Face Masks, Wedding Cakes and the Right to Say No

Hornbacher's stores in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo have posted signs at their entrances, stating customers will be required to wear face masks starting Monday, July 27. Robin Huebner / The Forum

MINOT, N.D. — Remember a few years back when we were having a national debate about bakers and caterers and photographers who didn’t want to work at gay weddings?

Some of these business owners were facing fines and other sorts of punitive actions from the government. The most high-profile of these cases involved the Masterpiece Cakeshop. This bakery business appealed the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the justices ruled that the state of Colorado had displayed bias against religious beliefs in its actions.

The generally conservative position in these matters was, and is, that private business owners are not slaves to the public. They have a right to say no. To refuse to provide their goods and services in circumstances they’re not comfortable with, even if the reasoning behind that refusal might be offensive to the broader public.

The generally liberal position is that business owners can only say “no” in instances where the state hasn’t decreed that they must say “yes.”

Fast forward to 2020, and it seems like we have the same debate again, only now we’re talking about face masks, and the ideological sides have switched.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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