Is a Wedding Cake Free Speech? Or Is That Even The Question?

On Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017 the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

In 2012, back when marriage equality was yet to be the law of the land in the U.S., same-sex couple Charlie Craig and David Mullins traveled from Colorado to Massachusetts where they could legally be wed.  They then returned to Denver where they planned on having a reception.

The couple went to Masterpiece Cakeshop to order a fancy cake.  But as soon as baker Jack C. Phillips realized he was being asked to make a cake for a gay couple, he told them his Christian faith would not allow him to do so.  He would happily sell them a birthday or graduation cake, but not a wedding cake.

Although Colorado did not yet have same-sex marriage, the state did have a public accommodations law that prohibited discriminating based on race, gender, religion and sexual orientation.

Phillips made a First Amendment argument that he was not discriminating against Craig and Mullins based on sexual orientation; instead, he was refusing to engage in speech by making a decorated cake that went against his religious values.

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission argued that making a cake for a customer was not an endorsement of the event the cake would be used at.

This case has generated an enormous number of opinion pieces making many arguments from many points of view.  Here are several that take on the case with a  range of approaches.  Do not take my listing of these as an endorsement of any of them.  I’m just trying to show how different people can address the same issue.

The basic news story:

And now the opinion pieces:

  • A cake is food, not speech. But why bully the baker?
    By George F. Will, Washington Post opinion writer
    “Denver has many bakers who, not having Phillips’s scruples, would have unhesitatingly supplied the cake they desired. So, it was not necessary for Craig’s and Mullins’s satisfaction as consumers to submit Phillips to government coercion. Evidently, however, it was necessary for their satisfaction as asserters of their rights as a same-sex couple.”
  • The Supreme Court cake case has an easy answer
    By Dana Milbank, Washington Post opinion writer
    “Piece of cake: If you can’t do it to racial and religious minorities, women and the disabled, you shouldn’t be able to do it to gay people.”
  • There will be no winners in the Supreme Court’s wedding cake case
    By Greg Weiner, associate professor of political science at Assumption College
    “In Masterpiece Cakeshop , LGBT advocates can hope for a pyrrhic victory at best. Conscientious objectors to same-sex weddings may be pressed into service, but only at the long-range cost of intensifying their opposition. A vindication of religious liberty, meanwhile, would tarnish that value, however unfairly, with the taint of discrimination.
  • The Supreme Court wedding cake case isn’t about cake at all
    By Nathaniel Frank, director of the public policy research portal What We Know
    “The reason is that the Constitution guarantees a right to equal dignity, and turning people away from public accommodations — or slicing up the public by granting individuals a license to “opt out” of the public weal — denies people that dignity. No constitutional right is entirely unrestricted, but in deciding the balance between First Amendment and equal protection claims, the courts have already distinguished between the right to hold or espouse a belief — considered “absolute” — and the right to act on it with impunity. The ‘free exercise of one’s belief,’ the courts have said, is ‘subject to regulation when religious acts require accommodation to a society.'”
  • The Supreme Court must protect a baker’s unpopular speech
    Marc A. Thiessen, Washington Post opinion writer
    Even if you disagree with Phillips, you have an interest in seeing him prevail. The First Amendment protects unpopular speech. Speaking out in favor of same-sex marriage was once unpopular. And views that are popular today may be unpopular in the future. To maintain a free society, we must have the freedom to disagree — and tolerance for those who disagree with us.

And finally…

  • Let Us Buy Cake
    By R. Eric Thomas, playwright and staff writer at Elle.com
    “I ventured up to the third floor and found a table with a surfeit of cake options, but no labels. “Do you think one of these is lemon?” a woman next to me asked. I turned to her: “There’s only one way to find out.”

    She replied, “Eat them all?” My soul mate.

    She asked me if I was enjoying myself. I shrugged. “Apparently, you’re invisible without a bride,” I said.

    She told me she understood. She wore scrubs, with her hair tied back, a marked difference from the party-casual dress of many other attendees. She explained that she was a vet and had accidentally left her engagement ring at work. Grabbing two more slices of cake, we wandered away from the table.”

 

Posted in Chapter 13, Commentary Writing, JMC 406 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

How MSNBC/NBC is Covering the Matt Lauer Abuse/Firing Story

Yesterday, I posted an inventory of about 15 major journalism and media figures who have been accused of sexual harassment or abuse over the last year or two.  I’ve spoken with a number of people about this list, and where it would fit in the ethics chapter of the next edition of Mass Communication: Living in a Media World. And to a degree, this is pretty simple.  There is no ethical debate to be had here – this behavior is wrong, indefensible, and (in my mind) not open to debate.

