The Freedom to Refuse
A lot is being made about the proposed Arizona law which ostensibly provides a religious freedom possibility for the declining of service to individuals. That sentence, upon further review, isn’t worded terribly well, but there’s a reason for that; it’s hard for me to know exactly what this law is intended to accomplish, in large part because the mainstream media is lying about it. No, they’re not shading the story; they are flat-out telling lies. And a lot of people–as is too typical–are buying it hook, line, and sinker.
But it’s not this specific proposed law, nor the one rejected in Kansas a week or two ago, upon which I want to comment. Rather, it is freedom, in general, that interests me and is the topic of this post. Now, the specific freedom which is being discussed seems to be the First Amendment freedom of religion, and specifically the so-called “free exercise” clause. In the event we have any low-information readers, let me remind you of the wording: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This section of the First Amendment has served us well, and I’m, of course, all for it (how you could not be all for the First Amendment and claim to be an American is beyond me–but this hilarious video suggests otherwise).
I’m not sure, though, that the things that are being talked about are so much “freedom of religion” issues as they are freedom of association issues. Does an American businessperson have the freedom to refuse service to another person, or not? “No shoes, no shirt, no service” would seem to suggest this, but there are those who would compel, for instance, a Christian baker to bake a wedding cake for a “gay wedding”, or a photographer to photograph a “lesbian wedding” ceremony despite that person’s convictions and beliefs to the contrary. I, of course, believe this to be wrong, but in extending this beyond simply a “freedom of religion” issue to one of freedom of association, as I believe it to be, we open the door to some tough questions about what we want America to be–or not to be. And so I invite you to take my little quiz:
1. We start with the obvious, the issue(s) that raised the specter of this proposed legislation: should a Christian baker, who believes that marriage can never be redefined as being between two people of the same sex, be compelled to bake and sell a wedding cake to a gay couple intent on holding a “wedding ceremony”? Be careful how you answer…
2. Let’s ask another bakery question: should a Jewish baker be compelled to bake a “Happy Birthday, Hitler” cake for a group of Nazi skinheads celebrating Der Fuhrer’s birthday?
3. A woman’s husband runs off with another woman, leaving her with three small kids at home. Because she needs to support those kids, she files for child support and opens a florist shop. Out of spite at her filing for child support, he and his new fiance demand that she provide the floral arrangements for the wedding. Should she be compelled to by law?
4. A homosexual man runs a print shop. Fred Phelps and his loonies from Westboro Baptist walk in and demand that he print signs saying, “God Hates Fags”, “Death to Gays”, and so on. Should the gay man be compelled to make those signs?
5. Catholic printer is approached by NARAL with an order to print signs in support of their “pro-choice” rally. Should he have to print the signs? For that matter, pro-choice printer is approached by National Right-to-Life; should he be compelled to do the print job?
6. An atheist’s services are sought by a Christian group wanting literature to be printed on the follies of atheism. Should he have to take the job, by law?
I have no doubt that my readers could think of other examples, but it seems clear to me that the answer to every single one of these questions is “NO”, and the one key reason is freedom. Of course, all of those refusing service to others on the bases I described must be willing to live with the economic choices of their consequences–this is only right. But a rudimentary understanding of the concept of freedom should demand that we not force people to act in ways contrary to their consciences or their belief systems.
Now, if there were a law written that said “no one shall bake a cake celebrating (whatever)”, or “no one shall print a sign in support of the pro-choice cause”, that’d be one thing, but that’s not what’s happening in these real-world cases, and the threat to freedom on the part of the “tolerant” left is appalling. I believe in freedom and believe it should be guarded; it’s a shame that way too many Americans don’t.