Last week, the Metzger Bar & Butchery in Richmond, Virginia, canceled a reservation from the nonprofit Family Foundation just an hour and a half before its scheduled dessert reception with supporters.
Why? Employees at the restaurant had looked up the group online and decided not to serve its members because of their advocacy for biblical principles, including traditional views on marriage and protection of unborn lives.
The restaurant's staff felt "uncomfortable and unsafe" by the prospect of having these Christians (who weren’t there to cause a scene or to be disrespectful but to discuss their organizational goals) in their establishment.
In an Instagram post about the incident, the restaurant, which prides itself on being an “inclusive environment,” observed: “Many of our staff are women and/or members of the LGBTQ+ community. All of our staff are people with rights who deserve dignity and a safe work environment. We respect our staff’s established rights as humans and strive to create a work environment where they can do their jobs with dignity, comfort and safety.”
Apparently that same dignity and comfort aren’t afforded to those with the “wrong” politics or beliefs.
Beliefs on abortion, same-sex marriage
The timing is ironic.
Just days later, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that seeks to find a balance between constitutional free speech liberties and statutory civil rights.
Free speech at risk: Can the government force us to say things we don’t believe? SCOTUS will decide this term.
Lorie Smith, the woman who brought the case, is a website designer who didn’t want the state of Colorado to force her to design sites for same-sex weddings, as this goes against her religious beliefs about marriage. Yet the state’s anti-discrimination law left no caveat for her to exercise her conscience.
Progressives often paint artists like Smith as bigots who shouldn’t be allowed to deny anyone service, regardless of their beliefs. Similarly, Jack Phillips is a Colorado baker who has been stuck in legal battles for years because of his refusal to create special cakes for same-sex weddings and gender transitions.
So what’s the takeaway here? That artists with religious beliefs must be forced to create messages that they fundamentally disagree with while LGBTQ-friendly establishments can deny basic services like eating a meal?
That’s hardly a consistent standard.
First Amendment case: State tramples our First Amendment rights as Christian artists. We're fighting back.
'The double standard of the left'
A concern I often hear from the left regarding cases such as Smith’s is that allowing her not to create a website in celebration of same-sex marriage will spill over to other public accommodations, including restaurants.
Yet that’s exactly what the Metzger Bar & Butchery did to the Family Foundation.
“Welcome to the double standard of the left, where some believe Jack Phillips must be forced to create a wedding cake as part of the celebration of a same-sex ceremony but any business should be able to deny basic goods and services to those who hold biblical values around marriage,” wrote Family Foundation President Victoria Cobb, in a blog post about the experience.
Cancel culture on the left: Progressives want to ban Amy Coney Barrett's book. How can they think that's OK?
This isn’t the only time when those on the right have faced shunning in public.
In 2018, several conservative women who worked in the Trump administration or were running for office encountered similar disrespect. Then-White House press secretary (and now Gov.-elect of Arkansas) Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant, also based in Virginia, because of her job.
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Can you imagine the uproar that would follow if a conservative-owned restaurant did that to an LGBTQ group?
Artists like Smith and Phillips open their businesses to everyone, and they have worked with people in the LGBTQ community. But they don’t want the government to compel creative speech that goes against their beliefs – something that's very different from a restaurant's refusal to provide a basic service.
Tolerance is a two-way street. Perhaps it’s progressives who need to take a hard look in the mirror.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Restaurant refuses Christian group service. Where's the outrage?