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The Strange Case of the Gay Wedding Cake

On Tuesday the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which makes for an interesting argument.
The Masterpiece Cakeshop in Denver  has a reputation for baking and decorating excellent cakes for most occasions, but despite that and the business’s slightly gay-sounding name the sole proprietor and master baker Jack C. Phillips holds to some unfashionably old-fashioned Biblical opinions about homosexuality and other controversial matters. When a homosexual couple asked Phillips to bake and decorate a cake in celebration of their upcoming nuptials, which have been blessed by a decision of the United States Supreme Court, Phillips politely declined the request based on his religious convictions, and thus he wound up afoul of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and after years of expensive litigation stands before the Supreme Court.
We won’t pretend to understand all the legal concepts involved, especially in the wake of that confounding Obergfell v. Hodges decision giving the Supreme Court’s blessing on same sex-marriages for arguable social justice reasons but with no apparent basis in any plain reading of the Constitution or common law or the past millennia of western civilization, but we more viscerally understand the issue on a personal basis. It’s complicated, of course, but we’re hoping that Phillips and his slightly gay-sounding Masterpiece Cakeshop prevail in the case.
Which is not to say we don’t understand the complicated issues involved in this gay-sounding case. We’re not only old-fashioned Christians but old-fashioned Republicans and strict constitutionalists as well, yet we’re also big fans of poetry and Broadway musicals and genteel manners who have somehow wound up with a suspicious number of homosexual friends over the years, and we have a few lesbians on our block who have proved excellent neighbors, and so far we’ve managed very cvil relations. This gives us hope the Supreme Court will arrive at something as sensible.
A couple of the young women we took an avuncular interest in when they were born have turned out to be lesbians, and one of them has married another woman with the blessings of the United States Supreme Court and her President Donald Trump-loving father, and we have longstanding friendships with a couple of men who have long considered themselves married without the Supreme Court’s blessings, and we’ve also seen quite a few of our friends’ homosexual relationships that didn’t last any longer than any of our heterosexual relationships, and by now we lean on the scriptures about judge not lest ye be judged,  and we wish all our loved ones well. Nor do we judge that artistic baker in Denver who objects to homosexual marriage, though, and we hope the Supreme Court will take a similarly forgiving attitude.
By all accounts, which by now have been long attested to under oath, the baker doesn’t withhold his usual services from homosexual customers. If you’d walked into his shop and declared yourself a homosexual customer wanting to buy a birthday cake for a homosexual friend he would have happily taken the order, and regardless of whether you’re straight or gay he’d have declined a request to bake a Halloween cake on religious grounds. Nothing in our old-fashioned Christian and Republican souls objects to trick-or-treating on Halloween, but both our Christian and libertarian instincts tell us he should have the right.
Those got-durned liberal fashion designers who decline to design dresses for President Donald Trump’s third First Lady deserve the same right, and so does any black baker who declines to decorate a cake with a confederate flag, and so does any homosexual baker who declines the Westboro Baptist Church’s request for a “God hate fags” cake. Outside of the legal arguments and here on the personal level, there’s no way of restricting one person’s liberty without eventually restricting the liberty of someone on the other side of political or cultural divide.
Several of our homosexual friends are close enough that we’ve discussed these issues with them frankly, and they’ve all said that if they wanted to get married with the federal government’s blessing they’d just find another bakery rather than take the case all the way to the Supreme Court. Wichita’s a big enough city they could surely find another baker, as is Denver, and like us they’re not the sorts to make an unnecessary fuss. They have a heightened awareness that a certain level of tolerance for a wide variety  of longstanding views about things is necessary to maintain a civil society, or even a personal relationship with old friends, s9 maybe the Supreme Court will prove just as wise.

— Bud Norman

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The Sisters are Having Nun of It

The Little Sisters of the Poor had their day at the Supreme Court on Wednesday, and we wish them well for a variety of reasons.
The nuns of the venerable order are by all accounts a fine group of women who have devoted their lives to providing care for the elderly poor, and not at all the sorts who would ordinarily find themselves in any court of law, but in ordinary times the government wouldn’t be bullying them into buying contraceptive coverage in their health care plans.
As the Little Sisters have taken a vow of chastity they have no need for such coverage, and therefor object to paying for it, which strikes us as such a reasonable objection it would have ordinarily settled the matter. The notion that the government can force anyone to purchase whatever health care coverage the government deems necessary has already been settled at the Supreme Court, however, so the current case is more specific. There’s also the matter of whether people should be forced to subsidize behaviors they find morally objectionable, but that was largely unsettled by the Hobby Lobby decision, which involved some fine Protestant folks with similar objections, and the current case is unlikely to make that any clearer. Some legal legerdemain in some statement of policy authorized by some agency created and authorized to make policy under some sub-sub-section of the 2,000-plus page Obamacare law has supposedly freed the sisters from directly paying for their own contraception, but in a way that still contributes to the law’s stated objective of making contraception universally available to less chaste women. The Little Sisters of the Poor would rather not participate in that, for beliefs you might not agree with but which we think they’re perfectly entitled to hold, yet at this point it seems more likely to come down to a matter of whether the technicalities found in that 2,000-plus page and already affirmed Obamacare law allow such governmental bullying of such fine women who do all the humble work that the government somehow never gets around to.
Which is why even the most zealously secular sorts should be wishing the Little Sisters of the Poor well. What’s being challenged in the Supreme Court isn’t an act of Congress, but rather an act of an agency that was created by a Congress that hadn’t bothered to read it’s own unreadable act and probably had no idea that it would wind up with the Little Sisters of the Poor being bullied into chipping in so some less chaste women could party it up without consequence, and sooner or later that kind of government’s going to cut even the worst of us down.

