In the spirit of full disclosure, before we begin I should acknowledge that I am heterosexual, and male. Therefore, even though Nathaniel Frank, author of an article in Slate titled “How Clueless Straight White Guys Excuse Religious Homophobia” wasn’t talking about me, he could have been. Obviously, Mr. Frank is a talented writer.
His first paragraph reads:
Why does it seem that, every time a national debate erupts about the place of minorities in American life, a gaggle of Straight White Guys with little connection to or understanding of these minorities holds forth on how they should or shouldn’t resolve their grievance about unequal treatment? This week’s version came in response to Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Division, the Supreme Court case of Jack Phillips, a Christian baker who refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple, Charlie Craig and David Mullins. Phillips is seeking a license to discriminate based on artistic and religious freedom.
The words seem to effortlessly flow off the screen. Unfortunately, they are "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." There are at least two, and arguably three mistakes in just that first paragraph. While it’s wonderful to have the ability to write eloquent sentences communicating your ideas, the effect is lost when emotion, not logic, shapes the argument, and especially when significant points based on misleading or incorrect information can be easily refuted with facts.
First mistake: technically, gays are not a minority. They are in a minority. The difference is minorities can usually be identified by their physical appearance – with rare exceptions, one can usually look at a person and tell whether he or she is black, white, Asian, etc. Conversely, a gay white man cannot be differentiated from a straight white man on sight. Gay people must reveal their own sexual orientation to be identified as such. As a Christian conservative left-handed tennis player living in Georgia, I could argue that I represent some fictitious minority, but that would not make my claim true.
Second, it is an indisputable mistake to characterize the case as a “Christian baker who refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple…” because it’s very important to note that Jack Phillips did not refuse to sell the couple a cake. Instead, he refused to use his talents to make a special wedding cake specifically for Mr. Craig and Mr. Mullins. Mr. Phillips was not “seeking a license to discriminate based on artistic and religious freedom” because he isn’t guilty of discrimination, period. He merely declined to provide a special service. He did not refuse to serve them as customers.
By comparison, note that the gay coffee shop owner in the video found in this Breitbart article is refusing to provide service to Christian patrons and demanding they leave his business, while admittedly discriminating against his customers based on their religion. Most of Mr. Frank’s lengthy article focused on objections to the court rulings against Mr. Phillips by “conservative” pundits George Will and David Brooks, as well as political scientist Greg Weiner.
Frank identified five major arguments from conservatives and, using quotes from his sources, presents what he characterizes as their position in the debate, and then explains why he considers those arguments "clueless."
Those arguments are:
- It’s just cake; buy it somewhere else.
- It’s not like we’re condoning something as bad as racial discrimination.
- It would have been so much kinder if the gays had just been neighborly and courteous about all this, even though the baker wasn’t. The gay couple acted like nasty bullies (while also being whiny, litigious victims).
- Be patient and let the political process of persuasion and compromise run its course; the courts are the wrong place to go when your rights aren’t being protected, and it will only spur backlash.
- The baker is only asking that his sincere religious beliefs and artistic freedom be respected; he is not harming anyone.
Frankly, the fifth and final argument is the only one really worth discussing.
Points #1 is undeniably true. Point #2 could be debated, however matters of opinion rarely become an overwhelmingly persuasive argument for either party involved in the discussion. Point #4 is wishful thinking to believe the losing side will be satisfied with the court ruling. The debate will probably not end with the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, but almost certainly re-litigated. Point #3 merits being mentioned only for its prejudicial wording that included the phrase “even though the baker wasn’t" (being neighborly and courteous.) The statement is inflammatory, unnecessarily prejudicial, and totally unsupported by facts offered as evidence.
Mr. Frank’s argument in the fifth and final argument questioned the sincerity of Mr. Phillip’s religious convictions and offered what Frank called a “consistency test” by using divorce for comparison. Frank correctly points out that the Bible condemns divorce with language almost as harsh as it uses to condemn homosexuality. As most Christians know, sin is sin, meaning mine are no better than yours. Also, Jesus told the Pharisees that divorce came from Moses, meaning that God has never sanctioned divorce. According to the Bible, the only unforgivable sin is neither adultery or homosexuality, but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Jesus also said that when we covet another man’s wife we have committed adultery in our heart. The Bible also tells us that all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God – not just gay people, or racists, or bigots.
All of us. No exceptions.
Question: without directly asking his customer personal questions, how would Mr. Phillips know whether his potential customer might be guilty of adultery? Mr. Phillips might have been able to figure out he was being asked to make a cake for a gay wedding if we assume his customer asked for two grooms on top.
To achieve equal treatment under the law and applying this same logic used by Mr. Frank to condemn Mr. Phillips in a hypothetical scenario, we might assume tat members of the Westboro Baptist Church should be able to force the gay owner of a printing shop owner to make those abhorrent placards with messages such as “God Hates Fags”, used to protest military funerals.
In order to be consistent, I must choose to support either demand, or neither of them. I would support neither. In his article, Mr. Frank pleaded for straight white men like me to show a little empathy for the LGBT movement, which sounds fair enough.
However, a willingness to reciprocate is critical to prevent the conversation from turning into a lecture. Rather than demanding equal treatment under the law, as Mr. Frank has suggested, the plaintiffs in this case have insisted they be given special treatment and tacitly proclaimed their Constitutional rights are more important than the Constitutional rights of Mr. Phillips, who neither discriminated nor refused to serve them as customers.
Is Mr. Phillips no longer entitled to freedom of religion? If he doesn’t, when did he become a hapless vassal at the mercy of that feudal lord known as Big Brother? And why are most Americans silent and probably apathetic, when their own personal freedom might be the next taken away?
In his prescient novella Animal Farm, George Orwell famously wrote, “All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others.” Also in that same book Orwell wrote, “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
It's unfortunate that we see the same sort of intolerance coming from the LBGT movement on the issue of gay marriage as we see about homosexuality coming from The Westboro Baptist Church.