Today, my friend Jack Phillips is perhaps the world’s most famous baker.
His case before the Supreme Court was decided favorably.
Let me tell you about Jack. He is happiest when he has flour on his face and a wedding cake to decorate.
He’s a good man, soft spoken, and not one for controversy. He’s not a crusader. He’s not a firebrand. He’s a simple baker who loves God and wants his business to reflect his principles. He’s an unlikely hero if I’ve ever seen one.
All those years sitting in Bible Study with him I would have never imagined that he would be at the forefront of the culture wars.
Making hard choices
Jack and his decades-old business, Masterpiece Cakeshop, have been under tremendous fire. If you don’t know the story, Jack was approached about five years ago to make a cake for a gay couple who were wed in Massachusetts but had come home to Colorado.
Jack said “no.” He politely told them it was against his belief, as a Christian, and he couldn’t make the cake. He would do anything else – sell them any kind of service – but he couldn’t offer his creative talent in this way.
The State of Colorado Attorney General’s office filed a formal complaint. Even though the state didn’t legally recognize the marriage (at the time), they brought the full force of the law on Jack for not catering to it. He was fined and his employees were forced to undergo “reeducation training.”
One of the commissioners had this gem to justify the persecution of Jack’s religion:
“I would also like to reiterate what we said in the hearing or at the last meeting. Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the Holocaust, whether it be – I mean, we – we can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use to-to use their religion to hurt others.”
It should be noted that Jack has also turned away cakes requested by those who want explicit language, violent images, and even Halloween themes. So he is an “equal opportunity” advocate for righteous living.
“Hostility toward religion”
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the decision and said this: “The commission’s hostility was inconsistent with the First Amendment’s guarantee that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion.”
The question was simple. Should an artist be able to live out his faith and not violate his core principles, even when they go against popular culture? In America we used to be able to be different, to be protected.
Poking holes in logic
If Jack were forced to make gay wedding cakes, would we also expand this logic to other businesses? Would we make a Muslim Halal butcher sell pork chops? Would we make a Jewish butcher sell bacon? Would we force Indian vegetarian restaurants to sell hamburgers?
And in a culture that constantly drumbeats “respect” and “acceptance,” what about respect and acceptance for Jack Phillips and his strongly held beliefs? And other people of faith?
Do we now force Quakers to take up arms and join the military? Should we force Jehovah’s Witnesses to take blood? Should we take the hijabs away from Muslim women? If nothing else, our country was founded on the ability to live out your beliefs.
This is not Jack persecuting homosexuals. He would sell them anything, including a cake. He just wouldn’t create a wedding cake. This is society persecuting Jack for his faith. And the court agrees.
As David French writes in National Review, “creative professionals should never be required to lend their unique talents to express any form of message they dislike. Don’t make black lawyers oppose civil rights, don’t make liberal fashion designers design clothes for conservative politicians, and don’t require racists to design cakes for interracial couples. Some people use liberty wisely. Some people abuse liberty for immoral ends. But we can’t limit liberty only to the wise and just.”
Today, we are protected
There is no national movement to deny people services. I don’t see any chatter or hear any talk about open discrimination. And this ruling won’t open the doors for any of that. If you are a photographer, you should be able to pick your subjects. If you are a writer, you should be able to write about your interests. If you are a florist, you should be able to name your specialty, all without having the “hate” and “intolerant” title thrown your way.
For today, we have religious rights. But don’t count on the state protecting them. And don’t believe for one minute that the state will protect us.
There is no biblical promise or premise for “rights.” Those of us in America live in a bubble — one that few others in the world enjoy.
For now, we will rejoice. But do not become complacent.