Refusing To Serve Customers You Don’t Agree With Is Suddenly Cool Again

Refusing To Serve Customers You Don’t Agree With Is Suddenly Cool Again

Remember how it was the height of bigotry for religious objectors to decline to participate in a gay wedding? But now it's brave to decline to sell Melania Trump a dress.

To the many things the Trump administration in waiting has made cool again, add private businesses refusing service to customers based on moral objections.

Friday, fashion designer Sophie Theallet, who has dressed the current first lady Michelle Obama, offered a preemptive refusal to hypothetically dress the next first lady, Melania Trump, should she ask for some of her clothes— presumably not the ones available at The Gap. In her unsolicited letter, Theallet informed the world that a person who did not ask for any of her clothes would not be getting them.

“As one who celebrates and strives for diversity, individual freedom and respect for all lifestyles, I will not participate in dressing or associating in any way with the next First Lady,” the letter reads. “The rhetoric of racism, sexism, and xenophobia unleashed by her husband’s presidential campaign are incompatible with the shared values we live by.”

“I encourage my fellow designers to do the same,” it goes on.

In refusing service to Trump, Theallet appealed to “individual freedom” and the idea of her art as an expression of the company’s “artistic and philosophical ideals.” Her announcement was called “noble,” “patriotic,” and “admirable integrity.”

But these are the same arguments the left and media have dismissed from Baronelle Stutzman, a Washington florist who thinks making custom bouquets for a same-sex marriage doesn’t comport with her personal beliefs. In appealing to the state Supreme Court after a three-year legal battle, Stutzman’s lawyer argued this week “that arranging flowers is artistic expression protected under the First Amendment. Stutzman — a Southern Baptist — would have been more than happy to sell prearranged flowers out of the cooler because that was ‘not custom expression.'”

A judge “questioned just what message is being expressed when Stutzman creates her floral designs.” No doubt no one will wonder whether Theallet’s expression is art and entitled to the protection of individual liberty and conscience against government compulsion.

A pair of New Mexico wedding photographers learned their photography was not deemed artistic expression enough when they lost a state Supreme Court appeal to a ruling compelling them to photograph same-sex wedding ceremonies.

Theallet’s triumphant and unnecessary announcement is also the mirror image of the Memories Pizza saga of 2015. In the spring of 2015, the proprietor of a tiny business seeking no publicity whatsoever, and located in the middle of Indiana, was approached by a member of the press about hypothetically catering the hypothetical wedding of a hypothetical gay couple.

Crystal O’Connor politely declined this nonexistent request while making clear the business has no trouble serving gay customers outside a wedding ceremony: “If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no,” she told WBND-TV after Indiana passed a religious freedom bill protecting such objections.

O’Connor’s expression of her own philosophical ideals was met with such negative national attention and aggressive backlash that the family-owned pizzeria closed for more than a week.

Theallet’s announcement, on the other hand, delivered unbidden unto the national press from Brooklyn Heights, will garnish plaudits and publicity such that the only reason she’ll be shutting her doors is to focus on feeding the demand for virtue-signaling $400 dresses.

“Integrity is our only true currency,” Theallet closed by saying. Intellectual consistency certainly isn’t.

Mary Katharine Ham is a senior writer at The Federalist.
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