A thoughtful reader has asked, how can the religious baker execute certain designs but be allowed to refuse others? Is it OK if you do custom designs that show stuff you agree with but refuse to do designs that show stuff you disagree with?
First, some hypothetical questions: what if a customer requested a cake custom-decorated with a 3D representation of the infamous “Piss Christ” photograph (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piss_Christ )? What if a customer requested a custom cake depicting a priest and a nun copulating? A cake depicting a headless president whose head is held aloft by a (you-know-what)? Wouldn’t it be OK for the baker to refuse, in each of the three cases?
Answer: Of course. The focus belongs on the reason for the baker’s refusal of the customer’s request. If the baker refused to bake a birthday cake for the birthday of a man he knew to be gay, even if the design was to contain no clues as to the man’s sexual orientation, that might have been illegal discrimination. But if the baker balked because the request was for a cake that depicted or celebrated an act that the baker believed to be sinful under the teachings of his religion, that is different. The reason for the baker’s refusal was not that the customer was gay, it was that the baker was unwilling to commit a sin, to abet the celebration of a gay marriage. The baker’s intent was not to discriminate, it was to follow his religion faithfully.
Granted, there are certain practices of certain religions that our culture regards as so repulsive, so barbaric, that religious belief cannot be a legitimate excuse for engaging in such practices in this country. Certainly a refusal to assist in the celebration of a gay marriage is not in any way comparable to, say, committing an honor killing.