Yesterday, the Supreme Court met to hear the case of plaintiffs David Mullins and Charlie Craig and defendant Jack Phillips. Jack Phillips is proprietor of Masterpiece Cake Shop in Colorado. He refused to bake/create an elaborate wedding cake for Mr. Mullins and Mr. Craig, citing his religious beliefs that find same sex marriage to be at best, unacceptable.
The “Jewish response” is predictably split. Generally speaking, the Orthodox side with the baker; the Conservative and Reform side with the grooms. It seems to me however, that there ought to more to the Jewish response than denominational demarcation.
On more than one occasion, fellow Jews have “made a tsimmes” because of religious belief, or lack thereof. It mattered little to them if they took up the cudgel against government or private industry. A little over a decade ago, Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky created a ruckus over synthetic Christmas trees on display at Sea Tac airport. Although he insisted that all he wanted was equal footing for Chanukah menorahs being displayed as well, his outcry was seen as indignation, resulting in Christmas trees being removed from the airport. Once upon a time, airlines in this country provided meal service on domestic flights. Alaska Airlines was one of those carriers. On the meal tray, Alaska Airlines included a prayer card. A few decades back, a (Jewish) passenger made news, as she threatened Alaska Airlines with a lawsuit, claiming that the prayer card on her meal tray was an infringement on her religious beliefs and causing her to lose her appetite, thereby preventing her from eating the meal, much less enjoying it. It mattered little to this Jewish passenger that the prayer card on her meal tray contained verses from the Book of Psalms, otherwise known to us as “tehillim.”
I may very well be a lone voice, but it seems to me, that as a people that has been denied entry into colleges and Medical Schools and Law Schools because of “beliefs”, as a people that has been denied membership into Country Clubs and prohibited from living in certain neighborhoods in any number of American cities because of “beliefs”, we Jews should be most careful in considering and weighing beliefs, including those beliefs that are seen by many as being legitimate and kosher.
As a rabbi, I am empowered to officiate at non-Jewish weddings. As a rabbi, I am empowered to preside over the marriage of two non-Jews, who for whatever reason seek my services. Among the recurring nightmares that plague me, is being approached by a same sex couple –say, on Christmas day when I am in my office doing work, minding my own business. With marriage license in hand, they ask me to join them in matrimony. Does my refusal to do so, place me in the same onerous position as Jack Phillips? (I cannot truthfully fall back on the claim that I do not officiate at civil ceremonies, because there was at least one civil ceremony that I did preside over.)
It seems to me that with Chanukah soon upon us with its message of establishing boundaries (the straw that broke the camel’s back was a Hellenist Jew who overstepped his boundaries and sacrificed a pig on the holy altar. Similarly the Greek king Antiochus overstepped his boundaries with his harsh decries interfering with the practice of the belief of a foreign people) that regardless of yesterday’s finding of the Supreme Court, it behooves us to carefully establish boundaries that will not only protects us but respects others as well.