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#CakeGate: can you refuse service on the basis of faith? Show more Show less

The cake that Colorado baker Jack Phillips refused to bake was the kindling that lit a nation-wide discussion in the USA. Can a business deny service to an individual on the basis of their sexual orientation? As the Supreme Court came to a verdict in favour of the baker, the narrowness of the ruling still left the question unanswered. The baker was quickly followed by others who stood up in solidarity of his beliefs such as the Richland florist and the Kentucky county clerk. The resultant discussion has pitted religious freedom against the civil liberties of same-sex couples and LGBT individuals.

Yes, service can be refused on grounds of religion in all cases Show more Show less

Forcing an individual to provide a service against their will and religious beliefs is wrong
(1 of 3 Positions) Next >

Religious freedom is uniquely important

Why would we make somebody provide a service they deem immoral and wrong?
(1 of 2 Arguments) Next >

Context

The majority of people refusing service to LGBT couples do so because of religious beliefs. How do we reconcile the right of the baker or the florist to their religious freedom with the right of the newlyweds to non-discrimination.

The Argument

Many people’s religious beliefs are the reason they refuse service to a same-sex marriage ceremony. For these people, their religion is the core of what they believe in and is at the heart of how they see themselves as people. 

Being a part of a ceremony that they believe to be deeply immoral and sinful is for them a burden of immense weight that would cause them great distress - distress that is greater than the requirements of tolerance. It would be akin to violence to force a baker to bake a cake that they believe will condemn them to an eternity of suffering. 

 Therefore, the right of the baker to religious freedom is more important than the right of the same-sex couple to that cake, because the pain caused through an assault on religious freedom is greater than that caused by a refusal of a service, even a service as intimate as a wedding cake.

Counter arguments

There are two responses to this argument. Firstly, what is it that makes religious belief so specially protected. Many of us hold beliefs we care deeply about, yet do not get the same protected status in the eyes of the law. Secondly, even if religious beliefs are special, we often don't allow them to be enforced to the point of harming other people. For example, if a religious community were to say that they wish to self-flagellate, we would be alright with that. However, if they were to ask for permission to flagellate all citizens in service to their beliefs, we would say that is too much harm to be causing. We think that religious rights are enforceable only insofar as they do not harm others.

Framing

Premises

P1. In weighing the importance of rights, we consider the net harms that compromising those rights will cause and weigh to minimise those harms. 

 P2. There is something especially potent about the harm we cause people when seriously violating their religious rights.

 P3. Forcing someone to provide a service they believe to be immoral is a serious violation of their religious rights. 

 P4. This harm will always outweigh the harm caused to someone who is refused a service. 
C1. We therefore should prioritise the baker’s right to religious freedom over the right of non-discrimination.

Rejecting the premises

P2. There is something especially potent about the harm we cause people when seriously violating their religious rights.

 There is nothing special about religious rights - we all holds strong beliefs that we cannot weaponise against others. P4. This harm will always outweigh the harm caused to someone who is refused a service. This isn't always true. More importantly, how we weigh those harms.

Proponents

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    This page was last edited on Sunday, 2 Sep 2018 at 16:27 UTC