Give Devout Bakers ‘Conscientious Objector’ Status


David Benkof Contributor
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Two little grooms are perched atop the Supreme Court’s docket on this first Monday in October, as the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission has engaged Court watchers for months. The justices are expected to decide by June whether a state can force a baker to design a cake that celebrates an event like a gay wedding that conflicts with his religious beliefs.

Don’t believe the media’s claim that Masterpiece embodies the conflict between non-discrimination and religious liberty – because case’s supposed homophobia is so flimsy it can hardly be called anti-gay discrimination. Here’s the key fact:

The baker in question happily serves gay customers. He just won’t design wedding cakes when they marry.

Lawyers for self-designated “cake artist” Jack Phillips told the court the baker “is happy to create other items for gay and lesbian clients.” Further, he would surely refuse to design a gay wedding cake even if the purchasers were straight. If he’s trying to discriminate against people who are gay, those policies won’t do the trick.

By contrast, the artisans unjustly fined and run out of business in the name of “equal rights” are asking for no more than their constitutionally guaranteed religious liberty – and freedom of expression – to participate only in events consistent with their theological outlooks.

Given America’s long history of accommodating conscientious objectors, conscripting a reluctant Christian armed with nothing but a frosting spatula to “bake for his country” is absurd. Since the Revolution, the United States has allowed citizens with sincere religious objections to sidestep combat with minimal or no consequences. Military policy exempts soldiers from the draft of they have a “firm, fixed, and sincere objection to participation in war in any form or the bearing of arms, by reason of religious training and/or belief.”

“Make Love, Not War” folks, of course, used to love faith-based conscientious objection. So the ACLU’s consistent defense of pacifists who refuse draft registration makes their hostility to Christian bakers with parallel concerns completely nonsensical.

Such chutzpah. There is no drought of bakers and florists comfortable with gay marriage, yet gay groups seem to think it’s OK to dragoon the few Christian artisans who aren’t – even though our nation would exempt the same people from the draft if their religions prohibited combat. Is baking more important than national defense? Seriously?

The parallel to pacifism has not yet been part of the baking debate. But two years ago Christian Kentucky clerk Kim Davis did, unpersuasively, call herself a conscientious objector for refusing to issue gay marriage licenses. But Davis worked for a government that democratically decided to redefine marriage, whereas the bakers and florists affected by the case before the Court are private citizens. The government mustn’t persecute them for acting in accordance with their religious objection to same-sex wedding celebrations (while treating gays equally in every other way).

If, in facing Vietnam, America managed to grant conscientious objector status to Quakers, it can certainly do so for devout bakers whose faiths demand they opt out of America’s gay wedding surge.

Bayard Rustin, a gay man and civil rights champion, was a conscientious objector during World War Two, as were gay historians Allan Bérubé and John D’Emilio during Vietnam. Surely the LGBT community – and the nation as a whole – can find the tolerance and generosity to step aside when presented with the modest religious needs of bakers like Jack Phillips.

David Benkof is a columnist for The Daily Caller. Follow him on Twitter (@DavidBenkof) or Facebook, or E-mail him at DavidBenkof@gmail.com.