A baker in Colorado who made headlines for his refusal to service a same sex marriage is back in the news. The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, lighting a fire under the same sex debate yet again.
Jack Phillips, the business owner who refused to bake a cake for a same sex marriage ceremony for religious reasons, originally lost the discrimination case that was brought against him. The appeals process was watched with a great deal of interest by businesses around the United States, including many other bakeries, photography studios and florists. Many of these businesses have complaints that they are forced to serve gay couples in ways that conflict with their closely held beliefs.
Honestly, these companies have not been able to gain a great deal of headway in the court of public opinion. The Phillips case therefore represents a very important hallmark in the divide between private property, the responsibility of private business to the public interest, and the constitutional rights of the individuals who own businesses. Are companies truly responsible to uphold social norms over personal belief systems if the social norm has reached a certain level of popularity?
The decision of the Supreme Court in the Phillips case is expected sometime in 2018. The justices will surely have a heated discussion about the issue. Many previous decisions have been divided along ideological lines, which puts the advantage slightly in the conservative corner. However, there is no telling how the Supreme Court will rule on this case, seeing the outsized influence that the gay community has in many areas of politics.
The two sides in this case could not be more divided. One contains lesbian and gay couples who argue that they have an entitlement to equal treatment regardless of the personal beliefs of the business owner. The other side contains business owners and religious activists who argue that government has no right to force them to adhere to the belief systems of customers.
The Supreme Court has ruled on the side of gay rights more often than not in recent decisions. 2015 brought the decision that established same-sex marriage has a constitutional right. Since then, the LGBT community has steadily gained ground in many other areas of politics, some of those advancements spurred by appeals court decisions.
However, the Court has also ruled in favor of businesses that have owners that adhere to certain religious principles. In some cases, those companies may be exempted from otherwise applicable laws. One of the most important cases that upheld this viewpoint is the 2014 ruling that some businesses could not be forced to give free condoms to female workers.
The case in question, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, reaches back into 2012. Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, would not participate in the wedding ceremony of a gay male couple who planned to get married in the coming months. After a somewhat heated discussion, the gay couple filed discrimination charges against Mr. Phillips. They were vindicated in front of a civil rights commission and in the initial court case.
Mr. Phillips is arguing on the basis of the First Amendment. Specifically, the protection of religious freedom in the amendment should override the antidiscrimination law of Colorado. Lawyers defending Mr. Phillips said that he should be able to choose what he creates as a business owner without government interference into his private business.
In a subsequent Colorado appeals case, the court again ruled against Mr. Phillips. The court said that baking a cake did not actually showcase any support of same-sex marriages.
Needless to say, this is a very dangerous position for Christian Americans who believe in individual rights that are protected by the Constitution. The Colorado courts’ reading of anti-discrimination laws and of the Constitution has been quite detrimental to the practice of private enterprise everywhere. Because the case has made it all the way to the Supreme Court, the nation is in danger of having Colorado’s policy imposed across the entire United States.
Now is the time for Christians and all defenders of the Constitution to step up the pressure on government officials who are looking to impose themselves on private companies. Not only does this case mean a great deal for religious freedom, but it also has many implications for how we all do business in America.
~ 1776 Christian