Are those signs that say “no shirts/no service” now illegal?
Your August 14 editorial endorses a court ruling forcing a baker—at the cost of his livelihood!—to assist conduct his religious faith says is immoral.
“Commercial establishments can’t pick and choose among their customers,” the Post opines. “If you sell wedding cakes to one group of people, you’ve got to sell to all.”
Actually, that has never been the prevailing rule in our legal system. The prevailing rule always has been choice: People may serve, or not serve, whomever they choose.
There are two limited exceptions. First, a duty to serve (almost) everyone applies to monopolies, notably common carriers and utilities. But for enterprises in competition, such as bakeries, the rule has been freedom to choose one’s customers.
The other exception is the civil rights statutes. They originally targeted discrimination against very few groups, primarily ethnic minorities. Over time, civil rights laws have been expanded to include more groups—especially those with effective lobbyists. But the general rule has still been freedom of choice.
Freedom to choose your customers is vital. This is because—
* It protects other liberties, such as freedom of association and (as in the bakery case) freedom of religion.
* Focusing on particular customers helps improve services. In fact, in the real world, businesses limit the scope of their clientele all the time. A rule restricting this right makes it harder to meet individual needs. That hurts everyone. If you doubt this, compare the level of “progress” made by common carriers (such as buses) with progress in competitive enterprise (such as computers).
* Freedom of choice checks government power. The court’s holding that “you must serve whomever the state tells you” is symptomatic of America’s current mutation into an unhappy land where coercion is the norm.
The court’s decision should frighten you—even if you don’t care about cakes or bakers. A government that can tell a baker what kind of cake to prepare is a government that can completely run your life. And soon will.