Skip to comments.George Will Is Wrong about Masterpiece Cakeshop: The Right NOT to Promote a Message is Protected
Posted on 12/05/2017 7:13:17 AM PST by SeekAndFind
Its astounding how many defenses of the states position in Masterpiece Cakeshop depend on misrepresentation and misconceptions. Last week I wrote about the most common misrepresentation that Jack Phillips discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation when he refused to design a custom cake for a same-sex-wedding celebration. After all, he served all customers regardless of race, sex, or sexual orientation. He just consistently refused to design cakes that advanced messages he disagreed with. No person of any identity has the legal authority to compel an artist to use his talents to advance a cause the artist finds offensive.
This weekend, unfortunately, one of the all-time greats of the conservative movement, George Will, advanced a different misconception to conclude that, yes, the state should be able to conscript Phillipss talents. After committing the common sin of declaring that a finding for Masterpiece Cakeshop would render key parts of the 1964 Civil Rights Act quite porous, Will declares that Phillipss expression is simply not constitutionally protected:
It is difficult to formulate a limiting principle that draws a bright line distinguishing essentially expressive conduct from conduct with incidental or negligible expressive possibilities. Nevertheless, it can be easy to identify some things that clearly are on one side of the line or the other. So, regarding Phillips creations:
A cake can be a medium for creativity; hence, in some not-too-expansive sense, it can be food for thought. However, it certainly, and primarily, is food. And the creators involvement with it ends when he sends it away to those who consume it.
Will is quite correct that there exists a line between conduct and expressive conduct. Lets take as one example the floodlights that illuminate the White House. On a normal evening they are certainly and primarily intended to do one thing and one thing only light up the building. But there are other times when the primary purpose changes. Such as the night of June 26, 2015, when the White house was set aglow with rainbow pride. The Supreme Court had just held that there exists a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, and to celebrate the occasion, the White House lights looked like this:
Is the lighting primarily intended for illumination here? Or is it intended to send a very specific political statement? Every reasonable observer knows the answer.
Now, lets consider the facts of the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. The gay couple eventually selected a rainbow cake to celebrate their nuptials. This decision was every bit as expressive as the White Houses decision to light up its façade. Given the context and the occasion, the meaning was abundantly clear to even the most casual attendee. There is no ambiguity here.
Theres a line, moreover, in Wills piece that demonstrates surprising ignorance about weddings despite the fact that Will has undoubtedly attended countless ceremonies in his long and illustrious career. Who has ever said that a wedding cake was primarily food? No one wants the cake to taste like trash, but is that the reason that brides, moms, and wedding planners agonize over their cake choice? (Grooms are more likely to be indifferent.) No, they want the cake to be beautiful. They want it to be dare I say it a work of art.
Rare is the person who attends the wedding reception eager to chow down on a piece of wedding cake. The common and nearly universal experience in weddings where the bride and groom have even the smallest budget to celebrate is the gathering of guests around the cake, to proclaim how amazing it looks, to admire the specific aspects that make it special, the perfect cake for the perfect couple.
In ordinary circumstances, the artistry of cake designers is so obvious that its presumed the same with photographers, calligraphers, and florists. This obvious artistry is a reason why no one bats an eye when a baker refuses to design, say, a Confederate-flag cake. The message it is sending is staring you in the face. But a message may be implicit instead, present though not obvious, even if the artistry is. For example, does anyone believe that the prohibitions against sex discrimination would compel a fashion designer to create a dress for Melania or Ivanka Trump?
There is no ambiguity as to whether the design of the cake in this case communicated a message.
There is no slippery slope between Masterpiece Cakeshop and segregated lunch counters. There is no ambiguity as to whether the design of the cake in this case communicated a message. The Supreme Court can, in fact, rule in favor of Jack Phillips without doing the slightest bit of harm to generations of civil-rights case law. In fact, it can explicitly reaffirm its rulings in those cases at the same time that it defends free speech. Its that simple.
