Belfast, Northern Ireland. Ashers, a Christian-run bakery triggered a discrimination row when it refused to bake a cake for a gay rights group. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images).

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Not according to The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 you can’t. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen?

Involuntary Servitude

“Section 1584 of the (TVPA) prohibits compelling a person to work against his/her will by creating a "climate of fear" through the use of force, the threat of force, or the threat of legal coercion [i.e., If you don't work, I'll call the immigration officials.] Which is sufficient to compel service against a person's will.”

For example, I bring you across the border from Mexico and you owe me. You will prostitute yourself until I am satisfied that you have paid me back, (which will be almost never), or I will turn you over to ICE and you can go back to Mexico.

This is absolutely illegal and would be condemned by any reasonable person.

But what does the act say about “forced labor?”

Forced Labor

Forced labor is a little more ambiguous however.

Section 1589 of Title 18, which was passed as part of The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000, makes it unlawful to provide or obtain the labor or services of a person through one of three prohibited means.”

Those three prohibited means are:

18 U.S.C. § 1589

Whoever knowingly provides or obtains the labor or services of a person--

(1) By threats of serious harm to, or physical restraint against, that person or another person;

(2) By means of any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause the person to believe that, if the person did not perform such labor or services, that person or another person would suffer serious harm or physical restraint; or

(3) By means of the abuse or threatened abuse of law or the legal process, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.”

 

Prohibited Means #3

Let’s explore prohibited means number three above. You cannot force me to perform a service for you if you obtain that service by means of “the abuse, or threatened abuse of law, or the threat of legal process.”

The question is would threatened abuse of law, or the threat of legal process be a legitimate justification to force a baker to bake a cake for a gay wedding, or a KKK wedding, or an atheist wedding, even if the performance of that service would violate his or her religious or racial beliefs?

Would that qualify as forced labor under number three of the above “prohibited means?”

Can the baker make a case for “forced labor” if some judge says he or she has to perform the service because they perform the same service for others who are not gay, are card-carrying members of the KKK, or atheists?

Is this a question of religious freedom or is it just flat out discrimination and the baker just hates gays, hates KKK members, and hates atheists?

How Real Are A Person’s Beliefs?

I have a hard time evaluating someone’s true beliefs.

People say they have beliefs but their public actions and pronouncements paint an entirely different picture.

They claim to be chaste, and pure, and all-inclusive while telling off color jokes about protected classes.

I have a cousin that’s an ordained minister and I have zero doubt in her absolute belief in Jesus, God, the Ten Commandments and the hereafter.

I’m confident she’s not dancing on tables in some bar on Saturday night and preaching moral behavior from the pulpit with a hangover on Sunday morning.

She talks the talk but also walks the walk.

Some Final Thoughts

If you have strong religious beliefs, is that wrong? How strong do those beliefs have to be in order for the courts to take notice and respect them?

Or, are they beliefs of convenience to discriminate?

Is one class protected at the expense of the other?

Can the black or Jewish baker be forced to accommodate the KKK customer? The KKK customer is not a protected class so how does that work?

I don’t see any wording in the act above about race, creed, color, religion, sex or national origin. It pertains solely to the work provided.

Forced work is forced work regardless of the reasoning. But should someone lose their business by following their religious beliefs?

If the fines imposed put the baker out of business what good has that accomplished? Who has benefited? The gay, KKK, or atheist couple will probably get their cake from another baker — but do they get to eat it too.

Who suffered the most abuse in this scenario?

Can I be forced to work for you? Comments below.

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