Supreme Court justices have recently been hearing arguments that have pitted religious freedom and First Amendment rights against anti-discrimination laws.
The case of Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. the Colorado Civil Rights Commission involves baker Jack Phillips and whether he has the right to refuse to make a cake for a gay wedding.
Whatever decision the Court issues, it is likely to be a turning point regarding civil liberties, religious freedom, and how Christians will be allowed to operate their businesses.
Let’s look at both scenarios…
If the Supreme Court decides in Favor of Phillips
If the Court rules in favor of Phillips, this would be a huge win not only for Christians, but for people of all faiths to live and work in a way that is consistent with their convictions.
There is legal precedent that may lead some to believe the Court will rule in favor of Mr. Phillips. In 2014, the Court ruled that Hobby Lobby didn’t need to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. This ruling was decided because the mandate in the Affordable Care Act offended free exercise of religion. The primary difference in the current case, however, is that Masterpiece Cakeshop is beholden to laws put forth at the state level.
Justice Kennedy seems to be focusing on the possibility that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed anti-Christian bias when making their initial decision against Phillips. If this is the prevailing thought among all the justices, the case could be remanded back to the lower court.
Some legal experts are predicting a win for Phillips, but not necessarily an overall win for religious liberty. This may ultimately mean that the legal climate regarding Christians, free speech, and religious liberty won’t change much. This, in turn, will also mean that it’s only a matter of time before another similar case is brought before the Court.
If the Court Rules Against Masterpiece Cakeshop
Even if the Supreme Court upholds the ruling put forth by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, it’s important to remember that this is a state law. It might not affect, at least not immediately, business owners in other states. In the long run, however, the effects for the Church and traditional Christianity could be staggering.
On a practical level, if the Court decides against Phillips, many business opportunities and occupations could be closed to those who adhere to more traditional variants of Christianity. Bakers, florists, and photographers would only be the beginning. Everything from what educators are allowed to say in the classroom to what health professionals are required to do could be affected.
Will this also mean that those with beliefs other than Christianity will be compelled to provide services that go against those core beliefs? Would a Jewish deli be required to provide products that weren’t Kosher? Would an atheist be required to bake a cake that had Bible verses written on it? This would be unlikely since the Colorado Civil Rights Commission already struck down a request for the Azucar Bakery owned by Marjorie Silva in Denver to make cakes shaped like a Bible with anti-gay Bible verses.
The same Civil Rights Commission that told Phillips he had to bake a cake decided Silva didn’t have to because the Bible verses were considered derogatory language. If the Supreme Court decides that Bible verses are equivalent to “derogatory language” this has massive implications not just for Christian business owners, but for the American Church.
The decision is expected to be made sometime in the spring.
In the meantime, Christian leaders need to realize what has happened is that the culture has changed so rapidly and dramatically in a span of only a few years that differing beliefs and worldviews are clashing.
Throughout our country’s history, most people either practiced Christianity or at least respected it. This is no longer true. Many people in our society are increasingly viewing traditional Christianity as bigoted and even delusional.
Since forcing business owners to violate their conscious has so far only applied to Christians, it may be time for Christians to seek out protected class status much the same way the gay community has. At the very least, it’s time for Christians to prepare for a different set of laws and an increasingly hostile culture than that which we lived in just a few years earlier.
~ 1776 Christian