If a Christian Baker’s Rights are Violated, We All Lose. Here’s Why.

Religious freedom has set our nation apart from the very beginning.

By Published on December 3, 2017

Religious freedom has set our nation apart from the very beginning.

Among its many benefits, religious freedom allows religious individuals and groups to make unique contributions to the public good. And those contributions are massive — from founding countless universities and hospitals to funding charities and the arts.

The economic byproduct of religious liberty is also noteworthy. Religious groups and religiously motivated businesses like Masterpiece Cakeshop contribute $1.2 trillion to the U.S. economy each year.

It is deeply concerning, then, that religious freedom in the marketplace is coming under threat.

That’s the subject of an upcoming Supreme Court case, Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. V. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. In this case, the court will consider whether a state can force a Christian cake baker to bake a custom cake for a same-sex wedding in violation of his deeply held religious beliefs.

Jack Phillips, the cake baker and petitioner in this case, has received support from a host of groups and individuals, including a large group of Catholic organizations that filed an amicus brief in support of his case.

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That group included the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Colorado Catholic Conference, the Catholic Bar Association, the Catholic Medical Association, the National Association of Catholic Nurses-U.S.A, and the National Catholic Bioethics Center.

In their brief, they defend the right of religious institutions to operate in a manner that is consistent with their beliefs. They warn of the social costs to all Americans, not just religious Americans, when religious institutions are forced to choose between following their beliefs and providing benefits to the public.

Intolerance toward religion — as reflected in Colorado’s hostile action against Phillips — does not merely threaten religious individuals and institutions. It threatens all those who receive public benefits from those individuals and institutions.

The Catholic groups also argue that in a pluralistic society like the United States, robust protection of the First Amendment is an absolute necessity. They urge the court to uphold the right to free speech and religious freedom in this case, so that Phillips and others like him can continue to live out their vocations and contribute to society — whether by providing the public with delicious baked goods or desperately needed social services.

The Catholic groups also point out that free speech is not simply the right to speak, but the right not to be forced by the government to speak a message that violates one’s conscience.

The Supreme Court established in the landmark case West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette that “[t]he ‘right’ to speak and the right to refrain from speaking are complementary components of the broader concept of ‘individual freedom of mind.’”

Phillips has the right not to speak by not creating a custom wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony. In forcing Phillips to bake the cake or pay excessive fines, Colorado is trying to force him to communicate a message about marriage that violates his religious beliefs.

The brief explains why this action on the part of Colorado is completely unnecessary. Phillips does not discriminate against anyone because of who they are. He serves all customers — he just doesn’t communicate all messages, namely those that violate his conscience. And the government should not force him to do so.

Also at stake here is Phillips’ right to associate or not to associate himself with an event, like a same-sex wedding that would violate his beliefs.

In his case, crafting a custom wedding cake would include delivering the cake to the wedding ceremony and mingling with the couple and their guests, which may be interpreted as endorsing or cooperating in the marriage. Phillips also has the right not to associate with an occasion that would violate his conscience.

The groups clarify that these freedoms extend to institutions as well. A ruling against Phillips would force other faith-based organizations — from hospitals to adoption agencies to charities — to choose between their beliefs or shutting down their businesses.

Catholic Charities and other faith-based adoption services in Illinois, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia were forced to close their doors because they believe that every child deserves both a mom and a dad. As a result, children were displaced from Catholic Charities to other agencies.

The Catholic groups contend that unless the court defends the First Amendment, these groups will no longer be able to care for the most vulnerable in our society. The neediest in our society will suffer most if they lose the public goods that people and organizations of faith provide.

Freedom of religion guarantees that individuals and institutions may not only seek the truth, but live it out — in private and in public. When individuals and institutions are free to live out their religious and moral beliefs, society flourishes. But if violating one’s conscience becomes the cost of doing business, everyone suffers.

These Catholic organizations propose conscience protections as a tried-and-true solution to disagreements over serious issues, like how to think about marriage. After Roe v. Wade, pro-life conscience protections ensured that people of good will on both sides of the abortion issue could live together and discuss the topic.

Similarly after Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court should protect the consciences of people on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate.

By protecting freedom of religion, speech, and association for people like Phillips, everyone wins. Safeguarding these freedoms will enable religion to flourish, and religious people and organizations to continue offering public goods for everyone’s benefit.


Copyright 2017 The Daily Signal

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  • tz1

    Absolutely not, or at least they have unclean hands.