But that doesn’t mean that that there aren’t plenty of legitimate ethics issues raised by these cases.  For example – How do media organizations go about covering the scandals that affect their owners.

Last night Rachel Maddow had a fascinating interview with NBC News correspondent Stephanie Gosk on he she’s gone about covering the NBC Today Show host Matt Lauer story for NBC:

(Note: Having trouble getting this video to load, but link above should work.)

More on this topic as I have time.

Posted in Chapter 14, Chapter 6 | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Brief History of Accusations (and Consequences) of Sexual Misconduct by Media Figures

A brief history of recent accusations and consequences of sexual misconduct by media figures:

Consequences to Date: Fired by NBC

Consequences to Date: Rose dropped by CBS and show on PBS canceled.

Consequences to Date: Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Media have severe all ties with Keillor. MPR canceled Keillor’s “Writer’s Almanac” show, ended rebroadcasts of Keillor’s decades of Prairie Home Companion radio show, and it will be renaming his old show (now hosted by musician Chris Thile) going forward.

Consequences to Date: Weinstein was fired from the company that bears his name. This also, in many ways, helped set off the recent “purge” of accused sexual harassers from news and media organizations across the United States this fall.

Consequences to Date: Fired from all positions associated with Warner Brothers Television, which produced the DC comics-inspired shows he was connected with.

Consequences to Date: Fired from Netflix series House of Cards; cut from Ridley Scott’s movie All the Money In the World with all of his scenes being reshot.

Consequences to Date:  Thrush has been suspended by the New York Times.

Consequences to Date: Franken is currently serving as a US senator from Minnesota.  He is facing investigation from the Senate Ethics Committee, which he has said he will cooperate with.

Consequences to Date: Halperin has been dropped as a contributor at MSNBC and NBC News, HBO has cancelled plans for a miniseries based on his book Game Change, and publisher Penguin Books has cancelled plans for an upcoming book.

Consequences to Date: Toback has denied the allegations against him, though his statements have been confusing.

Consequences to Date: Orestes resigned from NPR under pressure  .

Consequences to Date: fired by Vox after admitting to the misconductSteele was in the allegations against him.

Consequences to Date: O’Reilly had at least five settlements with women who charged he mistreated them. He also had a $32 million settlement with legal analyst Lis Wiehl.  After he was fired by Fox, conservative television station owner Sinclair Broadcast Group announced that it was not interested in hiring O’Reilly.

Consequences to Date: Ailes resigned from the network he founded, but remained in an advisory capacity with reportedly as much as $40 million in severance pay. Ailes died in May of 2017.

Consequences to Date:  denied all of the accusations against him, though he at one point acknowledgedTrump has that a tape obtained by the television show Access Hollywood on which he admitted to a range of crude behavior was real. He is currently serving as president of the United States.

 

 

Posted in Chapter 14 | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The Bridges of Buffalo County

Earlier today, thanks to a post on an ADVRIDER discussion board (for people who go on motorcycle adventures…), I discovered the website Bridgehunter.com.  Bridge Hunter is a database of historic and notable bridges around the United States and is a great source of interesting places to go motorcycling when you’re looking to head out to no place in particular.

My ride today was about 90 miles and took me first to see the Mud Creek Bridge, which is a modern replacement for an old truss bridge.

Mud Creek Bridge, Imperial Rd.

There was only a hundred feet of gravel or so to this first bridge. So not the most exciting thing.

But the second was really cool — Cherry Creek Bridge was about 5 miles or so off the pavement, about 4 miles south and 7 miles east of Revenna.  And it was a really neat 1935 pony truss bridge.  Well worth the search:

Cherry Creek Bridge
Approximate Latitude/Longitude
N 40.96074
W 98.77921

From there, I rode several miles south and further east before connecting up with pavement for the ride home.

Exactly the kind of ride I was hoping for today. Planning on finding a lot more of these old bridges. Watch this space…

Posted in Motorcycling | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Annie Proulx in praise of the happy ending

Annie Proulx

Annie Proulx just won the National Book Award Medal for Distinguished Contribution, and she gave a wonderful acceptance speech in praise of the happy ending.  Here are some highlights, but you can read the whole thing over at Vulture:

“Although this award is for lifetime achievement, I didn’t start writing until I was 58, so if you’ve been thinking about it and putting it off, well…

“We still hope for a happy ending. We still believe that we can save ourselves and our damaged earth — an indescribably difficult task as we discover that the web of life is far more mysteriously complex than we thought and subtly entangled with factors that we cannot even recognize. But we keep on trying, because there’s nothing else to do…

“Hence the indispensable silver lining, the lovers reunited, the families reconciled, the doubts dispelled, fidelity rewarded, fortunes regained, treasures uncovered, stiff-necked neighbors mending their ways, good names restored, greed daunted, old maids married off to worthy parsons, troublemakers banished to other hemispheres, forgers of documents tossed down the stairs, seducers scurried to the altar, orphans sheltered, widows comforted, pride humbled, wounds healed, prodigal sons summoned home, cups of sorrow tossed into the ocean, hankies drenched with tears of reconciliation, general merriment and celebration, and the dog Fido, gone astray in the first chapter, turns up barking gladly in the last.”

