I was reading the N.Y. Times this morning and the title of an article struck me, to wit: Religious Right in Arizona Cheers Bill Allowing Businesses to Refuse to Serve Gays.
The article began “In New Mexico, a photographer declined to take pictures of a lesbian couple’s commitment ceremony. In Washington State, a florist would not provide flowers for a same-sex wedding. And in Colorado, a baker refused to make a cake for a party celebrating the wedding of two men. The business owners cited religious beliefs in declining to provide services celebrating same-sex relationships. And in each case, they were sued.”
Setting aside the issue of what right a maker of cakes has to what people do with his cakes after they buy them, I looked at that title and was struck by the implications. Think about what it says. People in the religious right are cheering an agreement that makes discrimination by business owners okay and legal, but in which the discrimination has nothing to do with their businesses. Compare this with drug makers whose drugs are used to kill people in executions. A moral objection to having one’s product used to kill people is one thing; a moral objection to having one’s cake eaten by people celebrating a wedding is another.
When I was a boy, the message I heard over and over in school and church was of tolerance, including tolerance of people who looked different, were different from “us.” Apparently that message is passé and instead we have people with religious motivations fanning the flames of hatred. Have we made a U-turn in the American experience? Are we “going back” to “that old-time religion” of the Great Awakening in this country, no matter who pays or how? If so, it is the beginning of the end of the American Experiment.