I wrote a letter to the NY Times in reply to Gail Collins' piece on Arizona. It was published but, of course, even though the point of the letter was to ask for an explanation, there were no replies.

Here's the letter:

"On the political spectrum I'd align most closely with Elizabeth Warren. I say this because I feel like I'm not supposed to have such thoughts as these. I would like someone to explain how the law is supposed to deal with someone [in the private sector] who refuses to serve ANYONE for ANY reason. Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi" was hilarious but fictional. I don't care HOW good his soup is, he'd be out of business in a flash.

"discrimination is bad for business"

Obviously if any public funds were at stake, use the ton-of-bricks provisions. But firstly, how does the government force a private business to provide goods/services to a particular party. Secondly, shouldn't "the market" decide what gets provided and what gets consumed?" [...and by whom?]

No reply.

To expand a little, say a wedding cake baker is stupid enough to decide that he will not provide a cake with two tuxedoed guy figures on top. Is the government supposed to MAKE him bake such a cake. I can tell you I'm one person who would refuse to eat cake baked under those circumstances.

I believe there is a political point to be made here. I'm just surprised that it's ME making it.

Discrimination is wrong.

Discrimination is stupid.

But don't people have a right to be wrong and stupid? To my understanding the government only gets involved when government/public interests/money are involved - like MAKING a school accept a black student. 

Help!

Tags: Discrimination, law

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In this case, however, the law isn't looking at your personal right to hold whichever religious beliefs you hold dear; it defends the rights of decision makers in businesses to mix business and personal life, even to the detriment of others.

I do respect freedom of religion to the point that I would agree that a Catholic surgeon should not be required to perform an abortion. I think a patient insisting that her abortionist be Catholic is just creating an incident unnecessarily, which is how I view this cake-baking brouhaha. If I were to run an aluminum siding business and only want to put aluminum siding up on Slovenian's houses, why shouldn't I have the right to discriminate against non-Slovenians?

What law is foolish? It defends the right to discriminate; it just has little to do with actual religious convictions or freedom. It's a law of convenience so that business owners and other organizations don't have to do certain things they don't want to do.

But they are already legally free to do so with or without the law. Merchants are free to refuse to do business with anyone for any reason, unless they belong to a legally-protected class.

The point of discrimination laws is to give people the right to be themselves without others exerting pressure in unrelated facets of life. Letting the law stand like that would be putting a dagger over the heads of people who could, conceivably, be the targets of religiously base discrimination.

But that's the way the law already is. All the Arizona law seems to do is underline the right to discriminate against LGBT's. It may even encourage it. But right now it appears to be legal to do so. 

I think a patient insisting that her abortionist be Catholic is just creating an incident unnecessarily, which is how I view this cake-baking brouhaha. 

no one insists that a 'Catholic surgeon' performs an abortion. What is insisted upon is that a surgeon performs an abortion, and their religious beliefs aren't really relevant from that standpoint. If surgeons can work out a way that abortion is not a service they provide, that's great. Pro-lifers should go that route. If not, provide the service or get another line of work.

It's not comparable to the cake thing though. The baker already makes the cakes. That is a service he provides. He just refuses to provide it to some based not on how he chooses to live, but how they choose to live their personal lives.

But they are already legally free to do so with or without the law. Merchants are free to refuse to do business with anyone for any reason, unless they belong to a legally-protected class.

By 'certain things' I do not mean the realm of all things. I mean a limited set of things. In context, that which the law addresses (which is not just refusal of service).

But that's the way the law already is.

I'm not arguing to the contrary,but what the proposed amendments to the law were seeking to do was to prevent anti-discrimination measures or rulings in the future. That's what it's for.

no one insists that a 'Catholic surgeon' performs an abortion. What is insisted upon is that a surgeon performs an abortion, and their religious beliefs aren't really relevant from that standpoint. If surgeons can work out a way that abortion is not a service they provide, that's great.

Dr. McCarthy works for a hospital where circumcisions are performed, and yet he refuses to perform them for religious reasons, and the hospital has a policy that doctors cannot be asked to violate their religious views. Yet, the parents of little Leon Jones insist that Dr. McCarthy be the one to perform the circumcision.

It's not comparable to the cake thing though. The baker already makes the cakes. That is a service he provides. He just refuses to provide it to some based not on how he chooses to live, but how they choose to live their personal lives.

If he's smart, he just refuses the work, as is his right, without clearly articulating his reasons.

