Rebuttal to rebuttal on rights of conscience

To the editor:

Dr. David Welch fears that my letter is an example of privilege, as in a double standard. Please let me explain how the standard is consistent.

No one is arguing that a business “can arbitrarily deny service to a specific party because of their sexual orientation.” No one is arguing that, if a gay couple walks into a restaurant, it should be legal to say, “Sorry, we don’t serve your kind here,” or, “You can only sit at the queer counter.” What I am advocating is very specific. Things like wedding cakes and flower arrangements are symbols which celebrate marriage as good. Hence creating these symbols for a marriage is a form of symbolic speech that says, “Marriage is good.” If the marriage is homosexual, it says, “Homosexual marriage is good.” This is what Christian artists have refused to say, and should not be forced to say, because no one should be forced to say something they don’t believe.

By all means, let’s put ourselves into the shoes of the other party. Artists who hold progressive values should not be forced to create symbols expressing values they disagree with. Dr. Welch asks whether “a gay florist or baker could deny to serve a straight couple?” If said gay florist was sincerely convinced that heterosexual marriage is immoral, then yes, hypothetically, but I don’t know of any gays who believe heterosexual marriage is immoral.

I can, however, envision realistic scenarios in which the shoe is on the other foot. A district attorney’s office wins a capital conviction in a high-profile case and wants to throw an office party. An intern goes into a custom cake shop and says, “I want a marbled white chocolate cake with yellow frosting lightning bolts, and ‘WILL NEVER HURT ANYONE AGAIN’ in monumental letters.” Or Obergefell gets overturned, and I ask for a cake with interlocking frosting rings, and the inscription: “One man, one woman: God’s design.” In either case, the progressive baker replies, “You disgust me.” The baker should not be sued. I wouldn’t sue.

What Dr. Welch says about the Little Sisters of the Poor relies on the premise that contraception is health care. I dispute this. The goal of health care is health. Health care is when something is attacking your body and the doctor kills or removes it, or something is wrong with your body and he fixes it. Health care is not when something is right with your body and he breaks it. Neither is it health care when one temporarily alters one’s body, with potentially harmful health effects, in the service of a lifestyle choice. This is what users of contraception do when they irritate or chemically alter their fertile (healthy) bodies to make them infertile. I understand the principle because I also make a lifestyle choice to alter my body in a medically unnecessary way: every time I drink alcohol. Yet I buy my bourbon with my own money, and I would not support a lawsuit seeking to force my boss to buy it for me. Similarly, the Little Sisters of the Poor should not be forced to buy their employees contraception.

Ben Douglass

Saranac Lake


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