— Bud Norman

Hobby Lobby and the End of the World

The Supreme Court released a rather minor ruling in favor of religious freedom on Monday, and from the reaction on the left one might have thought that American womanhood had been consigned to a cruel fate of bare feet and pregnancy. All the wailing and gnashing of teeth resulted from a decision that the staunchly Christian and anti-abortion people who own the Hobby Lobby chain of stores, as well as a relatively small number of other similar-minded owners of “closely held” companies won’t be required by Obamacare to provide insurance coverage for their employees ‘abortifacient costs, and it would seem that a “Handmaiden’s Tale” type of theocratic patriarchy has been instituted as a result.
Any women toiling for the Hobby Lobby chain of stores will still be able to purchase contraceptive coverage that the company will still be be forced to pay for under an arrangement that provides a mere fig leaf of moral distance, and of course they can fornicate to their hearts’ content with the easily affordable coverage they can purchase out of their own pockets, but the Court’s failure to force the company’s owners to directly participate is regarded as a dangerous blow to women’s rights. The White House grouched that “women’s health will be jeopardized,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg served up an outraged dissenting opinion that predicted “havoc,” journalists were bemoaning “an enormous expansion of corporate rights,” and the “Tweets from the left spewed a more foul-mouthed assessment. It all seems disproportionate, given how very narrow the decision was, but at least those foul-mouthed “Tweets” had the virtue of unvarnished honesty,
The White House’s claim that women’s health is jeopardized only makes sense if the life-saving contraceptives in question work only when paid for by employers with a fig-leaf arrangement to provide them moral distance, and its official claim that “women should make personal health decisions for themselves” will be quickly recanted when it argues in an upcoming case that the nuns of the Little Sisters of the Poor shouldn’t be able to decide to forgo contraceptive coverage. Ginsburg is predicting “havoc” because of the slippery slope that slides down from a decision that people should be allowed to follow their own consciences rather than a Democrat-passed and Democrat-signed law about contraceptives, apparently because an unruly populace will start to wonder why it has to put up with any number of other bossy and stupid rules that it never voted for, but she’ll ever admit that on the other side of that metaphorical mountain there is a slippery slope that descends into her preferred judicial precedent that if the government can force staunchly Christian and anti-abortion people to pay for abortifacients there’s nothing it can’t do. Those journalistic complaints about the “enormous expansion of corporate rights” come from journalists employed by fat-corporations that have no moral objections to anything except Republicans, and as always eager they’re to follow the storyline about the Republicans’ “war on women” and their mythical crusade against contraception.
So we’ll at least acknowledge the frankness of that fellow calling himself “ginge” who tweeted an obscene suggestion for Hobby Lobby, religion, and America. In the requisite 26-or-less characters he succinctly summed up the left’s disregard for the rights of businessmen or anybody else with viewpoints differing from the post-modern consensus, for the ancient religious convictions that still give rise to such irritating disagreements, and for a country that has traditionally allowed such dissent. The modern left expects conformity, on almost every issue but especially on matters of sexual behavior, and anyone with qualms about the extermination of fetuses or the celebration of homosexuality are to keep quiet about it, so even a narrow and five-to-four Supreme Court decision to the contrary is irksome. One might well wonder who is trying to impose their moral values on others in this case, but such wonderings are an invitation to anarchy.

