientation discrimination. I believe that the courts did the right thing by preventing him from discriminating against a large portion of society. These are both tricky issues that shed an important light on how much say the government should have in religion and discrimination.

Libby W said...

I also agree with the idea that Silva should not be forced to write a hate message on a cake, especially when it would be promoting discrimination of a large community of people. Just as Jack is allowed to have his beliefs, so is Silva, so it is not right to force her to do something she feels uncomfortable with. This is a privately owned bakery, so she has the right to decide for herself the business she would like to take on. It is also true that Jack has the option of finding another bakery, but I also believe that Silva's offer to provide materials to write the message was a sufficient solution to solving the problem. I do not think in this case that Silva is necessarily discriminating against Jack's beliefs, but rather limiting hate speech and further discrimination.

Trevor Tomlinson said...

I agree with you on this case on the basis that the man asking Silva to bake the cake is asking her to create a product containing hate speech. Denying service on the grounds of preventing discrimination and hate speech is justified and acceptable. Silva’s aim was not to prevent free exercise of religion, but rather to prevent discrimination. The man has every right to make discriminatory cakes in his own home if his “creed” calls him to do so, but when he goes into the public sphere and tries to demand others become linked and create products with his discriminatory views, a line is crossed. The distinction between this case and the Phillips case is that Phillips was denying business and discriminating based on sexual orientation, while Silva is denying business based on a mans malicious intent to discriminate a group of people based on their personal affairs. Silva has the right to prevent hateful messages from being printed on her products. Phillips does not have the right to deny service to a particular group of people just because of their sexual orientation. Phillips said essentially that he is refusing service because the couple requesting a cake was gay, Silva is not saying she will not make the cake because of the mans religious beliefs, she is saying she will not make the cake because it is offensive and discriminatory regardless of any religious affiliation.

Tommy S said...

I also agree with Adam and the opinions of the other commenters. The Church’s stance on homosexuality is not a central tenant of Christianity. Therefore, Silva’s decision to not write “God hates Gays” on a cake does not seriously impede Mr. Jack’s religious exercise or interfere with his religious practices. Mr. Jack should not impose his religious beliefs on Silva if she finds them morally objectionable. Silva has the right to freedom of conscience too.

Courtney W. said...

I agree with the writer and the commenters in that refusing to write the hateful message on the cake for Jack did not negatively infringe on his freedom of religious expression. Silva made him the cake in the shape of a bible and provided him with the means to write the message as she was uncomfortable writing it herself. I think that it was a completely appropriate response to a difficult issue. In the case of the wedding cake, I think the line between discrimination and freedom of religious expression is blurred. The news article stated that the baker violated the anti-discrimination laws which to me makes sense. He did discriminate against the customer on the basis of sexual orientation. That being said, the homosexual customer could have found another bakery. I think that the case regarding the baker is an extremely difficult one to make judgments on.