Multi-tiered rainbow wedding cake.

When equal protections clash

We have protected groups in this country. Disabilities, gender, race, LGBT, etc.. We have protected rights in this country. Free speech, religious freedom,  etc..

These protections are considered equal protections. Well, that’s not true, because technically speaking protected rights are a part of the original bill of rights and a fundamental aspect of the constitution of the country, whereas most of the protected groups have come about through legislation and enforcement rather than constitutional amendment.

Multi-tiered rainbow wedding cake.
Very cool cake made by Haley Cakes and Cookies in Austin, Texas.

Although not exactly equal in reality, in practice their equality is logically considered equal in truth. If one group is protected all the time, and one right is protected all the time, then it is of little consequence which came first or second or where one is written since they are enforced in the same manner.

So let’s talk about cakes, because they are the cause of a whole lot of angst in the news right now.

Everyone is talking about religious cakes, gay cakes, pro-gay marriage cakes, pro-traditional marriage cakes, etc…

This narrative has taken the path in complete opposition to ‘let them eat cake’ where, instead, the entire argument is about who should be able to eat the proverbial cake.

I’m not even going to bother going into a long rant about why I think all the current wave of cake love and hate and general opinion is purposely riled up political maneuvering by the Democratic party to draw attention away from their scandal-prone chosen candidate, Hillary, while she’s in the midst of her email-gate. I’m not attempting to suggest that I think politicians attempting to control the media narrative is even a bad thing… I think it’s just a pretty normal part of messaging.

What bothers me are the people who are driven into a frenzy over something orchestrated to make them upset, without even being based on anything good to be upset about, merely because they allow themselves to be so intellectually vulnerable to these tactics. In other words – stupid irritates me, wily not so much.

Now, anyone who knows anything about me knows that I don’t have issues with people who identify LGBT out of some dislike for queerness. The only time I have issues with people who identify LGBT is when they (or anyone else) try to restrict, limit, or deny someone else their rights.

When someone starts on a ‘you don’t have the right to X, Y, Z’ … it typically catches my attention and usually not in a good way. Doesn’t matter what group is starting the fight.

As I mentioned at the beginning, there are specific, well-defined, rights and protections in this country. Outside those rights and protections, is a grey zone of something I like to call ‘opinion.’

So let’s get to Indiana, the 20th state to develop a religious protection law. Suddenly, people are upset. Unless you are suspicious of the timing of this particular upset (as I am), you might wonder if there is anything significantly different about this law.

Well first of all, unless you haven’t looked at any news lately, you probably know that this law is being called an anti-gay license, a hate law, etc…

Let’s try some reality. Here’s the relevant text of the law, previous and after sections include definitions but if you want to read the entire text (which is only a couple of pages) the law is here.

Extract from previous link:

Sec. 8 (b). A governmental entity may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if the governmental entity demonstrates that application of the burden to the person:
(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest;
(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

Sec. 9. A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, regardless of whether the state or any governmental entity is a party to the proceeding. If the relevant governmental entity is not a party to the proceeding, the governmental entity has an unconditional right to intervene in order to respond to the person’s invocation of this chapter.

So that’s the law. Find anything about gays in there? Notice that it’s actually talking mostly about where a government can burden someone and when it can’t? If you read that text you’re already far around the curve from most of the people who are chiming in on and protesting something they haven’t even read.

The big hoopla is about the part that says ‘regardless of whether the state or any governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.’

What that means is that the burden of religious exercise can be caused by a non-governmental entity — to include individuals as well. It does however say that the governmental entity has the unconditional right to intervene in those cases and determine if there is a substantial burden.

So… basically, all it says is that if the government is trying to burden your religion, they have to meet 2 conditions (section 8). If an individual is trying to burden your religion, you have legal recourse to prevent yourself from having your religious practice burdened by asking a governmental entity to intervene.

Now, anyone who paid any attention to the religious protection supreme court ruling regarding contraceptive coverage by companies in the context of Obamacare, knows about proof of burden of religion. It has to be about something IN your religion, and it has to be a recognized religion. You can’t just make up anything.

For example, lets say that a gay couple walks into a bakery and want to purchase some plain cupcakes. Let’s say that they are wearing t-shirts that say ‘we’re a gay couple’ so there is absolutely no question about it. If the Christian owners refuse to sell to them based on them being homosexual, that is not going to be protected by religion and will be discrimination.

The reason is that Christianity treats homosexuality as a sin, and like any other sin, people who sin must be accepted, loved, and given an opportunity to repent and be forgiven.

Now, whether you agree with any of that is irrelevant. The point is that the religious protection would not be able to form the basis for refusing to serve someone a box of plain cupcakes, because the religion being used as the basis does not include any requirement to refuse sinners service. On the contrary, there are numerous examples in the bible of sinners being welcomed in.

In stark contrast to that is gay marriage. Now, for those with limited knowledge of religion, this may not seem like a different topic. Trust me, it is a huge difference.

The reason there is a big difference is on several levels. First of all, from an etymological standpoint, the word matrimony derives from two Latin words: mater (mother) and the ending -monium (the act, state, or condition of). [ etymological reference ]

That word clearly represents that matrimony is the state of creating a mother. The obvious indication being that there is a female involved, and childbearing is necessarily included in the process.

If you know your history, you know that marriages have been able to be annulled (undone and made as if they never existed) if one of the couple cannot create children. This is still the case today, and forms the basis for the historical concept of marriage between man and women for children in an etymological sense.

That said, Christians are the focus of the cake issue, so I’ll stick to that area. Most Christian denominations (sects) consider marriage or ‘holy matrimony’ to be a sacrament.

