It’s Not About Religious Freedom. It’s About Freedom.

RGBStock Holding Hands

There is no right to enslave others. In this day and age, that claim should be non-controversial. But apparently some people just haven’t got the memo. It’s called the 13th Amendment and it was ratified 150 years ago this coming December:

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Freedom of association has been on a roll lately. Same-sex marriage is now de facto legal in 36 states and looks set to win national recognition once the US Supreme Court rules on the matter. Oklahoma’s state legislature is even considering a bill to get government out of the marriage licensing business entirely, limiting it to the function of registrar.

Libertarians have supported marriage freedom and legal equality for same-sex couples for decades — since long before Democrats (and some Republicans) came around. We’re happy to see these freedoms blossom.

Unfortunately some LGBTQ activists aren’t satisfied. They want more.

Specifically, they want cake and wedding photos. And they think that they have the right to cake and wedding photos from bakers and photographers who don’t want to bake or shoot photos for them.

The backlash: Some state legislatures are rolling out “religious freedom” laws specifying that bakers don’t have to bake and photographers don’t have to photograph if doing so conflicts with their religious beliefs.

But wait a minute: Why should freedom to associate or not associate with, or to work for or not work for anyone, be conditioned on religious beliefs?

If I don’t want to mow a neo-Nazi’s lawn, should I have to point out a Bible verse that justifies my decision not to do so?

If I don’t want to build a Kingdom Hall for my local Jehovah’s Witnesses, am I be required to attest that I’m turning down their offer because I’m a Baptist?

If I run a bar that caters to the LGBTQ crowd, must I demonstrate religious conviction as my reason for refusing to host a heterosexual “speed dating” event?

No. I’m not a slave. Neither are you. Any law which treats us as slaves is unconstitutional. Not to mention morally repugnant.

Freedom of association should never be conditioned on anything other than one’s personal desire to associate or not associate.

I’m with Martin Luther King, Jr. on this: I dream of a society in which we all judge each other by the content of our characters, not by skin color, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other non-essential.

We’ll get to that society through persuasion, not force. We’ll get there by breaking old shackles, not by putting new ones on.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


  • oooorgle

    Claiming the constitution as a source of rights is ridiculous. And if you support equality through legal (laws) means you are no libertarian.

    • “Claiming the constitution as a source of rights is ridiculous”

      Yes, it is. That’s why I didn’t do it.

    • Socrates Wilde

      He didn’t make that claim.

  • I agree. That recently passed Indiana law doesn’t go far enough. To hell with religious objection. “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone“. That used to be a common sign in businesses. It should be again, and the State should support that right.

  • Socrates Wilde

    This is a great little piece. I’ve watched with horror and disgust as the LGBT community has, in response to past oppression, become oppressors themselves — against the religious wackos and people who never did them any harm. The SJWs and cultural Marxists have poisoned the movement.

    • Socrates,

      Glad you like it.

      I’m not sure it’s correct that “the LGBT community” is necessarily supportive of this “make them bake cake” stuff. But it’s hard to know for sure. Most of my LGBTQ friends are also libertarians and may not represent the majority sentiment.

      • Socrates Wilde

        Well, maybe not in the regions between the coasts. But I am living in one of the gay SJW capitols . . .

      • It’s hard to say as you can’t tell from anonymous comments on a blog, for instance, whether someone is LGBT. I’ve taken a lot of heat for supporting the Indiana law. I’m sure at least one or two of those comments coming from LGBT folks.

        Regardless, the gist seems to be that not baking a cake for someone is akin to supporting separate bathrooms for black and whites. While I can’t say all that sentiment comes from the LGBT community, they certainly aren’t supportive of individual choice and the freedom of non- association.

  • Erne Lewis

    Great article Thomas! Let’s hope we can recover the freedom of association soon. Freedom of contract would be a good subject for your next article.