There was a city where the Different were segregated by law. They could not attend the same schools as the Accepted, could not sit at the same counters as the Accepted, had to ride in the back of the bus, and had to wear a badge identifying themselves as the Different.
In this city, the law prohibited businesses from breaking the segregation law, forbidding them from selling certain services to the Different. Such discrimination was legally enforced and anti-discrimination acts were severely punished by heavy fines and the closing of businesses.
There was a baker in this city whose conscience told her that following this law was against her religious and moral beliefs that recognized all people as equal. That one had to love one’s neighbor as oneself. That to live the life she felt right, she had to follow her conscience and disobey the discrimination law.
One day a Different couple came into her bakery, Sweet Sweets, and asked her if she would make them a wedding cake. Because this was illegal, on previous occasions she had sent such people and requests elsewhere to a part of the city where the Different were required to live. But on this day, her conscience said, “enough is enough,” and she said she would make their cake.
She realized that for her, making cakes was an artistic freedom of expression, and that in this case she was following her conscience, living the kind of life her Maker required of her.
A few days later when the Different couple came to pick up their cake with its beautiful decoration celebrating their wedding, they told her how wonderful her doing this made them feel, a balm for the wounds of discrimination. Thanking her, they left, but as they did so another customer, one of the Accepted, told the baker that she had broken the discrimination law and would be reported and would probably lose her business.
But the baker smiled and said to the customer, “I am following my freedom of conscience, following the divine will to love and treat all people equally, and for that I will gladly suffer any consequences.”
She was convicted and lost her business, but her act was revered by everyone in the city who believed in justice for all.
Jack Hernandez is professor emeritus of philosophy at Bakersfield College.