037: Ep33 – Cakes, Capes, and Culture Wars

Philosophy Bakes Bread radio show and podcast

This thirty-third episode of the Philosophy Bakes Bread radio show and podcast features an interview with Dr. John Corvino of Wayne State University, talking with co-hosts Eric Weber and Anthony Cashio about religious liberty and discrimination, the topics of his most recent book, as well as the HERO award he received for 25 years of advocacy on LGBTQ+ issues.

Photo of John Corvino.

John was celebrated in 2017, receiving the “Community Hero Award” from the Board of Directors at Affirmations, Metro Detroit’s LGBTQ+ Community Center. The award recognizes “inspirational leadership, advancing acceptance, equality, and inclusion.” It was presented to recognize John’s 25 years of advocacy since the debut of his “What’s Morally Wrong with Homosexuality?” lecture in April of 1992. John’s most recent book is titled Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination. Before that, he authored of Debating Same-Sex Marriage, released in 2012, and What’s Wrong with Homosexuality? published in 2013. In addition to his public lectures that have been recorded and posted as videos online, John has produced a series of enormously fun videos analyzing arguments and dispelling myths about topics concerning marriage, religion, sex, homosexuality, the Bible, and the source of morality. 

Listen for our “You Tell Me!” questions and for some jokes in one of our concluding segments, called “Philosophunnies.” Reach out to us on Facebook @PhilosophyBakesBread and on Twitter @PhilosophyBB; email us at philosophybakesbread@gmail.com; or call and record a voicemail that we play on the show, at 859.257.1849. Philosophy Bakes Bread is a production of the Society of Philosophers in America (SOPHIA). Check us out online at PhilosophyBakesBread.com and check out SOPHIA at PhilosophersInAmerica.com.


(1 hr 3 mins)

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  1. John Corvino in a YouTube video.John Corvino’s great YouTube videos.
  2. Plato, Euthyphro
  3. Craig Claiborne, The New NY Times Cookbook (New York: William Morrow Cookbooks, 1990).
  4.  John Cheves, “Appeals Court Says Hands on Originals Did Not Discriminate Against Gays,” The Lexington Herald-Leader, http://www.kentucky.com/news/politics-government/article150169482.html.
  5. Video compilation of John Corvino’s 25 years of leadership in the LGBTQ+ community: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIMZKPnfX5U.
  6. Richard Mohr, Gays / Justice: A Study of Ethics, Society, and Law (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998).



You Tell Me!

For our future “You Tell Me!” segments, Dr. Corvino proposed the following question in this episode, for which we invite your feedback: “How would you resolve the conflicts in the following three cases?

  1. Masterpiece Cake Shop: A baker refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. This shop was judged guilty of sexual orientation discrimination.
  2. A person wanted a cake made with a Bible verse on it that quoted Leviticus 18:22, which says that “homosexuality is a detestable sin.” The baker said “I’ll make the Bible-shaped cake, but I’m not going to write the words on it.” The customer charged that baker with religious discrimination. The local Civil Rights Commission said that it wasn’t discrimination.
  3. A t-shirt shop refused to make a gay pride shirt. 

How would you resolve these three cases in a way that is consistent, especially making your judgment consistent between the first two cases?”

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5 thoughts on “037: Ep33 – Cakes, Capes, and Culture Wars

  1. In all three cases my judgement is that the refusal to make the product ought to be legal. I support people’s legal right to refuse to make products or offer services for any reason other than that the potential customer — the one attempting to buy the product or soliciting the service — possesses some personal characteristic, such as race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

    If the above cases involved people refusing to make products for a type of person — gay or Christians –, then they would be engaging in discrimination, but as the refusal is to make a type of product — cases 2 and 3 — or to make a product for a type of event — case 1 –, it does not count as discrimination.

  2. Thanks for this, Sikander. I agree with you on cases 2 and 3. My worry about case one is that sometimes “type of event” is closely tied to “type of person.” If “same-sex wedding” counts as a type of event (as opposed to the more general “wedding”), would you also say that interracial weddings count as a type of event–and thus, that the person who refuses cakes for interracial weddings is not guilty of racial discrimination?

  3. Interesting, Sikander. Thanks for your comment. I’ll count this as an entry in the Philosophy Bakes Bread swag giveaway (More info: https://www.philosophersinamerica.com/2017/08/19/039-ep35-10000-downloads-celebration-giveaway/). If you’d like a PBB sticker, email me an address where I can send it.

    To your points, one question is how your point about case 1 shouldn’t be seen as an instance of discrimination. After all, it’s not selling a different product. It’s just a cake. The fact that it’s for a same-sex wedding doesn’t change what the producer is making, but rather just information about the recipient, which seems to violate the rule you agree about with regard to discrimination. Is that not right? If so, feel free to explain.

    Thanks for your comment!

  4. Thanks for your prompt reply, John! We welcome Sikander’s thoughts and others’ as well!

    Here’s a question for John and others about “type of event.” What about those rock stars who object to having a politician play the rock star’s music at their event? Like Neil Young’s anger at President Trump: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/neil-young-donald-trump-spar-over-rockin-in-the-free-world-use-20150617.

    What if a band objected for race, gender, or sexual orientation reasons, to having people play their music at advocacy events? Pre-recorded music could seem like a commodified cake, yet there are complexities relating to copyright and performance rights that make the example less easily comparable.

    If cases like Neil Young’s are different, it’s partly because anyone might be in this or that political party, perhaps, which diminishes the discriminatory aspect. And so, “type of event” may well be more or less tied to “type of person,” as you say. Interesting to think about the degrees of connection between type of event and type of person!