Cake Politics

Following the recent news, I’m not sure under what conditions a baker can decline to provide a cake to potential customers. I’ve seen this story in which an Oregon bakery was fined $135,000 for declining to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, but I’ve also seen this one in which a Wal-Mart refused to make a cake decorated with a Confederate flag for a customer, but did bake a cake with the ISIS battle flag on it, and to add to the confusion, then apologized for providing what the customer wanted.

Is it legal for a baker to refuse to make a Confederate flag cake, but illegal to refuse to make a same-sex wedding cake? Or, did Wal-Mart violate the law when it refused to bake the Confederate flag cake, and then apologize for abiding by the law when it made the ISIS cake? Debbie Wasserman Schultz says “You shouldn’t be able to turn people away based on who they are,” and I presume that would apply to Southerners just as much as to gays.

When is it legal, and when is it politically correct, to refuse to bake a cake to a customer’s specifications? It appears that sometimes it is mandatory to bake a cake to a customer’s specifications, and sometimes it is prohibited, regardless of the preferences of the baker. Cake politics has become quite confusing lately.

Randall G. Holcombe is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University. His Independent books include Housing America (edited with Benjamin Powell); and Writing Off Ideas.
Posts by Randall G. Holcombe | Full Biography and Publications
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