— Bud Norman

Nuns Dare Call It Conspiracy

When they’re not pursuing the economic policies that have brought female workforce participation rates to a post-feminism low, or chasing interns around the office, or bemoaning the Republicans’ “War on Women,” Democrats have lately been waging a war on the Little Sisters of the Poor. Surprisingly enough, the Little Sisters of the Poor seem to be getting the better of it.
For those unfamiliar with this fine organization, the Little Sisters of the Poor is an order of Catholic nuns who have been caring for the elderly since Saint Jeanne Jugan brought a blind and paralyzed old woman in from the cold of a French winter in 1839, and despite its good works in cities across America since arriving in Cincinnati in 1868 it went largely unnoticed until the Obamacare law mandated it provide contraception coverage for all its members and workers. The order’s vow of chastity rendered such coverage unnecessary for its members, and its strict adherence to Catholic doctrine made facilitating the use of contraception by any of its more permissive-minded employees a moral hazard, so it took its much-publicized case to court. Although the matter remains to be sorted out by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which will no doubt take its sweet time deciding if the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom still means anything, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the Little Sisters of the Poor can continue their good works in accordance with their consciences until the case reaches a definitive legal conclusion. The injunction was issued without dissent, which bodes well for the Little Sisters’ chances when the case inevitably reaches the highest court.
That would be the highest secular court, of course, and the Little Sisters seem quite confident in winning on their most final appeal. They also stand a good chance of winning in the court of public opinion, which is almost as important and has more far-reaching political implications. Bullying a bunch of nuns who have devoted their lives to serving the aged and needy into subsidizing the swinging sex lives of libidinous young Democrats cannot be good public relations, even in this day and age, and the cautious tone of the mainstream press coverage suggests they’d rather not be talking about the at all. The very name of the case — “Little Sisters of the Poor, et al, V. Sebelius, Sec. of H&HS, et al” — is too damning for most reporters to mention.
Some Democrats are so reverent of government and hostile toward religion that they will instinctively side with the defendant, and for reasons we cannot quite ascertain they are especially annoyed by anything Catholic, but we hope this remains a minority view. Whatever one thinks of the Little Sisters’ theological reasons they cannot be faulted for their undeniable altruism for the neediest people of our society, as much as Democrats might resent the proof they have no monopoly on that virtue, and they make for a very sympathetic plaintiff. The more hysterical leftists are already alleging a papist conspiracy by the Court’s unprecedented Catholic majority, but they can’t deny that the majority is comprised of justices from both the right and left, that none of the Protestant minority offered a dissent, that the plaintiff’s “et al” includes numerous Protestant charities, that the main defendant and many of her own “et als” are Catholics, and that the underlying issue of freedom of religion is of vast importance to any person of faith no matter his creed.
Higher costs, less coverage, massive federal debt, bureaucratic bungling, and countless other practical problems are the main reasons for Obamacare’s widespread unpopularity and eventual repeal, but here’s hoping that its iron-fisted authoritarianism and lack of regard for individual rights has something to do with it as well. If the government can force the Little Sisters of the Poor to act against their highly-refined consciences, it will be hard for anyone to resist, and if the Little Sisters of the Poor can prevail, it will be a victory for everyone.

— Bud Norman

Schools of Thought

The most overlooked story of recent days concerns a German family whose parents have been jailed after police invaded their home with a battering ram and took custody of their children, all for the crime of home-schooling. This sounds like an overlooked story from 1936, when the Nazis were exerting totalitarian rule over Germany, but it happened recently and America’s government is complicit in the outrage.
Chances are that you’ve never heard of the Romeikes, either, but they’re another German family who earlier this year sought political asylum in America after being threatened with the same draconian treatment for the same peaceable behavior. These folks apparently assumed that our longstanding tradition of protecting individual liberty would guarantee them safe refuge from such tyranny, but the Obama administration has decided to return them to the harsh justice of their homeland. Thus far the administration has not complied with a Supreme Court order to respond to the Reimeike’s petition for asylum, so one can only speculate on its reasons for such an outrageous decision. Perhaps it’s merely a diplomatic nicety, meant to compensate for previous indignities against the German state ranging from bugging its leaders’ phones to snubbing an invitation to participate in the anniversary of its re-unification, but the administration has gained a reputation exceptionally lenient in its attitude toward asylum requests coming from even the friendliest countries, so we can’t help suspecting it has more to do with domestic politics.
One likely explanation is the administration’s obligations to its loyal supporters in the teachers’ unions, who rightly regard home-schooling as a growing threat to its nearly monopolistic control of America’s educational system, but we can’t help further suspecting that that Obama has his own reasons for opposing the fundamental right and responsibility of a parent to educate his or her own children. In America as well as throughout Europe, the left insist that this right and responsibility be sole province of the state.
There is ample evidence that home-schooled children fare at least as well in life as their government-educated counterparts, and far better than the poor lads relegated to the most dysfunctional districts of the public education system, but the left has constantly sought to either ban the practice or exert control of it through regulation. The objections raised range from the home-schoolers’ alleged lack of socialization, as if failing to learn high school’s caste system of jocks, nerds, and stoners will somehow hamper them throughout their adult lives, to a hysterical insistence that home-schooling parents are all a bunch of Bible-thumping hillbilly anarchists. The popular stereotype of a home-schooled student as a socially-awkward religious nut is rooted in the true and entirely unembarrassing fact that many of them are evangelical Christians, as are the Romeikes, but it is belied by the fact that so many of them are clearly superior as citizens to their more secularly educated peers. In this country many home-schooled children are also products of distinctly non-religious and even hippy-dippy homes, which might explain why home-schooling has not yet been forcibly banned in this country, but even in those cases there is a nagging concern that youngsters might not be getting the officially-sanctioned lessons of the government.
In our conversations with the horrified opponents of home-schooling we have always reached an admission from them that they are most worried that the home-schooled children will question the approved opinions of global warming, cultural relativism, Darwinism in both its anthropological and sociological senses, and any number of other important issues. Only the state should decide what the young are taught about these matters, the left believes, and letting the Romeikes be free to form their opinions would therefore be intolerable.
If the Obama administration has a better reason for denying these people their rights as human beings, we will be eager to hear it when they finally get around to making their response.

— Bud Norman