Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The balancing act of freedom...

So, my daughter is going through a new phase…it’s called “throwing a fit when I don’t get my way.”  She just turned one, so I’m not really concerned. We’ll get through it.

What does cause me concern, though, is when grown-ups throw similar fits when they don’t get their way. Kind of like the couple in this story from Colorado, in which a baker declined to provide a wedding cake for a gay couple. The couple went to court and now the baker has a choice between making the cake or going to jail. I posted the article online the other day and was surprised by a few of the comments that were made. Then, of course, I was surprised that I was surprised given that we live in a temper-tantrum kind of society.

Let’s be honest, we all want to throw fits sometimes—some of us actually do on occasion. Wise people try to overcome the urge. Foolish men are proud of it. The ignorant simply don't recognize how silly it looks. This Colorado story encapsulates it.

Some would say that this case is a matter of discrimination in the same way that not serving a minority would be. Wrong. Not serving someone because of WHO they are (a minority) is different than not serving someone because of WHAT they want to do (marry a person of the same gender).

I have a sneaking suspicion that several of those who commented on my link did not actually read it. So, a quick recap is in order. According to the report, the baker did NOT decline to serve the gay couple. He offered to bake any other variety of cake. But the one thing he would not do is to participate in a celebration with which he disagreed by creating a cake specifically denoting that celebration. To be clear, he did not kick the couple out of the store. He did not lecture them on the ills of their situation. He did not spit on them, mock them, or mistreat them in any way. He simply declined a wedding cake while offering to bake them any other kind of cake.

On the other hand, the couple wanting the cake chose to attack the baker. Instead of simply finding another cake store, they decided to take the owner to court. Because somehow having a judge force someone to make a cake is better than simply asking the guy down the street (the yellow pages lists 302 bakeries in and near this town alone) to make one. Why didn’t the couple picket, protest, write letters to the editor, contact the BBB, or participate in any other number of responsible and American reactions to actions with which we disagree? Because they are bullies who wanted to cry foul.

See, discrimination is a trendy battle cry that is among the most hypocritical of our time. It is screamed from the rooftops as if it is always a negative action. The fact is that we all discriminate, all the time. We discriminate in our choices of where we like to eat, shop, hang out, etc. We discriminate in our choice of who we date, marry, befriend. We discriminate in our choice of where, or if, we worship or send our children to school.  Why, some restaurants discriminate against people who aren’t wearing shirts or shoes!

Call me crazy, but I won’t just leave my daughter with anyone. I DISCRIMINATE when I choose who I think is a responsible babysitter. But, like many words in our culture, “discrimination” is frequently misused to imply some sort of terrible action, when really it just means “the act of distinguishing,” according to Noah Webster. Now, not all discrimination is good, but it’s not all bad either.

Contrary to what is taught in many schools today, and contrary to what many of my countrymen believe, our nation was founded on the principle of religious freedom. And guess what, religion discriminates. At least mine does. It says that lying is wrong—thereby discriminating against lying. It says stealing is wrong—thereby discriminating against theft. It says that adultery is wrong—and you get my drift. This baker’s religion says homosexuality is wrong—therefore, he chose not to participate in a homosexual celebration. Note: (and again I say), he did not tell the homosexuals not to participate. He did not infringe upon their freedom. If I’m redundant it is so there is no confusion.

With all respect to any uninformed that may be reading this, our 1st Amendment says that congress shall make no law either establishing a religion or prohibiting the free practice thereof. I think the very fact that this precious phrase is in the 1st Amendment is pretty indicative of how high on the list it was. The first half of that beautiful clause is quoted as gospel in our society and the second is all but forgotten. In essence, it means the government can’t tell me how I must worship, and it can’t tell me how I mustn’t.

Now, I’m no constitutional scholar, but even I can see the problem (as did our forefathers) with complete and unrestrained freedom. Take, for example, the practice of Sharia law where a father can physically harm or even kill his daughter if she dishonors him. That freedom fully practiced would infringe upon the daughter’s right to live, and her right to life supersedes the right for the father to practice his religion.

Freedoms must be carefully weighed, and indeed, all of our national history is an exercise in trying to do just that. It is why our founding fathers had the great wisdom to create a system of checks and balances, because freedom is ever teetering on the fine line between tyranny and unrestrained democracy (where the majority, even if it is completely wrong – as in the days of slavery – rules). When we’re wrong, we have a pretty good history of fixing that (i.e. slavery, prohibition, etc.).

Lest I be accused of hypocrisy myself, let me remind my dear friends that I supported the SCOTUS ruling permitting the Westboro Baptist church to picket the funerals of our fallen heroes. I despise what the WBC supports, but I defend their right to the free practice of their religion. If not, where does it stop? Do I walk into a Jewish bakery and ask them to make me a confirmation cake? Can I demand that an atheist bookstore sell me a Bible? No. This baker is not discriminating against the couple because of who they are, so it’s not the same as not serving an African American client. He is choosing not to provide a service for an ACTION with which he disagrees.

I am not suggesting that we do not provide services to PEOPLE with whom we disagree. If a homosexual couple wanted to rent an apartment from me, I would rent it to them. BUT, I am suggesting that we have the right not to PARTICIPATE in an ACTION that violates our conscience. If kids can opt not to pledge the flag in school, then a baker can opt not to bake a cake.

And the government can just back off.

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