SCOTUS to Decide if Religious Liberty Is Sacrificed on LGBT Altar
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the infamous same-sex wedding cake case.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a case with serious implications for religious liberty in the United States.
At issue is balancing the Constitution’s guarantees of freedom of religion, speech and association with public accommodation laws that prohibit denial of service based on “disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, or ancestry.”
The facts of the case are straightforward, though often misrepresented. Jack Phillips is the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado. A few years ago, Charlie Craig and David Mullins, two homosexual men, were traveling to Massachusetts to get married (this was prior to the Obergefell ruling in 2015), with a reception to be held in Denver. The two approached Phillips about providing a wedding cake, but Phillips politely declined, explaining that his religious convictions prevent him from providing services for same-sex weddings. The couple filed a complaint with the Colorado Commission on Human Rights, which sued Phillips, eventually winning a ruling that required him not only to provide services for same-sex weddings, but mandating he and his employees undergo “compliance training” (in North Korea this is referred to as “re-education camp”).
Lest one think Phillips is anti-homosexual, it should be noted he offered to provide a wedding cake to the couple — just not with any customization. In fact, he has served many homosexual clients in the past, and continues to do so. It should also be noted that his religious convictions prohibit him from providing cakes for Halloween (a pagan holiday) or second marriages, or anything with anti-Christian, anti-American or vulgar messages.
In a pluralistic society like America, this should not be an issue. The plaintiffs admit there were plenty of other bakers who would provide the cake, but this was never about getting a cake. No, it’s about forcing endorsement of the homosexual agenda and punishing a Christian for living by his faith.
Phillips is so committed to living by his faith that, rather than violating it, he stopped offering customized wedding cakes altogether while the litigation process continues, costing him a staggering 40% of his revenue.
The Supreme Court has issued prior rulings coming down on both sides of religious liberty. In West Virginia State BoE v. Barnette (1943), the Court upheld a Jehovah’s Witness’s right not to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. In Wooley v. Maynard (1977), the Court said New Hampshire could not compel a Jehovah’s Witness to display the state motto “Live Free or Die” on his license plate, as it would violate a citizen’s right “to hold a point of view different from the majority and to refuse to foster … an idea they find morally objectionable.”
On the other hand, in Employment Division v. Smith (1990), a Native American failed to win a religious exemption allowing him to smoke peyote, and of course, in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), the Court swept aside the duly enacted legislation of the people of three dozen states in codifying marriage as between a man and a woman, compelling acceptance of a redefinition of marriage that two-thirds of states found objectionable.
There is also an undercurrent that reveals an unequal application of the law by government which is hostile to Christians.
For example, the same Colorado Commission on Human Rights that compelled Phillips to bake the cake allowed three bakers to refuse service to customers seeking to buy cakes with messages criticizing same-sex “marriage,” an obvious refutation of the claim that this is about enforcing viewpoint neutrality. The state is punishing speech it finds objectionable.
In fact, a study by the First Liberty Institute, which tracks violations of religious liberty, found a 15% increase in legal cases that affect religious liberty in America. From unequal access to federal funds for churches, to lawsuits demanding removal of Christian symbols and memorials from public spaces, to denying freedom of religion to military service members, to compelling Christian bakers, florists, photographers and other artists to participate in same-sex weddings, a clear trend is evident in the oppression of the religious liberties of Christians.
This is mostly due to the larger debate about rights. For the Right, rights are about individual liberty, and these rights are enumerated in the Bill of Rights. For the Left, “rights” are made up out of whole cloth to serve the desired outcome of some constituency, and, in order for these rights to be exercised, it usually means someone else must be compelled to provide something for the recipient.
The outcome of this case will be far-reaching. In fact, some wonder whether, for example, Christian medical professionals soon will be forced to participate in abortions or assisted suicide, or Catholic Adoption Services forced to place children in homes with same-sex parents. The possibilities are as endless as they are frightening.
The reality is that the plaintiffs suing Christian business owners are not interested in equality, or accommodation, but in government-compelled acceptance of something tens of millions of Americans find religiously and morally objectionable.
Craig and Mullins, the plaintiffs in the Masterpiece case, are just the latest iteration of Eric McKinley, the homosexual man who used the New Jersey Civil Rights Division to bludgeon eHarmony, a Christian dating site, into offering services to homosexuals.
After several years of litigation, and facing the daunting power of the state to cripple its business, eHarmony submitted to the state and began offering dating services to homosexuals. No sooner had McKinley vanquished his Christian foe than he announced that he had no intention of using the site. This was about punishment, not equality.
Marriage is found nowhere in the Constitution, much less a “right” to same-sex marriage. However, the freedoms of religion, speech and association are found in the Constitution, right there in the First Amendment.
If the black-robed oligarchs of the Court (here’s looking at you, Anthony Kennedy) have any respect for the language and intent of the Constitution, Jack Phillips’ freedoms will be protected. There are reasons to be hopeful, but time will tell.