5 min read

The Problem of Freedom of Choice vs Discrimination

The Problem of Freedom of Choice vs Discrimination
Over the last few days I’ve been monitoring responses to one of my articles on Medium, 

Not Having to Bake Cakes for LGBTQ People Is an Insult to Humanity.

I responded to the most lengthy comment  by writing a post instead of a direct response. I’ve been publishing articles on Th-Ink Queerly since November 2017. I’m surprised it’s taken this long to get my first “hater.”

James Finn waded into the fray, dressed in linguistic battle fatigues. I admire him for his wisdom and eloquence. He said his piece. He tried. But sometimes in these situations it’s like we’re bashing our heads against the wall with no end in sight for the blood in our eyes.

It was my turn to put my foot down, but not with name calling. It’s easy to do. I’ve done it. I hate when I lose control and bitch out someone. There is no reasoning in shouting.

After breaking down my thoughts in a respectful, sentence-by-sentence fashion, I concluded with a question to the commentor:

“Do you believe we should have the freedom of choice to discriminate against a human beings based on their skin-colour, their race, their gender, or their sexuality?”

Her response:

“Yes I do, provided it is in a private capacity. I do not think it is always right but I do think it is a natural right. In other words I do not think it is productive or polite but I think that having laws that punish people for it are counter-productive.

“I do not believe that a woman’s group should be forced to accept men. I do not think that a men’s group should be forced to include women. I do not think that a black club should be forced to allow white people and I do not think that a gay club is doing anything wrong by refusing entry to straight people. I also do not think that a Jewish group should be forced to accept Christians or that a Christian baker should be forced to cater to a celebration that goes against her religious beliefs.

“I also do not believe that a Muslim deli should be forced to sell bacon sandwiches.”

There are several problems with this person’s line of reasoning.

The problem is about her individual and discriminatory view of freedom of choice.

There are at least two layers to this problem. The first is her concept of discrimination. We need to understand the difference between discrimination and exclusion (and/or possibly membership).

The Google definition of exclusion is, "the process or state of excluding or being excluded" (e.g. "drug users are subject to exclusion from the military.”)

The Google definition of discrimination is, "the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex," (e.g. “victims of racial discrimination”)

We might exclude someone from a group for safety reasons, e.g. if someone has a history of drug abuse, the could be a danger to themselves and others if given a weapon. We might exclude straight people from our gay club so that we feel we have a safe space. Women might exclude men from some gatherings for the same reasons.

I think the definition of discrimination speaks for itself.

The deeper problem with this on-going argument about the right NOT to bake a cake for “whom” stems from religion.

The issues I have with religion are religious doctrines and secular laws.

Secular laws are not laid out by a so-called higher power. They are written and enforced by human beings who want power and control.

A simple example is the Catholic church only allowing unmarried men — not women — to be ordained as priests. There isn’t enough room in this article for me to dissect Vatican council edicts. Having done some research, there is more than enough room for interpretation that is the bias of the interpreter himself (note gender).

And just because words are written down in a book called the bible does not mean it’s factually true or that it’s the word of a higher power. But I digress.

When secular laws are cloaked in the language of a higher power, a believer believes they have god-given rights. Religion is power and preaching to a congregation is a form of mind control. This, in part, is why I made the statement in one of my posts, Fuck the Prejudiced Heteronormative Prison of Marriage,

“The bible is not something you can trust.”

Do you think we have freedom of choice?

First we need to ask, “How do we define freedom in our world?”

Freedoms have limits.

Some freedom needs to be legislated in favour of the oppressed, the marginalized, and those without rights and legal representation.

We need to make these choices with the aim of creating an inclusive society.

Coming back to the example of the California baker. Cathy Miller made the choice of refusing to bake a cake for a lesbian wedding.

The problem here is not what she was being asked to do. As per the fallacious argument from the commenter above,

“I also do not believe that a Muslim deli should be forced to sell bacon sandwiches.”

A Muslim deli is not required to do “what?” They are not required to sell an animal product. This is an example of exclusion.

The problem here is “who.” Who does the baker not want to sell a cake to. And this is discrimination plain and clear.

The baker believes some human beings are flawed, sinful, and not deserving of the same rights and privileges she is afforded based on her beliefs.

To have equitable human rights, to maintain a positive flow of freedom of choice, we often need to take affirmative action in favour of those who are not considered equal.

This is not discrimination against the baker and her religious beliefs. Religion is not who the baker is. She was not born a Christian, or however she classifieds herself.

No one should be prejudiced against because of how they were born.

We live in a society that maintains a power structure which benefits those with the greatest amount of power and wealth.

Power in the United States is most often white male, heterosexual, and usually some form of Christianity.

When you live within that framework, that mindset, of course you don’t want to extend rights outside of your circle of control. Of course you don’t want to let others into your circle, because they wouldn’t stand for the things you believe in.

This is why the baker must not be allowed to refuse service, i.e. to bake cakes for anyone who walks through her door. Otherwise she should stop baking all together.

Another distinction about rights and freedoms.

You have the right to perform an activity that doesn’t harm another person. Whether you bake cakes, work as an architect, or write for a living.

But when you say to another human being, “I do not serve your kind,” that becomes a violation of human rights.

Even if we still don’t have adequate legal language to make this clear beyond argument, this is not “right.”

The lesbian couple purchasing the cake is not forcing the baker to participate in their wedding. All they are doing is requesting a transaction. They wanted to give the baker money for her to provide the service of baking a cake. They didn’t invite the baker to their wedding.

So bake the fucking cake and have a piece too!