When not providing service isn’t discrimination

A window sticker on a downtown Indianapolis business on March 25 shows its objection to Indiana's religious freedom bill.
A window sticker on a downtown Indianapolis business on March 25 shows its objection to Indiana’s religious freedom bill.
(Michael Conroy / Associated Press)

Clocking in at fewer than 30 words, the letter from Chris Norby of Fullerton was the shortest in Thursday’s paper — and it was also the most talked-about among our readers. Reacting to Indiana’s religious freedom law, Norby asked a simple question that drew complicated responses: Would a kosher caterer have the right to refuse service to a Christian couple who wanted to serve ham at their wedding reception?

Readers’ responses ranged from something close to a simple “no” to explanations of why the question was off base. Their answers reflect the broader opposition of the preponderance of letter writers to Indiana’s law on the grounds that it gives legal cover for discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Donna E. Kirkner of Los Angeles questions the motives of businesses that cite religious freedom:

There’s a difference between not offering a service to anyone and offering it to everyone except a certain group.


In the example given, the kosher caterer does not serve ham to anyone so it would not be discriminating against the Christian couple by refusing to serve ham at the couple’s wedding. If the couple wanted corned beef and the caterer would not serve them because they were Christian, Muslim or gay, then that would be discrimination.

The question I have is what “religious liberties” does a business need to protect? If a business owner wants to wear a head covering or be closed on holy days, no one is stopping him. If a business owner does not approve of same-gender weddings on religious grounds, no one is forcing her to marry someone of the same gender.

The only logical explanation is that some businesses want the right to discriminate. To claim otherwise is disingenuous.

Charles Traupmann of San Pedro says the question is impractical:


Norby asked, “A Christian couple have the right to serve ham at their wedding reception, but shouldn’t a kosher caterer have the right — on religious grounds — to decline their business?”

I doubt you’d find a kosher caterer selling ham. You also probably would not find an Indiana pizza restaurant selling prime rib (one, apparently, isn’t selling pizzas either) much less an Indiana shoe store selling sledge hammers.

The issue is not the demands of the customer, but the prejudices of the seller.

Encino resident Ellyn Gelson says it’s the swine, not the sect:


Declining to serve ham is not the same as declining business. Would the reader also contend that a vegan caterer would decline this couple’s business based on religious grounds?

For the record, any kosher caterer would be delighted to cater any event, regardless of the religious beliefs of the client, but kosher food would be served. If the client demanded ham, the caterer would respectfully decline the request or suggest a caterer who could better meet the client’s needs.

Religion has nothing to do with it.

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