 
Posted in Chapter 4 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

XKCD answers the question “What will new technology do to us?”

When you have questions about what will technology do to us, the first place to look at is the web comic XKCD:

XKCD comic on technology's impact on us.

Remember: New technology is always scary!

Posted in Chapter 1 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

24-hour Video Game Streaming Fund Raiser

Aaron & Michelle Blackman

My friend and occasional guest blogger Aaron Blackman is doing a 24-hour live streaming video game fund raiser for Omaha Children’s Hospital. He writes:

My wonderful wife Michelle had surgery on her heart when she was 3 years old. She received excellent care from her local children’s hospital, staying there for a week to recover. 

I owe a lot to the Children’s Miracle Network, so I’d love to give back.

On November 15th, I’ll be playing games for 24 hours to raise funds for sick kids at the Omaha Children’s Hospital!

You can watch his live stream on Twitch, and if you want to join me in helping him raise money through the Extra Life  Children’s Miracle Network fundraiser, you can make your contribution here.

Watch live video from Flagg05 on www.twitch.tv

Posted in Chapter 10, Chapter 12 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Why you need to pay attention to what you write (It can be spelled right and still be wrong)

Over the last few weeks there have been several spectacular copyediting errors in newspapers around the country that probably passed right through a spelling/grammar check but still managed to totally humiliate the publication and the staff members responsible.

For example:

Clemson clinches birth in ACC ChampionshipI rather doubt that the Clemson football team was having babies, but….

Then there was this one that looks like a food story…


Party divided over sex clams.

But was actually about the Roy Moore senate race sexual abuse scandal. By the way, if you search for “sex clams” in Google… well, don’t.

Then finally, there’s the headline that looks like it was written by a couple of snickering teen-aged boys.

Students get first hand job experience

It’s not often that a single hyphen will turn something from ordinary into NSFW…  Probably not the way this paper wanted a story to go viral.

Lesson of the day: Always proofread.

Posted in Chapter 14, Chapter 6 | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

In the Battle of Disney vs. The Press, The Press Won

Headline from LA Times about Disney and Anaheim.As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, Disney recently entered into an ill-advised battle with the Los Angeles Times because the media conglomerate didn’t like how the newspaper was covering the company’s business relationships with the city of Anaheim.

Disney (aka The Mouse) retaliated against the paper by banning LA Times critics from attending the studio’s movie press screenings. (These screenings are so critics can publish reviews on the day that movies are released.)

But this afternoon Disney backed off from that ban after  movie critics and pop culture writers across the country responded by standing with the Times, refusing to attend early screenings or consider Disney movies for end-of-the-year awards until the ban was lifted.

The Walt Disney Company, in a statement, said:

“We’ve had productive discussions with the newly installed leadership at The Los Angeles Times regarding our specific concerns, and as a result, we’ve agreed to restore access to advance screenings for their film critics.”

The company said nothing about responding to pressure from the press across the country.

Among the early writers to stand up for the LA Times was Washington Post  pop culture blogger Alyssa Rosenberg:

As Rosenberg later emphasized, this was her decision alone, not that of the Washington Post as a paper.

But Rosenberg wasn’t standing alone in her support of the LA Times. Joining in the boycott were The A.V. Club and the New York Times. Four of the big critics groups also announced they would not consider any Disney films for their annual awards if the LA Times ban stood:

And then the Television Critics Association weighed in with criticism of Disney as well.

All of this only served to promote the story about Disney’s sweetheart relationship with Anaheim that the media conglomerate so desperately wanted suppressed.  But this, of course, is among the first lessons in public relations – Don’t give the press an excuse to write about the story you want to go away.  As Vox’s Todd VanDerWerff tweeted:

Or as Variety’s television critic Mo Ryan wrote:

Posted in Chapter 3, Chapter 6, Chapter 8 | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Questions Worth Asking (Maybe) – All-Disney Edition

Posted in Chapter 3, Chapter 8, Chapter 9 | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment