When Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a proposed law which would have allowed Arizona business owners to refuse service to gays and lesbians, based on their religious beliefs, she sent a message that the cost of doing business in Arizona includes serving everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation. If the law had passed, business owners in Arizona would have been given a license to publicly discriminate against others based on their personal religious beliefs. Proponents of the law argued such action was necessary to prevent discrimination against those who choose to infuse religion into the workplace. But the fact of the matter is that religious beliefs, or my personal aversions to those who smell bad, don’t get to be used as an excuse to discriminate.
The catalyst that may have been the foundation for Arizona’s proposed law was a Colorado wedding cake baker who was sued by a same-sex couple because the owner refused to bake them a cake, citing religious beliefs. According to CBS Denver, a Colorado judge ruled that Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips would have to serve same-sex couples or face penalties. Phillips’ attorney, Nicolle Martin, said the baker was being forced to act against his faith. “He can’t violate his conscience in order to collect a paycheck,” Martin said. “If Jack can’t make wedding cakes, he can’t continue to support his family. And in order to make wedding cakes, Jack must violate his belief system.”
While Martin’s argument may at first seem logical, the truth is that it is as flawed as my desire to have people screened for proper hygienic standards before I decide whether or not I will help them. I’m under no obligation to continue working at my well-paying job that requires I not only help people but get along with them as well. I could always quit and work as a ditch digger in a cemetery, and while working with the dead would be far more appealing than helping the living, it probably wouldn’t pay quite as well. Phillips may not like having to go against his religious beliefs by baking cakes for gay couples, but apparently he likes baking cakes, and such is the cost of doing business in America. And besides, exactly where does it say in the Bible that baking cakes for homosexuals is a sin?
Business owners like Phillips should take a long, hard look at the delicate balance of religion and business managed by the late Larry H. Miller who owned, among other things, the Utah Jazz. Miller, a devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was confronted with the moral dilemma of having to serve beer to patrons as well as having games played on Sundays, both of which went against his religious beliefs. However, Miller realized the cost of owning a NBA team included doing things that may have gone against his beliefs, but that didn’t mean he had to go against his religion. Miller made the choice not to attend basketball games on Sunday and understood that just because he sold beer didn’t mean he had to drink it himself. He used his franchise to serve the public and not discriminate against them for having different beliefs, and as a result, he made a boatload of money.
So despite my initial inclination to support any law that would allow me to refuse to help those I’d rather not, I find myself pleased with the fact that Arizona business owners, along with wedding cake guru Phillips, will not be able to have their cake and eat it too when it comes to deciding whom they will and won’t serve. Because as far as I’m concerned, if I have to help people who look funny and smell like dead fish in order to keep living in my personal bubble of self-righteousness, then so does everyone else.