    Way back in 1983(?), there was the Bob Jones U decision. Their interpretation of the bible is that “nations” shouldn’t intermingle, and rejecting miscegany is no different than rejecting homogamy.

    I hear you all shrieking, except that is the problem. The Court said “public interest”, not “constitutional right”.

    Fine. Let the Catholic Church lose its 501c3 status first, then talk about cakes.

    And to go back further, I have no problem where GOVERNMENT must respect everyone equally, but the civil right’s act “public accomodation” rule forces association. It was based originally on race, creed, and a few other things, but apparently LGBTQWERTY whatever is now sotto voce included.

    Non-government businesses or even individuals should have the freedom to associate – or not – with anyone they want.

    You have no argument because you already have agreed the government can force association for things that don’t bother you. (Whether it bothers me or not is irrelevant, only whether government can force association against the will or not).

    • Kevin Carr

      Stop conflating skin color with homosexuality, skin color is a benign characteristic, there is nothing you have to do to be the race you are, homosexuality is behavioral.

      • Tom Bor

        There really isn’t any definitive scientific information one way or another as to whether “homosexuality is behavioral” or not

        But it really doesn’t matter if being gay is behavioral or not. One can also choose to be Muslim or Christian, it doesn’t give someone the right to refuse service based on religious affiliation, which is a chosen behavior.

        There already exists limits to our Free Speech, one of them is equal protection under the public accommodation laws.

        • Kevin Carr

          There is nothing one has to do to be the race they are, that is not behavioral, however with homosexuality there is behavior. Did the baker flat out refuse all service or just not doing a wedding cake?

          • Tom Bor

            Re-read my post I didn’t mention race. I used religion as a proxy since it’s also “chosen”. A Muslim can’t refuse to serve a Christian because he thinks they’re infidels.

            The baker makes custom wedding cakes for people’s weddings. He can’t refuse to make the same types of cakes for a certain portion of the population.

          • Andrew Mason

            And as said previously, choice of religion is debated. Regardless it is a protected natural right, sexuality is not.

            The baker s not refusing to make the same type of cake for a certain portion of the population, he’s refusing to make a particular type of cake for any customer.

          • Tom Bor

            “And as said previously, choice of religion is debated. Regardless it is a protected natural right, sexuality is not.”
            Your opinion, not fact.

            “The baker s not refusing to make the same type of cake for a certain portion of the population, he’s refusing to make a particular type of cake for any customer.”
            A cake for a gay wedding, which only affects gay people, so he is de facto refusing to serve gay people.

          • Andrew Mason

            Except it’s not. Anyone involved in a homosexual union might order a cake, and the issue is not restricted to wedding cakes and the like. Ashers Baker was taken to court because they refused to supply a cake promoting homosexual marriage in a country where homosexual marriage is not legal.

          • Tom Bor

            I have no idea what you’re saying.

          • Andrew Mason

            I’m saying that various US and international documents recognise that religion is a natural protected right. By contrast lifestyle choices are not a protected right.

            Any customer may order anything they like but it is the bakers right to refuse the order. Refusing an order is not the same as refusing a customer. LGBT militants insist that refusing anything pertaining to LGBT is illegal bigotry yet do not hold to the same standard when refusing Christians and others.

          • Tom Rath

            The court record on this case confirms that there was never any
            discussion of the details of the cake or request to put any kind of
            ‘message’ on it.

            It was simply to be a wedding cake, a product the baker openly and freely offered for sale.

            Per one of the filed briefs: “The stipulated record, as it comes to this
            Court, reflects that petitioners “categorically refused” to accept the
            cake order without any discussion of “what the cake would look like,”
            and that they were “not asked to apply any message or symbol to the
            cake.” Pet.App. 75a. This is thus not a case in which the artisan has
            been asked to create a message he does not otherwise produce for
            commercial purposes. The message intrinsic to a wedding cake is one that
            petitioners are generally willing to create and sell. The interest
            asserted here is in choosing who gets to buy the product bearing that

          • Andrew Mason

            There wasn’t any need for a discussion. Masterpiece doesn’t do Halloween cakes, it doesn’t do homosexual cakes, and it doesn’t do any other sort of cake deemed offensive.

            Elsewhere the ACLU and the Colorado solicitor general have insisted that the state has the right to force cake artists to celebrate White supremacy and the Holocaust. The solicitor general later admitted that discrimination on the basis of message was valid – he simply refuses to accept that this is an instance of valid discrimination. The ACLU has further argued that the state has the power to force Christian chapels to perform SSM. And SCOTUS has noted that Colorado has refused to apply its anti-discrimination statute to bakers who’ve refused to accept requests by religious customers critical of SSM. Note any skew here?

