Thursday, April 2, 2015


"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
--First Amendment, United States Constitution

When a restaurant owner refuses to serve a couple at a lunch counter because they are Black, we can all see that is wrong, on many levels, not the least of which is it violates various Constitutional guarantees. We've settled this long ago: You can't claim you've heard the voice of God telling you Blacks are bad and you ought not allow them in your restaurant or in your hotel. If God has told you that, then you'd better find another line of work, in the United States.

When a businessman who makes wedding cakes refuses to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, that is little different from the restaurant owner; the business is open to the public and offers a product and if its owner withholds this product from some class of people because he doesn't like them, because he finds homosexuality offensive or he claims his God is speaking to him, telling him to have nothing to do with homosexuals, and to not bake them cakes.  Well, then it's case closed. The cake maker is violating all sorts of American values and using God as his excuse. I strongly suspect God would find this most offensive.

Gail Collins will make mince meat of the wedding cake guy.

But when the service is speech, we have a different matter, as a Baptist minister pointed out this morning on NPR.

What, after all, is the minister supposed to say at the wedding?  He could simply stand up and speak the words, "And now, by the power invested in me by the state of Indiana, I pronounce you man and man," and then turn on his heels and leave the stage and collect his fee.   But the two  grooms (or brides) and the assembled guests ordinarily expect some words from the minister conducting the ceremony, blessing the couple, extolling the idea of marriage, placing marriage in the grand scheme of God's will, what have you. So this would strike some people as a withholding of service. Depends on what you expect the preacher to say.

Can the government compel the minister to say any of this stuff, if the minister believes, for whatever reason, this is not what he believes, not what he wants to say?

Of course, in a practical way, no law currently can compel the minister to say anything, and you wonder why any couple told by a minister, "Look, I wish you well, but I cannot say, in public, I approve of your marriage," why any couple  hearing that would say, "Well, but we want you to preside over our wedding anyway." 

If the couple sues the minister for violating their rights by not saying what they want him to say, could any jury find for the plaintiff couple? What right has the minister violated by refusing to speak? What right has the couple to force the minister to speak the words they want to hear him say?

I have to agree with the minister: He ought not be compelled to speak, i.e., to perform the wedding service, saying all the things which are part of that.

I cannot see that Indiana actually needs a law to protect any minister's  right to not speak--it's already protected. 
I do not see how we can compel speech. The First Amendment means we are free to speak or not to speak.

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