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A Last-ditch Effort to Save the Original RFRA in Indiana: ‘Cake is Speech’

— April 5, 2015

This is not an April Fools’ joke, I promise. Although it is one of the most entertaining pieces of news I’ve seen all week. I strongly suggest you put down your fork before reading further. I wouldn’t want you to choke on your cake, er, speech.

Indiana Baptist pastor Tim Overton, in a Thursday morning interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep, said the RFRA’s critics are wrong when they say that the Act would allow discrimination against LGBTQ people. “I don’t think any RFRA anywhere would say, ‘I’m not gonna give you a hotel room, I’m not gonna give you a hamburger, or gasoline or groceries. That’s outside the bounds.”

Wait. I can gaily ask for, and receive, a hamburger and a fill-up, but an “Adam and Steve” cake and some flamboyant cattleya orchids cross a line into depriving someone of their 1st Amendment rights?

It gets better. This ridiculous assertion is actually working its way into one of the compromise approaches to RFRA laws. Enter everyone’s favorite humanitarian, Jeb Bush, as he asks a group of Silicon Valley business leaders for money:

“By the end of the week, I think Indiana will be in the right place, which is to say that we need in a big diverse country like America, we need to have space for people to act on their conscience, that it is a constitutional right that religious freedom is a core value of our country.”

If you’re as confused as I am by that mish-mash of words strung together to hopefully resemble a sentence that would convince Republicans to open their checkbooks, don’t feel badly. It’s a convoluted, contradictory piece of cake if I ever saw one.

Overton goes on to say, that most Americans wouldn’t agree that a pastor should be compelled to marry gay people and that florists and bakers should be free from compulsion to use their artistic abilities to support a gay wedding. In Overton’s opinion, the wedding cake fairly screams, “We celebrate this union!” and such “speech” shouldn’t be forced.

Because everyone knows that the star of any wedding is the baker. The knowledge that the baker approves of the wedding is the sole focus of the day.

Inskeep asked how such determinations would be made, which services represented “speech” and which did not. Overton responded, “I think that distinction will be played out in the court. All the legislature can do is pass principles to guide the court.” I must have missed the memo from the Religious Right saying it was OK with “activist judges”…

Here, have another slice of Jeb’s “speech” in Silicon Valley:

“I do think if you’re a florist and you don’t want to participate in the arrangement of a wedding, you shouldn’t have to be obliged to do that if it goes against your faith because you believe in traditional marriage. Likewise if someone walked into a flower shop as a gay couple and said I want to buy all these off the rack, these flowers, they should have every right to do it. That would be discrimination. But forcing someone to participate in a wedding is not discrimination; it is I think protecting the first amendment right.”

The distinction is there, buried under a heap of frosting. You just have to dig for it. Really, really dig for it. Allow me to do the digging for you, if you don’t mind. I’ve always been a fan of frosting anyway.

If I walk into Freddy Florist’s shop and ask him to make 100 centerpieces for my big gay wedding, he has a Constitutionally protected Free Speech right to say, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” However, if Brad Pitt and I walk into his shop and simply say, “We love your alstroemerias! They’d make perfect centerpieces for our wedding!” Freddy will happily take Brad’s AMEX and sell us 100 flowers.

You see, under the RFRA, Freddy’s love for Jesus is not offended by taking our money as long as he doesn’t have to do anything for it. Heaven forbid (literally) that he sullies himself by arranging the centerpieces for us. Despite the fact that it would cost three-times as much and Brad’s AMEX has no limit.

The same goes for Billy Baker. However, the determination might be easier to make in the case of Philip Photographer. You see, Philip would actually have to attend the wedding and be subjected to seeing two people celebrate their love and take pictures of them kissing. This is Rick Santorum’s position. He followed it up with, “I think in a world where have true tolerance, and we allow people to live their faith in their jobs, then I think we allow space for everybody unless there’s a compelling interest not to.” [Emphasis mine]

What a piece of cake!

Of course, there are serious aspects to this stance and I promise it’s not the sugar talking. Namely, where does one draw the line (regardless of Overton’s insistence that the courts would do it)? Billy and Freddy and Philip could refuse to service Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, Catholic weddings and sports teams who don’t begin every game with a prayer. Pizza parlors could claim 1st Amendment rights and refuse to cater these same events. So too, could hamburger joints and clowns. I promise, none will be present when Brad and I say “I do.”

I honestly wish I could say that this is an April Fools’ prank post. Wouldn’t it just be perfect? Sadly, this is all real news. I look forward to the next report on this issue:

Restaurant Requires Baptismal Certificates for Party of Five



The right’s “cake” insanity: You won’t believe how it’s trying to deflect the Indiana backlash

Jeb’s Spineless Cave to Donors: Why He’s Really Backtracking on the Indiana Law

Indiana Pizza Shop Won’t Cater Gay Wedding

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