Yet, the parents of little Leon Jones insist that Dr. McCarthy be the one to perform the circumcision.

Why would they be able to do that? I mean, completely remove the religious objection. Why would anyone be able to insist that a doctor performs a procedure they do not perform in their role in the hospital, especially one which is entirely elective?

If it was part of Dr. McCarthy's job, I would expect her to do it when it was required. I do not know why someone would take a job which has requirements they cannot and will not fulfill.

If he's smart, he just refuses the work, as is his right, without clearly articulating his reasons.

Agreed. There are going to be loopholes which may or may not work. I don't think anyone pretends that the law can fix everything, but it becomes a question of what principles the law upholds.

My primary objection -- directed at the law in question and not you specifically -- is when people claim it is about freedom. It isn't. Both sides will claim it's about freedom, yet both will not win (at least not without compromise). It's about deciding a course of action when mutually exclusive interests collide. 

Why would they be able to do that? I mean, completely remove the religious objection. Why would anyone be able to insist that a doctor performs a procedure they do not perform in their role in the hospital, especially one which is entirely elective?

Okay, substitute a baker who objects to gay marriage on religious grounds for the surgeon and baking cakes for gay weddings for he removal of foreskins.

My primary objection -- directed at the law in question and not you specifically -- is when people claim it is about freedom. It isn't. Both sides will claim it's about freedom, yet both will not win (at least not without compromise). It's about deciding a course of action when mutually exclusive interests collide. 

Freedom for one limits the rights of another, and vice versa, of course. If I have a right to, for example, take a "grandfathered in" shortcut across a man's land, he isn't free to stop me.

Okay, substitute a baker who objects to gay marriage on religious grounds for the surgeon and baking cakes for gay weddings for he removal of foreskins.

The baker isn't being asked to perform or participate in a gay  wedding; they're being asked to bake a cake. This does not inherently promote or attack any values. It may be of personal interest to the baker how the cake is used past the point of purchase, but that's up to the consumer (unless there is an intellectual property issue or some agreement between both parties).

I doubt the baker would get in trouble for making a wedding cake which was not specifically same-sex wedding themed if they don't provide such themes. Not all wedding cake makers provide all decoration types.

The baker isn't being asked to perform or participate in a gay wedding; they're being asked to bake a cake.

He's more a participant in some than many of the invited guests who will be there to be there. I'm not sure this distinction would be much comfort to the baker anyway.

Meh, deleted by mistake. I don't care enough about it to reproduce it.

@kris "if you want to support anything goes refusal of service, that's one issue, but let's not pretend that's what the Arizona bill was about."

Yes, that's exactly where I'm coming from. The Arizona law seems to me to be stupidly worded and even more stupidly motivated and I'm NOT pretending my question is about that. That's why I didn't post this as a comment to one of the Arizona discussions. Nor have even once (until now) used the word "religion". I'm interested in a much wider and more general discussion of how a government can force a company to provide goods or services to a particular party.

I read, "shouldn't be able to discriminate". What does that MEAN? I am FULLY in support of confronting discrimination. But, at this point, I feel like a business has the right to withhold their product/service from anyone for any reason. What is the law supposed to do? Again, FORCE the bakery to supply the cake as requested? How does that work? Do we need a US Department of Compliance who visit any non-compliant bakery and make sure that the cake being supplied is of the same quality as their usual cakes?

It's easy to pass legislation and provide enforcement to prevent someone from providing certain products or services, but how can the government possibly FORCE a company (not reliant upon any government money) to supply something if they don't want to. If this is currently being done, please cite. I'm ready and anxious to change my mind for the cause of fighting discrimination.

" I feel like a business has the right to withhold their product/service from anyone for any reason." -Mike

Why should a business transaction involve anything beyond the simple process of exchanging currency for a good/service? There needs to be no consideration by the seller as to the personal lifestyle of the buyer . For a business owner to employ a religious criteria, around which a decision to provide service, or not, to a potential customer is unethical.

Well, that's an attitude, and as such it's an opinion and not a fact. I'm sure many people share your opinion and many don't.

So what is the justification for censoring a potential customer? Besides shorting your business of a potential sale does your decision to not provide service really accomplish anything of value? Sure you're feeding your ego but it does nothing to cause an acceptable change in the other individual.

If I walk into a 7-11 and ask for a Snickers bar should the store owner refuse to sell me the candy bar because I have a turban on my head? WTF?

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