Libertarian Ideas on Religious Freedom and Why–Rand Paul & Jon Stewart Debate

The media has quickly pounced on some sort of made up “gotcha” on why Rand can say that a cake baker can discriminate against gays for religious reasons if that same cake baker will still sell to an unmarried couple.  I could say that religion is not a panacea and every religious person has different religious beliefs.  Mine is as different from the cake baker as his would be from Islam.  My Christianity is closer to Buddhism than it is to Protestantism (in general).  We all read the text and make our own decisions.  I could say that’s why, but it’s not really.

Libertarians would tell you that any business has a right to refuse anyone any service at any time for any reason, even petty ones.  Our reason being the second you are forced to labor against your will, you’re a slave.

I’ll say it again.  Anytime you are forced to labor against your will (even for good reasons) you are a slave.

People in the military, IMO, are slaves.  They cannot refuse orders without really bad things happening to them even if they feel they are morally in the right to question the order.

By telling someone they have the right to say “no”, we are preserving our basic freedom to labor at will.

Now, the person who says “no” can be a huge dick for doing so, and I think someone who refuses to serve a gay couple is, in fact, a dick.  But they should have the right.

Now the statist will counter with: but the government gives them the right to have a business license so they HAVE to do it.

My argument would be that if you are forced to get a license to provide sustenance to yourself or your family, you are no longer free.

Just because society has accepted a stupid argument for years doesn’t make it right.  Blacks were considered half a person for two hundred years.  Didn’t make it true.

Here is a good take on this from a gay libertarian and I’ll let his quote close out this post:

The belief in freedom of association, therefore, obligates us to respect the right to refuse to associate with certain people, even if bigotry is a possible reason for that refusal. A Christian baker shouldn’t have the authority to stop a same-sex couple from getting married. But the couple shouldn’t have the authority to require a baker to make them a wedding cake for the ceremony. Freedom of association in the world of commerce requires us to accept the right of both sides to determine with whom to do business. The same right that calls for the government to recognize same-sex marriages also permits the baker to refuse to provide a wedding cake.

The slippery slope here is easy to explain by invoking Nazis. (Why is it always Nazis?) Should a baker be required to make a cake with a big swastika on it on behalf of a Nazi customer? If you believe the answer to this question is “no,” then understand that giving the government the ability to restrict freedom of association could result in an outcome that forces the baker’s hand here, as absurd as it may seem.


It is very difficult to argue that a wedding cake is a necessity for any human being of any race, religion, or sexual orientation. A person does not need a wedding cake to survive. As humiliating as it may be to be refused a cake for bigoted reasons, there’s no physical or economic harm being done to somebody refused a wedding cake.

Nor does the denial of a wedding cake deny the ability of a gay or interracial couple to actually acquire a wedding cake from another source. The existence of marketplace alternatives is another reason why libertarians would be reluctant to restrict the baker’s freedom of association. This is far from “redlining,” where banks and insurance companies colluded and denied loans and insurance to swaths of minorities in inner city neighborhoods. As unpleasant as these anti-gay discriminatory acts are, they have been shown to be isolated incidents scattered across the country in situations where the victims had the ability to remedy the situation by turning to other businesses.

Just as a libertarian’s general support for same-sex couples to define their own partnerships and families isn’t an endorsement of homosexuality, a libertarian’s general support for the right of a business to refuse to engage in commerce with somebody shouldn’t be taken as an endorsement of bigotry. In order to restrict a person’s right to freedom of association, the damage caused by the outcomes must be very high. Having to select a different bakery or photographer, many of whom would love to do business with gay couples, does not rise to that threshold.


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