It cannot, however, rule against Phillips without committing an act of judicial violence against both the First Amendment and common sense. Phillips doesnt discriminate on the basis of any persons identity. He was asked to engage in an act of artistic expression that communicated a specific cultural, religious, and political message. The Constitution and generations of Supreme Court precedent hold that he has the right to refuse to speak that message regardless of whether its delivered by punditry or by pastry.
David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and an attorney.
If a heterosexual comes into a Christian bakery and asks for a “wedding cake” for two homosexual friends, and the baker refuses to make it for him, then how exactly is the baker engaging in any kind of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation?
I absolutely HATE where this conversation is going. Now we’re flirting with the idea that discrimination against “gays” may not be kosher, but against events only.
This could have been a landmark case to bust open the fascist nature of “anti-discrimination” laws as they apply to private businesses and associations, but they won’t go there. What a tragically lost opportunity.
> one of the all-time greats of the conservative movement, George Will <
Well, at least the author has a sense of humor.
Will’s a fool as has been proven over and over again.
These bakers need to come up with a different reason for not making these cakes. And then, if forced, add a little something to the batter. (In fact, gay websites always warn their brethren of this possibility.)
RE: He was refusing to let his artwork honor a particular event.
Bingo, THAT is the main issue. The Baker could have served the gay couple or any gay who came in for ANY cake ( e.g. a birthday cake ).
Clearly a FIRST AMENDMENT issue which SHOULD protect the baker.
Anyway, I think there is a big Catch-22 in all of this--what is a business allowed to do or not do? The cake shop, Twitter, Facebook, your local Internet provider, etc. Shall all be able to impose their viewpoint on others? Thus, no conservative on the Internet, no conservative "right to refuse service" at the cake shop? While I agree that the cake shop, the wedding photographer, and others have right to refuse service, we need to reconcile this with the same right of Twitter and Facebook to refuse service. Same with Internet Service Providers that choose not to deliver certain URL addresses (heck, they might based on our desire for the cake shop, apply the same to block FR). That is the challenge, how do we apply personal rights to commercial entities. I think the only way is to say that commercial entities don't have 1st amendment rights of their owners, they are privileged organizations and have public responsibility.
That’s a different kind of heterosexual of course, who is included under the second A of LBGTQQIAAP, namely “allies”.
I wonder how Karl-Maria Kertbeny, the journalist who coined “homosexual” and “heterosexual”, would regard the ever-changing expansion of pseudoterms that his own pseudoterms spawned.
Substitute "house" for "cake," and "Frank Lloyd Wright" for "Jack Phillips." Does Will's argument still hold up?
Clearly, a house is primarily for dwelling, so why are Wright's houses so famous?
To keep up with the food metaphor: Will’s a fruitcake.
Will is a swamp creature looking out for fellow swamp creatures.
George Will is “Willfully Ignorant” in this matter.
He knows damn well that Mike had sold product to these guys many times before.
There is NO legal compulsion for him to participate in a fraudulent ceremony.
I had my fill of Will after his book "Pursuit of Virtue and Other Tory Notions" came out in the 80s. It wasn't the book per se. It was that shortly after the book came out that it was revealed he was banging some bimbo on the side.
He divorced his wife, dumping her, leaving her with three kids to raise including one with Down's syndrome.
Call me old fashioned but I find it rather unsavory to be pushing a book on the virtues of virtue, while engaging in a personal life that was quite the opposite.
If he refused to make a cake for the (statistically unlikely) same sex marriage of two heterosexual men (for tax reasons perhaps) would this even end up in court?
George Will is usually always wrong.
Forcing someone to say something with a gun to their heads is called something. What could that be? Hmmm.
Problem George - they offer to sell their bake goods to anyone - there’s just some messages they will not utilize their artistic abilities to create.......I bet they would also refuse to put, “All faggots should eat $#!+ and die” on a cake too....
"How am I supposed to know whether they're homosexual or heterosexual?"
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