Do we all get to do that?

Supreme Court ruling might open door to businesses closing doors on certain customers.

Supporters of web designer Lorie Smith protest outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022.

Supporters of web designer Lorie Smith protest outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday. The court heard the case of Smith, owner of 303 Creative, a website design company in Colorado. Smith refuses to create websites for same-sex weddings despite a state anti-discrimination law.

Anna Moneymaker/Getty

Are you a Christian? Then I’m sorry, I’m going to have to ask you to stop reading now and direct your attention elsewhere. The comics, maybe. Nothing personal, understand. It isn’t that I believe you and your children are damned to burn in hell for all eternity. It’s that my religion forbids addressing you, in my view. “These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel,” God tells Moses in Exodus, which obviously leaves Gentiles out.

Wait a second! “Sons”? Maybe women readers should move on too. Let me pray on that and get back to you.

“When did this happen?” you might ask. And I might ask, “What are you still doing here?” But OK, for argument’s sake, while you are moving yourself down the pike, I was reminded by the Supreme Court’s taking up another Colorado business unwilling to bow to the humiliation of providing services to people of whom they disapprove.

Opinion bug


Ten years ago it was a Colorado baker who didn’t want to create a cake for a gay wedding. Now it’s a graphic designer floating the argument that she is a creative artist whose First Amendment rights are being infringed upon by the government, and its pesky insistence on treating all citizens equally.

Yes, there is an alternate view, that not only democracy, but also the basic capitalist system demands treating all paying customers the same — your cash is good, you buy a newspaper, you get to read every story in it.

But that is a fallacy, in that it chafes against my sincere religious belief.

Yes, some might argue sincere religious belief is not a justification for anything — sincere religious belief is also what prompts suicide bombers to detonate themselves in crowded markets.

But faith is on the march, the Supreme Court crowded with ideologues who have shown themselves all too willing to tear up the social fabric to scratch their religious itch, forcing millions of women to drive across the country to manage their gynecological business. The next step is to make the freedom of every American subject to the whim of whatever employee says “Yes, may I help you?” when you walk into their shop.

We’ve had a taste of that already. Of what happens when every pharmacy clerk gets to eyeball your prescription, weigh their own soul, and then decide if you get to get whatever medicine you’re looking for today. When the kind of health insurance you can have while working a cash register depends, not on your needs, but the personal eschatology of the man — and it always seems to be a man — who owns the company.

If icing cakes and designing online platforms is artistic expression protected by the First Amendment, then so is writing a column or putting a design on the foamy surface of a cappuccino. Many belief systems to take into account.

And here’s the odd thing. People who are in the dominant class, who demand the right to bar certain groups they don’t want around, never seem to imagine it could flow the other way. Which is why I cast this column the way I did — to give those who might otherwise never know the chill of exclusion a sense of how it feels. It feels lousy. For the record, I welcome all readers, even those on whom satire is lost. I’m a fan of that quaint do-unto-others-as-you-would-have-done-unto-you golden rule that gets so easily cast aside. We are so varied a nation, how could life work any other way?

Let’s find out. I’ve been too indulgent already, and still see readers who don’t belong.. Scram. I understand it hurts. That’s the point. What good is being pious if you can’t use it as a pretext to abuse your inferiors?

Book note

Speaking of businesses. Over the years, downtown Chicago was silly with bookstores, from the flagship Kroch’s and Brentano’s on Wabash Avenue, to the little Stuart Brent shop on North Michigan, to his son’s place on Washington. All long gone, which makes it difficult to hold book signings. For the past decade, iconic Atlas Stationers, 227 W. Lake, has stepped up, and they’ll do so again Wednesday, hosting my only signing between Evanston and Hyde Park for my new book, “Every Goddamn Day.” It’s Wednesday, from noon to 2 p.m. All denominations are welcome.

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