Post # 161 The Death of a Bakery

September 4, 2013 at 11:44 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I hope no one minds, but I’m going to talk about something going on in the news today.  It’s a story that has been developing over the past several months in Oregon.  It’s a politically charged story and involves food but almost as a side issue.  I followed the story fairly closely for reasons that will become apparent and it has reached a point where I really need to say something about it.

Back in late January of this year, a lesbian couple were planning their wedding reception.  Domestic partnerships are legal in Oregon, including same sex partnerships.  Same sex marriage is not currently legal, but steps are being made towards putting the initiative on the ballot for the 2014 election.  So to celebrate a long string of successes and triumphs in their lives, the two women decided to have a wedding celebration with their friends and family in attendance.  Among the thousand details, the question of the cake arose.  So they went to a local bakery that they had patronized before.  They talked with the proprietors and explained what they wanted on the cake and what it was for.

Sweet Cakes bakery refused their business.  The two women were repeat customers and had bought various cakes including wedding cakes from the shop numerous times.  This time was different.  This time, the cake was for the two women.  The reason they were given is the proprietor felt their union was an abomination to God (his words), and they didn’t believe in it.  Therefore, they weren’t comfortable making a cake for the celebration.

It was a perfectly legal request for a perfectly legal event celebrating a perfectly legal union.  Because the shop owner didn’t agree with what these two women were, they were denied services.

However, Oregon state law says they can’t do that.  The law specifically states that if you choose to do business in the public sector you must provide services for everyone who can pay regardless of race, ethnicity, and includes sexual orientation in the definitions.  The shop owners broke the law when they discriminated against this couple.

So the state started an investigation and emotions ran high on both sides of the issue.  First, the couple simply took their business elsewhere, had a great party, and, I assume, a good time was had by all.  But they also reported the discrimination to the authorities and the State of Oregon launched an investigation and decided to press charges.

The anti-gay religious organizations across the country started touting this case as persecution since the couple was not allowed to follow their beliefs.  They also said that this bakery turned away all kinds of business they didn’t agree with, not necessarily just the gay business.  So a reporter called them to find out where they drew the line, and acting as a customer requested cakes for various parties, including a dog’s wedding, a divorce finalization, and a pagan solstice party.  They didn’t bat an eye, and quoted prices for those and several other questionable events.  They only had a problem with two women wanted to celebrate their union.

Oregon law says they can’t do that.

Arguments ran back and forth while the state investigation chugged along.  The couple who owned Sweet Cakes bakery vowed to follow their beliefs knowing that their supporters would see to it that all worked out well in the end.

Sweet Cakes bakery closed up shop this past weekend.  They could no longer afford to keep the store front operational since business had slowed down so badly.  They say they will continue to work out of their home to provide cakes and other baked goods for their many customers.  Those same customers who allowed the bakery to fail.  I listened to an interview with the owners over the weekend and here’s where my problem comes in.

They just don’t get what they did wrong.  I don’t really care that they discriminated.  People have been doing that for as long as there have been more than three people in the world.  We’re not going to end discrimination.  People are free to follow their own personally held beliefs.  But no one gets a free pass.  If your beliefs break the law, you will be held accountable and pay fines and end up in jail if that’s what the court decides.  Let’s say my religiously held beliefs say that it’s okay to murder people.  (Don’t groan.  Human sacrifice was practiced in this country not very long ago.  It’s one of the oldest religious ceremonies documented, and ritualistic human sacrifice is still practiced now. )  Our system of justice says that I’m not allowed to take a life except in a very narrow set of circumstances.  My personally held religious beliefs are not part of those circumstances.  Therefore, I will go to jail, and possibly executed for following my beliefs.  Certainly that’s an extreme example.  But their personally held beliefs don’t get them a waiver from the justice system either.  So they are free to hold their beliefs and act on their beliefs and to pay for those actions.  In this case, whatever the state of Oregon says is the consequence.

So go ahead.  Live your life; believe your beliefs; be happy.  Please allow me that same courtesy.  And if either of our beliefs break the law, well, I’ll see you in jail.  Maybe we’ll have cake.  I like cake.

The other problem I have is that it involved food.  Now, this couple was not a starving family.  They didn’t need the cake to save lives.  But food, at its core, is about celebrating life.  We eat to sustain life.  Every religion ever created does some form of blessing on the food at the table.  This bakery was taking what should have been a loving and happy time and sullying it with bad feelings and hatred.  They tried to take away someone else’s happiness.  Food is meant to be enjoyed.  Parties are meant for good times.  Being able to share in anyone’s happiness is an honor not to be foregone.

If my mom were still alive she would have said, “That’s a sin and a shame.”  And I have to agree.  It’s a sin and a shame.

So, to the owners of the now-defunct Sweet Cakes bakery, enjoy your high road.  May it serve you well in the upcoming days as you put your lives back together.  I challenge you to learn something from the experience, but I fear that you won’t.  The mind that causes these situations tends to be too narrow to hear the lessons.  I hope you prove me wrong.

But, man, I love cake and I’ll keep eating it.

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2 Comments

  1. I was always amazed at how they acted like, if they had to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, they were somehow being forced to deny their religious identity.

    It’s a business, y’all. It ain’t a church.

    Bake the effing cake and keep your business going, but if you don’t wanna bake the cake for some convoluted, illogical, illegal reason, then go under.

    I won’t throw you a life-jacket.

    • Preachin’ to the choir, my friend. What I’ve never been able to wrap my mind around is the fact that they, and others of their ilk, honestly don’t believe they’ve done anything wrong. They think they’re the victims. Sanctimonious, holier-than-thou yahoos, the lot of them. Which probably makes me just as bad.


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