Again, for those unfamiliar with religion, sacraments are a huge deal. Some groups (such as Baptists) may use the word ‘Ordinance’ instead, and Jews may call them ‘Rites’ or laws, and other groups may use varying terminology, but they typically apply to a very small handful of extremely important things that can only be done by the church.

These sacraments typically include things like Baptism, Communion, and Matrimony. These are considered sacred rites performed as part of the practice of religion and bound to certain rules or procedures for them to be valid.

Knowingly having or participating in an invalid sacrament is a major problem because the event would be a heresy. In most Christian sects, a homosexual marriage would be an invalid sacrament, and those attending would be knowingly participating in that.

Some religions, such as Catholics, have very specific rules for dealing with things where you participate but aren’t the primary offender. Going back to the cake thing… people might ask how making a wedding cake can make you a sinner in your religion.

It’s more simple than you might think. Much like our laws that say that aiding someone in a crime is an endorsement of the act, the Catholic religious laws (the Canon) say that material participation in sin is still endorsement of that sin and thus, the sin itself.

Here’s a quick summary from a Catholic Cannon lawyer on this topic:

Catholics who promote “same-sex marriage” act contrary to Canon 209 § 1 and should not approach for holy Communion per Canon 916. Depending on the facts of the case, they also risk having holy Communion withheld from them under Canon 915, being rebuked under Canon 1339 § 2, and/or being sanctioned under Canon 1369 for gravely injuring good morals.

Catholics who attempt a “same-sex marriage” act contrary to Canon 209 § 1 and should not approach for holy Communion per Canon 916. Depending on the facts of the case, they also risk having holy Communion withheld from them under Canon 915, being rebuked under Canon 1339 § 2, and/or being sanctioned under Canon 1379 for simulation of a sacrament. Moreover, Catholics who assist others toward attempting a “same-sex marriage” cooperate in the bad act of those others, which cooperation is liable to moral assessment in accord with the usual principles applicable to cooperation with evil and, under certain facts, according to the canonical principles applying to cooperation in crime per Canon 1329 and/or scandal per Canon 1339 § 2, etc.

As you can see, there are a range of punishments for participating in a same-sex marriage – the most mild of which is to automatically be in a state of mortal sin in which you would be ineligible for communion at mass and require confession and penance.

By the by, going to an improperly done heterosexual marriage carries much the same penalty. For instance, if someone was previously religiously married and then divorced, they may want to remarry at some point. However, if they were Catholic and did not get the first marriage annulled by the Church, then they would still be considered married and could not marry again. Attending a second marriage of that person would be considered a false marriage, or even a bigamous marriage.

Most of the issue actually derives from the adoption of the name of a religious sacrament for non-religious purpose. If all people (of whatever sexuality) had civil unions (effectively contracts in partnership) through the state, and marriage remained an optional religious sacrament for religious people, most of the issues wouldn’t be as they are.

But that is not the case, therefore to make a cake for a wedding which is going to be a heresy of a sacrament… holds serious ramifications for many religious people. At the very least, it would require them to participate in making a false sacrament, and in most religions that would be a pretty significant problem. In most Christian religions, it involves putting someone in a state of sin or worse.

So now you know why, if you didn’t before, that participating in gay marriage by making their wedding cake is a big deal, while serving a gay couple a cupcake is not.

However, I’m bothered by the other issues going on around this situation. There is this feeling to it as if people believe that they have the right to deny other people rights they don’t think they should have, or for religions they don’t personally believe in.

Here’s the thing… you don’t have the right to take away the rights of someone else. No matter how much you dislike them. In fact, the most reprehensible belief you can think of… that’s exactly the one you have to fight for. It’s that very need to protect the right for people to believe and think and say things you HATE, that makes this country a free place for free minds and free men.

When two equally protected groups (religious, lgbt, gender, disability, etc..) come into conflict with each other (for reasons based on their individual protection status), one cannot be held higher or better than another because they are equally protected.

The logical first step in resolving an equal party conflict is to check for options (which party has another option which would provide a non-protected conflict, such as going to another business for the service or asking an employee who is not in protected status to perform the activity for the customer). If it cannot be resolved in that way, the next check is who created the situation by initiating the clash of protection – whomever did that was the aggressor in the situation and has to step back. In most of these cases, the initiator is the customer entering an establishment and asking for something which creates a conflict.

The point is that these laws are merely word based re-enforcements of this balance already logically in place in a society where multiple right protected but equal groups exist. The intent is to make it impossible to force or intimidate someone into a situation where they feel legally or otherwise threatened to give up their protected rights.

Yet, the result through this hysteria is that people are given platform to an idea that says they can choose which rights you should have based on whether or not they agree with you having them. Again, it DOES NOT matter if you like someones rights, you cannot and should not attempt to take them away.

Rights are not related to niceness, politeness, happiness, or good feelings. Rights are neutral absolutes. They define and ensure for everyone (regardless of how good or bad that person is) that they have some protections which they cannot lose in the face of people demanding they don’t deserve them.

This picking and choosing of which groups get to retain their rights is ugly. There are a couple of videos in another article I found that show a Christian calling bakeries and asking for a pro-traditional marriage cake and getting refused repeatedly.

For everyone who wants to oppress the rights of one group just because you don’t agree with what they believe — get on the right side of history and stand up for freedom and rights instead of oppression and rule by popular opinion.

Oh.. and one last thing… if you were unaware of the roots of the issues with gay marriage regarding religion, maybe you should try to study a little bit on things you don’t believe so you can better understand the people you disagree with. You’ll never be able to form a serious conversation with them, even to try to change their mind, if you can’t even begin to understand how they formed their beliefs in the first place.

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