By Teresa Blackman
The owners of a small Oregon bakery, Sweet Cakes by Melissa, recently made the news for their upcoming hearing concerning a January ruling that they discriminated against a lesbian couple, Laurel Bowman and Rachel Cryer. According to an article published by Fox News, the owners, Melissa and Aaron Klein, may be ordered to pay at least $150,000 — simply for living out their Christian beliefs.
Should the Kleins have refused to bake the cake or should they have made the cake regardless of their beliefs? Were they discriminating against the couple because of their sexual orientation?
According to the judge’s court order, had Sweet Cakes made the wedding cake, the Kleins would have driven the company truck, which displays its name, and would have set the cake up at the reception. The process involves not only supplying some of the means for the event to occur, but also making the bakery’s association with the ceremony public. While association with gay couples presents no problem in itself, their presence at the wedding could imply the couple’s support of the event — something that contradicts their beliefs.
Many professionals have faced similar conflicts between business and religious conviction. As more and more people publicly support their own beliefs, the burden increases for others to do the same. If an openly Christian business, in light of these other lawsuits, makes a cake or floral arrangements for a same-sex union, this action could make the previous owners seem unnecessarily bigoted.
Though desiring a consistency among Christian business owners is understandable, it does not necessitate a denial of service. Many factors can influence an owner’s choice to deny service, including the business’ level of involvement and the necessity of maintaining a livelihood. As owners like the Kleins navigate the relationship between religion and business, they ought to consider these many factors and then act in line with their consciences, while remaining aware that they act on beliefs rooted in charity.
Christian teaching agrees with the law that discrimination against persons is wrong. But the Kleins’ case does not seem to involve any personal discrimination.
The couple was not personally discriminating against Laurel and Rachel for their sexuality, but rather against the ceremony at which their cake would be served. The denial of service was because of an event, not a person. Had Laurel or Rachel come in for a cake for a birthday party or other celebration, I am sure they would have been served regardless of their sexual orientation.
The Kleins deserve the right to act in accordance with their religious beliefs, even if that means denying service for an event that they do not support. Forcing the Kleins to pay for not providing a cake infringes on their constitutional right to freedom of religion.
As more and more business owners find themselves faced with issues concerning business and religion, they ought to live with integrity and consider the many factors involved in such decisions, not only for solace of conscience, but also so that the nation realize the desire among its citizens to maintain their right to freely practice religion.