The bakeries in the news this summer are the ones refusing to make wedding cakes for gay couples, but imagine for a moment a different scenario: suppose a large chain bakery corporation — let’s call them The Rainbow Confection — decided to show their support for gay marriage by officially announcing a line of baked goods for today’s same-sex couples, complete with groom-groom or bride-bride cake toppers.

Corporate headquarters has sent word down through management that every employee must behave in a gay-friendly manner, regardless of personal convictions.

What if one of Rainbow’s long-time employees, a sales associate named Kim Davis, refused to sell the new product line? She describes herself as an apostolic Christian who believes that the Bible speaks strongly on "sodomy," so following the new corporate policy would violate her religious principles. To cooperate, she claims, would imply her support for sinful unions.

If Rainbow told Ms. Davis, "Comply or resign," would anyone believe the company was violating her rights?

Religious rights aren’t a guarantee of compatible employment — nor does anyone have a right to collect a paycheck while picking and choosing which of the boss’s orders accord with her understanding of scripture.

The real-life Kim Davis doesn’t work for a bakery chain. She is a county clerk in Morehead, Kentucky, and she says she prayed and fasted before deciding to stop issuing marriage licenses on June 26, when the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States.

Governor Steve Beshear says Kentucky’s clerks need to either issue licenses or quit their posts, but Davis insists that she has a First Amendment right to stop doing her job — while continuing to collect a paycheck.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which took Davis to court on July 2, claims that her rationale would mean local officials could also deny licenses to anyone who does anything that others consider sinful — people who have been divorced, for example, or even mixed-race couples.

ACLU lawyer Dan Canon says,

If you apply her conception of the discretionary powers that a county clerk has in office to its logical conclusion, the simple fact of the matter is that anybody can deny anybody a marriage license anytime they want to based on their own personal religious beliefs. And that policy applied statewide, quite honestly, would be chaos.

But Canon’s objection misses the point. He implies that someone might have a religious right not to be fired if acknowledging such a right could apply only in limited and orderly ways. His objection is also demonstrably wrong if we refer back to our Rainbow Confection thought experiment: if some companies actively sought gay customers (or divorced customers, or mixed-race customers) while others discouraged them, would the result be chaos? Or would the market reward some policies while punishing others, allowing plenty of niche specialties?

Canon might argue that, while the private sector may be able to afford a diversity of policies, the law must be uniform. The traditions of federalism and subsidiarity, not to mention polycentric legal theory, disagree. But the ACLU doesn’t need to argue the merits of political centralization — or worse, that some rights trump others — to demonstrate the foolishness of Davis’s constitutional claim.

The First Amendment forbids the government to interfere with the peaceful practice of your religion. It does not require that taxpayers subsidize it.