The U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to hear the controversial case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission when it returns to session. Their decision can permanently redefine the rights of Christian small business owners in the United States.
The controversy began in 2012, when wedding cake shop owner Jack Phillips turned away two gentlemen who requested him to perform his services for a same-sex reception. Phillips, a Christian who opposes same-sex marriage on principle, was subsequently demonized by the mainstream media and Colorado politicians who believed he should be forced to forgo his beliefs in such situations.
Now, it seems as if Christianity itself is on trial.
The Legal Implications
If the Supreme Court rules the way the Colorado Civil Rights Commission wants it to, religious business owners everywhere will effectively be banned from exercising their own spiritual consciousness in a business setting.
Because of this, the boundaries of religious liberty became a prominent talking point during the 2016 presidential election, even in third-party debates. Then-Libertarian Party candidate Austin Petersen, who is currently running as a Republican to replace U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, tried posing the question differently: should a Jewish baker be forced to bake a cake for a Nazi?
While it seems like a bit of an extreme example, Petersen’s analogy is perfectly reasonable —
it is immoral to force anyone to trade with another party, especially when closely held beliefs are conflicted.
But that isn’t even the case here. Anyone with a sufficient understanding of Christian doctrine knows that those who follow the Bible don’t oppose gay marriage out of hatred for those who participate in it, but rather out of principle based on what Scripture tells us.
The Trump Administration Lends its Support
Due to the widespread implications of the high court ruling against Phillips, the case has received plenty of attention from prominent religious organizations in America — groups which likely understand that the buck does not and will not stop here.
“There is far more at stake in this case than simply whether Jack Phillips must bake a cake,” the U.S. bishops’ conference said in an amicus brief cited by Crux. “It is about the freedom to live according to one’s religious beliefs in daily life and, in so doing, advance the common good.”
In addition to high-profile groups like this, Masterpiece Cakeshop has also garnered support form the Trump administration. In a separate amicus brief, the president’s Department of Justice went as far as to say that the First Amendment itself is under threat if the Supreme Court refuses to take religious liberty into account.
“Forcing Phillips to create expression for and participate in a ceremony that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs invades his First Amendment rights,” the DOJ’s statement read. “In the view of the United States … a First Amendment intrusion occurs where a public accommodations law compels someone to create expression for a particular person or entity and to participate, literally or figuratively, in a ceremony or other expressive event.”
The Justice Department, currently led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, went on to note that wedding cake shops serve a function outside of normal food vendors — and therefore their products warrant unique protections under the First Amendment.
“A custom wedding cake can be sufficiently artistic to qualify as pure speech, akin to a sculptural centerpiece,” the department added. “In short, a custom wedding cake is not an ordinary baked good; its function is more communicative and artistic than utilitarian.”
Love Thy Neighbor
At this point, it’s hard to tell exactly how the Supreme Court will treat the case, but President Donald Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the bench definitely improves the prospects for a sound ruling. Gorsuch is a proud originalist, meaning he interprets religious liberty as just that – the freedom to conduct your life according to your individual spiritual beliefs.
That is what this case is about. It has nothing to do with any sort animosity between conservative Christians and homosexuals. Rather, it’s an effort to affirm what Jesus Christ asked of his followers from the very beginning: live and let live.
~ 1776 Christian