MINOT, N.D. -- Remember a few years back when we were having a national debate about bakers and caterers and photographers who didn't want to work at gay weddings?
Some of these business owners were facing fines and other sorts of punitive actions from the government. The most high-profile of these cases involved the Masterpiece Cakeshop. This bakery business appealed the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the justices ruled that the state of Colorado had displayed bias against religious beliefs in its actions.
The generally conservative position in these matters was, and is, that private business owners are not slaves to the public. They have a right to say no. To refuse to provide their goods and services in circumstances they're not comfortable with, even if the reasoning behind that refusal might be offensive to the broader public.
The generally liberal position is that business owners can only say "no" in instances where the state hasn't decreed that they must say "yes."
Fast forward to 2020, and it seems like we have the same debate again, only now we're talking about face masks, and the ideological sides have switched.
Unfortunately, covering your face amid this pandemic has become a partisan political issue. Many generally right-of-center people are resisting the masks, while left-of-center people are out to shame and shun the reluctant.
It's a frustrating reality. We're busy throwing rhetorical pies at one another, when we should just be wearing the masks as a way to tamp down the spread of the virus and, hopefully, preclude more drastic measures against it in the future.
But, alas, that's too much to ask.
One argument the right-of-center mask dissenters frequently make has to do with private businesses supposedly violating the rights of the maskless by refusing to serve them. This is ironic, given there is a substantial overlap between that group of people and the folks who argued that bakeries should be able to say "no" to gay couples.
If a business doesn't want to serve you because you can't be bothered to wear a mask, if they don't want to let you into their establishment because they want to protect themselves and their employees and their customers, they don't have to.
They are not violating your rights.
If they were compelled to serve you, that would be violating a whole raft of their rights, including their property rights and their right to decide who they will and will not associate with.
Though remember, my liberal friends, if you agree with that argument, then you must also agree that a baker has a right to refuse to bake, whatever you or I may think of their reasons.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at email@example.com.