2017 | Week of December 4 | #1232
This week the US Supreme Court hears oral arguments in two cases that definitely have our attention. One of the cases deals with whether or not a federal ban on sports betting is constitutional. New Jersey is challenging this prohibition based primarily on a state’s-rights argument.
While this sports gambling case is definitely of interest to us, even more prominent for us is the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. This is a case about a Colorado cake artist, Jack Phillips, who declined to use his artistic abilities to celebrate a same-sex ceremony. Jack serves all who walk through his shop’[s doors, but when a same-sex couple asked him to create a custom wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex wedding, Jack declined, citing his Christian beliefs, and offering to sell them any of the other baked items in his shop. The couple easily obtained their desired rainbow-themed cake for free from another nearby cake artist, yet sued Jack under Colorado’s laws.
The Colorado Supreme Court declined to take the case after the state’s Court of Appeals affirmed a Colorado Civil Rights Commission decision against Jack from May 2014. That decision ordered Phillips and his employees to create cakes that celebrate same-sex ceremonies and required Phillips to comply with Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act by re-educating his staff (which includes members of his own family) and filing quarterly “compliance” reports for two years.
The truth is creative professionals should be free to create expression consistent with their faith and conscience without fear of government punishment. True tolerance is a two-way street, not a zero-sum game where the government can destroy a person of faith simply for living and working consistent with their deeply held convictions and beliefs. Everyone’s freedom is at risk when the government is able to punish citizens like Jack Phillips just because the government doesn’t like how he exercises his artistic freedom.
Consider what would happen if the government forced a Democrat speechwriter to write speeches for President Trump, or if a Muslim painter with a conviction against creating visual depictions of Muhammed, were forced to create a painting of Muhammed for a religious customer? Should an atheist sign makers be forced to create signs proclaiming the existence of God?
If you think some in our culture are deliberately going after Christian business owners, you might be right. The same Colorado Civil Rights Commission that ruled against Jack Phillips found that three other Denver cake artists were not guilty of discrimination when they declined a Christian customer’s request for a cake that reflected his religious opposition to same-sex marriage.
Jack Phillips is an artist, not just a baker. For him, creating custom cakes is about the event, not the person. He’s doesn’t create anti-American cakes, cakes that celebrate Halloween or divorce. But the only lawsuit he’s encountered has come from those pushing the LGBTQ agenda.
Jack and his family have suffered significantly. He’s endured terrifying death threats and harassment. He’s been driven out of the wedding industry, which has cost him 40% of his business, resulting in losing employees and struggling to keep his small family business going.
While this case is specifically about Jack Phillips, it obviously has incredible ramifications for Christians nationwide.
Jack will be well represented by our friends at Alliance Defending Freedom; and we are honored that we are represented in this case through a friend-of-the-court brief we filed along with 32 other family policy councils across the country in support of Jack Phillips.
We pray the justices consider the arguments they will hear and read with open minds and not filtered through personal or politically correct agendas. We pray they realize that in a truly free and tolerant society, all artists and creative professionals, no matter their beliefs about marriage, should be free to create custom expression consistent with their convictions without government punishment. That shouldn’t be asking too much in a Republic where supposedly the rule of law matters.
For Wisconsin Family Council, I’m Julaine Appling, reminding you the prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.