Sir Patrick Stewart Riles the “Social Justice” Crowd

“You’ve actually picked a deliciously difficult subject,” actor and civil liberties activist Sir Patrick Stewart replied when asked by a BBC reporter about an “anti-discrimination” case in Northern Ireland involving a “gay wedding cake.” A same-sex couple had requested that the cake be decorated with the image of Muppet characters Bert and Ernie and bear the inscription “Support Gay Marriage.” For this exercise of their property rights the Christian couple who operated the Ashers Baking Company were forced to pay 500 pounds (about $765) in “damages” to people upon whom they had inflicted no injury.

Stewart, beloved by millions for his role as Star Trek’s heroic Captain Jean-Luc Picard, supports legal recognition of same-sex weddings, is also committed to the freedom of conscience. For that reason, he explained, “I found myself on the side of the bakers.”

“I would support their rights to say, `No – this is personally offensive to my beliefs, I will not do it,” he elaborated, saying that the he “felt bad” for the business owners, who were, after all, the genuine victims in this affair.

The question to Stewart came up in the course of a wide-ranging interview during which the BBC reporter “tested” him regarding supposedly difficult questions.

“Who has the right there?” queried the interviewer, reflecting the Leninist assumption that rights are a zero-sum, “who does what to whom” proposition. “Because human rights, doesn’t in the end, doesn’t answer that.”

The answer comes quite easily once it is understood that all rights are property rights, and property rights are absolute: The couple is free to give their business to any baker willing to produce the cake they want, and every baker is free to accept or decline that business proposition. But this arrangement is unsatisfactory to the “social justice warrior” (SJW) community, which insists on tearing windows into the souls of other people in pursuit of impermissible opinions.

Facing a backlash from the SJW faction, Sir Patrick issued a hasty clarification.

“Both equality and freedom of speech are fundamental rights — and this case underscores how we need to ensure one isn’t compromised in pursuit of the other,” he wrote on his Facebook pace. “I know many disagree with my sentiments, including the courts. I respect and understand their position….” Like any other accused heretic, Stewart dutifully professed his fidelity to the approved doctrine, protesting that “some have conflated my position on [sic] this single matter to assume I’m anti-equality or that I share the personal beliefs of the bakers.”

Sir Patrick’s commitment to toleration — although not rooted in a sound understanding of property rights — offers an interesting contrast to the views of fellow Star Trek icon George Takei, who unabashedly supports the punishment and expropriation of people whose views of marriage he finds unacceptable.

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12:56 pm on June 6, 2015

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