I was disturbed by this week's ruling by Judge David Lampe supporting Cathy Miller’s refusal to make a cake for Eileen and Mireya Rodrigues-Del Rio’s wedding.
His opinion states that because the cake had not yet been made, she was free to refuse based upon “the knowledge that her work will be displayed in celebration of a marital union her religion forbids.“
Cathy Miller, of course, applauded the decision, saying, “… I cannot be a part of a celebration that goes against my Lord and Savior.”
I served as a Christian pastor for more than 35 years, and I found nothing in all those years studying the Bible that leads me to think that Jesus, my Lord and Savior, would agree with her. Jesus, in all his recorded preaching, never spoke even once about homosexuality or same-sex unions. However, he did definitely speak out against those who were so certain of their superiority that they disregarded the poor, the lepers, the tax collectors, women and children.
Jesus preferred the “outcasts” to the “pious,” every time. What he did preach was love — love for neighbor, love for the sinner, love even for one’s enemy — a love that gives everything and holds nothing back.
I am also a fervent believer in the U.S. Constitution’s separation of Church and State. Both federal and state law now recognize same-sex unions and definitely outlaw discrimination based upon race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
So it troubles me there are so many elements of a particular religious attitude and perspective, a solely conservative Christian perspective, that seem to have informed and guided the judge’s decision. It also makes me wonder whether the judge would have made the same ruling if a devout member of a different faith, for example a Jew, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim or Buddhist, had refused to serve someone because doing so would not be acceptable to their religious beliefs?
Where does the line fall between refusal based on religious convictions and outright discrimination? If you follow the judge’s logic, a chef could refuse to cook a meal for customers if his or her “faith” found people of a different race, or gender, or faith, unacceptable. After all, the meal a chef makes is also an expression of his or her expertise and creativity. It is not pre-made, but created when ordered. If it is justified to refuse to make a cake, is one justified by a claim to one’s faith to refuse to make a meal?
There was a disturbing recent post on Facebook, where an individual in San Diego had written “tips only given to U.S. citizens” on the bill for their meal. How did this person determine that their server was not a citizen? On the basis of their skin color? Their accent? A not-so-casual “where are you from?” Have some people really become so mean-spirited that they claim a “failed” citizenship test to justify stiffing a server of their tip?
Yet, in a sense, refusing to make a wedding cake for a couple because both are the same gender shows a similar rejection based upon a narrow definition of who is acceptable and who is not. I am mystified how this can be thought of as an issue of freedom of speech and artistic expression. It seems so obviously discrimination.
Eileen and Mireya Rodrigues-Del Rios came to Tastries’ Cathy Miller seeking her expertise as a baker. They did not seek a cake as a deliberate challenge to her religious beliefs.
Actually, I imagine that had Ms. Miller made the cake, the comments at the reception would have been about what a wonderful baker she was, and how lovely the cake looked. I can’t imagine anyone would have said, “This cake means that Ms. Miller is endorsing same-sex marriage.”
Cathy Miller’s version of Christianity may think same-sex marriage is forbidden, but not mine. She may think her Jesus rejects and condemns those who would enter into a loving, committed relationship via marriage, while I worship a Savior that welcomes and loves all. But then, I belong to a church that means it when we say, “No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome.”
Jenell Mahoney of Bakersfield is a retired minister who during her career served both the Methodist and Congregational churches. The views expressed are her own.