Why Does it Matter that the Supreme Court Ruled in Favor of the Cake Artist in Colorado?
This week the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision ruling that the government was wrong to punish Jack Phillips, a Colorado cake artist, for operating his business in a way he felt was consistent with his Christian beliefs. In 2012, when Jack was asked to design a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, he said that it would violate his conscience to participate in the celebration in this way. Jack was then sued, accused of violating Colorado’s nondiscrimination laws, and even compared to a nazi. Thankfully, Jack received free help from the Christian legal firm, Alliance Defending Freedom. This is a noteworthy win for religious freedom in America.
What many people have not recognized in discussions regarding this issue is this: there is an important difference between 1) simply serving someone at a bake shop, art gallery, or store and 2) using a person’s artistry (as a portrait painter, cake artist, photographer, etc) to celebrate something that violates their conscience. In Jack’s case, he said he was happy to sell the couple anything in his bake shop, he simply would not design a custom cake, which he considered a piece of personal art. And it was not only same-sex marriage that he felt he could not celebrate through his artistry: “’I haven’t singled out that one issue as something I won’t do,’ Jack says. ‘I don’t make cakes for bachelor parties, I don’t make Halloween cakes, or anything involving witchcraft.’ And he even declined to create a three-tiered wedding cake, split right down the middle, to celebrate a divorce.”
Why should you care about this case? You are likely not a cake artist, so why pay attention? This case is important because in the words of a recent Focus on the Family article, “Without a doubt, today’s Supreme Court decision recognizes that religious freedom is still entitled to its pre-eminent place among our constitutional guarantees.” But more importantly, the issue of freedom of conscience will likely continue to be at the center of future legal battles. Furthermore, the Supreme Court would likely not have even considered this case if it were not for President Trump’s recent addition to the court.
Religious freedoms are now under constant attack and it is a very slippery slope. The attacks are centered mostly on Christians. These types of legal cases could just as easily be targeted at an Orthodox Jew’s bake shop, or at a Muslim portrait artist. Yet Christians are the targets of choice in our culture today. In the media, it appears easier to get away with shaming and condemning Christians. We need to be vigilant, pray and be involved. Some Christians may feel that it would not violate their conscience to make a custom cake for a same-sex couple. That would be their choice. However, the freedom to make that decision is at the core of the First Amendment and religious freedom in America.