Sunday, July 19, 2015

The nastiness that dare not speak its name

"No wedding cake for you, my pretty! I'll cake you!"
OK, here's old Baron Hans von Spakovsky, who you'll no doubt remember as the fabricator-in-chief in the Bush Justice Department Bureau of Spurious Voter Fraud Allegations, landed in a wingnut welfare gig for the Heritage Foundation where he's tasked with managing the spurious allegations of gay people infringing on our First Amendment rights, notably—since it's still the only fragment of a case they've got, apparently, the case of the Gresham, Oregon bakery Sweets by Melissa. Some newish information has been circulating about this case, which I'll summarize for anybody who hasn't seen it.

The bakery was owned by Aaron and Melissa Klein, who refused in January 2013 to sell a wedding cake to a two-woman couple, Laurel Bowman and Rachel Cryer, possibly (Aaron Klein denies it) throwing Cryer's mother out of the shop with imprecations from the Book of Leviticus (which doesn't, as far as I know, say a word about sex between women), and then, after Bowman and Cryer filed a consumer complaint with the Oregon Department of Justice, published the women's names and address on their Facebook page and began doing the Family Research Council rally tour, exposing them to terrifying harassment and death threats, and putting them in fear that their foster children would be taken away from them; leading the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry to suggest to the DOJ that the Kleins should pay a total fine of $135,000 (for emotional suffering, not punitive damages), a recommendation they just this month decided to follow.

So the size of the fine is not so incommensurate with the offense as we've been told—it's about the doxing. And it's good bit less than half the $325,000 the same agency awarded to a Christian dental assistant in Bend, whose boss threatened to fire her after she refused to attend a three-day Scientology conference. I love that part.

I won't bother with the arguments of the Herr Baron (he is shocked at the revelation that the Bureau of Labor and Industry and Department of Justice appear to have exchanged emails and texts, as if these communications between two state agencies working on a case represented some kind of corrupt collusion), but I did learn something, more from the site The New Civil Rights Movement than from Heritage, which is that in a manner of speaking the Internet harassment really began with the Bowman-Cryers, or rather with Cryer's mother, who posted a review on the bakery's website informing the public that it discriminated against gay people.

What apparently happened is that this prompted local consumers straight and gay to stop buying their stuff, because that's how Oregonians roll, so that the Kleins eventually shut their storefront down and switched to an all-Internet business, where I guess their fans can order the goodies without fear of insult or mockery, presumably for delivery in a plain brown wrapper, or, as Freiherr von Spakovsky puts it,
The Kleins lost their bakery business because of a boycott and the burden of defending themselves in the administrative process that lacked the due process protections of a court....
No, they didn't lose it, they reconfigured it (with the assistance of a Christianist crowdfunding organization, Continue to Give, after GoFundMe dumped them), but here's the thing: the Kleins are really claiming not only that they should have a special right to discriminate against gay people because of their religious beliefs, but that they should have a right to do it in secret; because discriminating against gay people is going to make you unpopular in the Portland region. They're justified in spreading the Bowman-Cryers' home address to mobs of fanatical Christians, because the older Ms. Cryer revealed to the public that they refuse to serve lesbian brides on their special day.

So it goes back to something I've said before (in connection with David Brooks saying we should tolerate the intolerant baker out of "deep politeness", just as he now says South Carolinians should put away their Stars and Bars out of politeness, since waving the Confederate flag is exactly like boycotting a bigoted cake maker): maybe people should be permitted legally to refuse service on these kinds of "religious" grounds, if they can make a coherent scriptural case for it, but only if they do it in public, so that everybody knows exactly what kind of nasty judgmental tongue-clicking Miss Gulches they are.

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