The narishkeit coming out of Indiana has been such an embarrassment of riches that it took Jewdar this long simply to know where to begin. First of all, there is the sheer hypocrisy of it all (more specific hypocrisy later). Jewdar remembers a few years back when Somali Muslim cabdrivers in St. Paul-Minnesota were refusing to take passengers to liquor stores, and how justifiably irate many commentators were on the matter. It was pointed out, quite rightly, that someone providing a service can’t simply decide to use their religious beliefs to justify denying that service to some people whose practices are offensive to those beliefs. And yet here we are eight years later, and the same chorus of commentators is shocked, shocked that anyone would even suggest that good, God fearing people should have to provide services that would violate their good, God fearing beliefs. Suddenly, the same people who were horrified at the imposition of one system of religious law based on an old Middle Eastern holy book are insistent on the right of people to impose a different system of religious law based on an old Middle Eastern Holy book. I would love to have somebody explain the difference between the Muslim cabdrivers and the Christian bakers; something tells me the explanation would be extremely unsatisfying.
Then there is the wonderful lesson this all provides in the difference between “morals” and “ethics.” To sum it up, morals represent your personal values, what you see as right or wrong. Ethics, by contrast, represent what’s right or wrong in specific contexts. Thus, for example, while most people would say it is immoral to deny a child with a terminal illness a treatment that could save him, a physician conducting a clinical trial may have to do just that, giving some kids placebos. As a rule, we don’t say that he is acting immorally by possibly letting a child die; it is understood that there are other considerations. By the same token, one may have a moral objection to taking people to liquor stores or providing same sex couples wedding cakes, but as a matter of ethics, once you have taken it upon yourself to provide a service, you are obligated to provide that service to anyone. To clarify, Muslim bodega owner is under no obligation to sell beer; once he decides to sell it, though, he has to sell it to anyone over the age of 20; he can’t deny it to Muslims. By the same token, while you don’t have to run a bakery, if you do, it is unethical to deny your services to people who you find objectionable. A Jew can’t refuse to sell a cake to an intermarried couple. A Catholic can’t refuse to sell a cake to a divorced Catholic who is getting remarried (which, by Catholic law, would make him an adulterer). And a Protestant, Catholic, Jewish or Muslim baker can’t refuse to sell a cake to a same sex couple.
Then there is the political hypocrisy of Republicans, who of course insist ad nauseam that government should stay out of the economy and let the market regulate itself, passing a law to protect certain economic behaviors. I know, I know, this sort of thing is common enough, but what’s particularly galling is that there actually is a very simple and effective market solution that already exists, which brings me to my last point.
The Indiana law is simply another example of our once great nation’s downward spiral into crybabiness. I know that Indiana is part of the Midwest, but when Jewdar was a lad in Wisconsin, we understood that refusing to do your job to the best of your ability was seen as a negative thing. Failing to provide a proper good customer service didn’t make you a martyr, it made you a bad business owner. And as for martyrdom, we vaguely recall a time when men of principle were willing to accept the consequences of their actions; that was, in fact, the mark of being a man of principle. Thus, we recommend a simple and perfectly legal solution to this whole problem, one that respects the rights of consumers to receive the same service regardless of who they are, but allows business owners to make a moral statement, all without a single law passed. All people need to do is put up a sign in their store saying something along the following:
“We promise to provide all of our patrons with the same quality of service. However, due to our moral objections to same sex marriage, we pledge to donate ____ percent of anything we earn from same-sex weddings to [insert name of organization opposed to same sex marriage, gay rights or whatever].”
And that’s it. Nobody is denied service. Nobody is allowed to deny service. People of faith are allowed to express their moral principles and objections to same sex marriage. But Jewdar can pretty much guarantee that no same-sex couples will buy cakes from them. And let’s face it; if a same sex couple did buy a cake knowing that it would lead to a donation to Focus on the Family, how gay could they really be?