In arguing that it’s perfectly acceptable to deny private services, such as a seat at a restaurant, to fascists such as Sarah Huckabee Sanders, some folks have invoked the decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop. I understand the the point: If you can invoke religious objections to deny gay people service, why can’t you invoke religious objections to white supremacy and genocidal policies such as separating immigrant mothers from their nursing babies to deny Nazis dinner?
But the comparison isn’t really apt.
First, Masterpiece Cakeshop didn’t say that you could use religion to deny service to gay people. It said that the Colorado Civil Right’s Commission didn’t hear the case without prejudice. That was a cowardly dodge that didn’t answer the central question of using religion to justify discriminatio at all.
Second, the baker in Masterpiece Cakeshop discriminates against a whole class of people based on a protected status. (In Colorado at the time, discrimination against people because of their sexuality was against the law.) Despite claims that the Red Hen restaurant owner is “prejudiced,” nothing could be further from the truth! Prejudice is when you negatively stereotype a whole group of people and then treat them in accordance with that stereotype. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, as an individual, makes it clear to the world that she supports the racist, nativist, misogynistic agenda of Donald Trump. She was treated in accordance to the way she presents herself. If someone talks like a fascist, supports a fascist, and advances fascism, it is reasonable to assume that they are a fascist. She was being accurately, not unfairly, judged.
Third, the plaintiff in Masterpiece Cakeshop argued that he wasn’t denying the same-sex couple service in general but only denying them services that would force him to express approval of their marriage. Again, the court neither agreed nor disagreed with this, but, even if it did agree with the plaintiff, that is very different from denying Nazis any service it all. A printer might decide, for example, that she can’t print them posters with Mike Huckabee’s racist tweet on it because promoting racism violates her religious beliefs. But, on the surface, that seems different from saying that you can’t do ANYTHING for a Nazi.
Unless you argue that it’s a violation of your religious belief to help a Nazi in any way.
Which I think is a totally reasonable argument.
Above, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, probably lying in defense of the human rights abuses of the Trump Administration.
I don’t mean that if SHS were on fire, you should let her burn rather than pass her a bucket of water. I mean that when people do shameful things, like lying to the public and invoking Scripture to justify genocide, it’s okay to allow them to experience the shaming that results from their shameful choices (but not for a public fire department to refuse to hose down her burning house or a public hospital to refuse to admit her or a county clerk to refuse her a marriage license). Words matter. What we say has social consequences, and sometimes they involve people not wanting to be associated with us or even have us in their line of vision.
Whether immigration is a problem is a matter of debate. If it is a problem, what we should do about it is a matter of debate. That we should respond to asylum-seekers is less of a debate, though working out the technical details of that response requires discussion and thought. SHS does not care about democratic debate. If she did, she wouldn’t lie about basic facts. She would allow people the facts they need to make informed opinions. So we’re not talking about “respecting differences of opinion.” We’re talking about whether people who kidnap children as a matter of policy should be treated as if they were decent human beings when they are not.
We should protect the rights of LGBTQ+ consumers (and I think that, ultimately, SCOTUS will make that explicit) because their sexuality does not diminish their dignity. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ fascism does. And it is respectful, I think, to treat people in accordance with their actions, not to rescue them from such choices.