    • tether

      Forcing a baker to make a cake that violates their beliefs is no different than forcing a Dr. To perform abortions who believes it is wrong.

  • Jones Howell

    Outstanding article!

  • 0pus

    Targeting a business because of its owner’s religion should be a crime.

  • It goes without saying that there is a lot of anti-Muslim sentiment in this country just now. Should Christian-owned businesses be allowed to turn away Muslim customers and job applicants? If so, the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 means NOTHING.

    • Chip Crawford

      It should be obvious for any awake, caring person that there is a lot of anti-Christian sentiment in this country just now. Should secular forces, politically favoring Muslims be allowed to control the choices of Christians, freedom of religion and the 1st Amendment would mean NOTHING. Which of your freedoms are you not yourself entitled to in lieu of some other group’s (including illegal immigrants) superior claim?

    • Paul

      Should Christians be forced to sacrifice their livelihoods in order to live by their faith or compromise their faith and honor sin in the work of their hands? If so then the 1st Amendment of the US Consitution of 1791 means NOTHING.

      If there is a conflict between the 1st Amendment and the Civil Rights Act, the 1st Amendment wins.

      • Tom Bor

        Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises, Inc.

        SCOTUS ruled that a BBQ restaurant owner was not allowed to “express his religious views” by refusing to serve African Americans.

        • Chip Crawford

          If that case applied in the instant baker case, the baker case would not now be up for review with SCOTUS …

          • Tom Bor

            One of the things SCOTUS will be determining is if business owners are allowed to “express their religious views” by refusing to serve gay Americans.

          • Chip Crawford

            The matter is whether someone can be forced to compromise and/or violate the clear and unambiguous teaching of God’s word whether or not others feel free to do so. How many of your own closely held convictions are inferior to those of others and must be yielded on demand under any circumstance? If the convictions, preferences and free will choices of some are inherently superior and can automatically supersede the rights and choices of others, why would that be?

          • Andrew Mason

            Refusal to serve a person is different to refusing to provide the servicecustom product they demand. You cannot expect a Muslim butcher to sell you pork sausages, you cannot expect a Jewish printer to sell you anti-Semitic literature, you cannot expect a Black tailor to sell you K^3 attire, and you cannot expect a Christian baker to sell you a homosexual cake. Court rulings to date don’t see it so black and white.

          • Tom Rath

            Well, the first three of those aren’t discrimination. You are referring to products/services that those particular vendors would not offer for sale to ANYONE, thus, no discrimination takes place. There is no *differentiation* in service, which is key.

            As to the cake in this case, the court record indicates (and the parties stipulate) that there was never any discussion regarding the details of the cake (design, artwork, etc.) in the discussion which lasted about 20 seconds. The baker simply said he did not make cakes for same-sex weddings. Absent any chance to request a design or ‘message’ specific to this cake, the lower courts found that the baker simply refused to provide the couple the same product he openly offered for sale to other customers.

          • Andrew Mason

            Except they are ordinary services. So long as a butcher stocks pork products a Muslim has to sell it to you – he cannot refuse.So long as a printer is open to new jobs a Jew cannot refuse your order for pro-Holocaust material. So long as a tailor stocks white fabric, or orders materials as needed, he cannot refuse your ‘suit’ order. You are insisting that the service is somehow different because you consider it offensive.

            There was no need for discussion. That type of cake is one not produced by the bakery. It is no different to a Halloween cake.

          • Tom Bor

            There’s no such thing as a “homosexual cake”

            From NYTimes:
            “In his defense, Phillips has pointed out that he refuses to sell Halloween cakes or demon-themed cakes; he analogizes these refusals to his unwillingness to sell gay wedding cakes. In other words, he maintains that his turning away the gay couple was about what was requested, not who was requesting it.

            The problem with this retort is that “gay wedding cakes” are not a thing. Same-sex couples order their cakes from the same catalogs as everyone else, with the same options for size, shape, icing, filling, and so on. Although Phillips’s cakes are undeniably quite artistic, he did not reject a particular design option, such as a topper with two grooms — in which case, his First Amendment argument would be more compelling. Instead, he flatly told Craig and Mullins that he would not sell them a wedding cake.”

          • Andrew Mason

            It’s short form for any sort of cake which promotes and or celebrates the homosexual lifestyle. While most of the court cases pertain to requestsrefusals for homosexual wedding cakes, not all are.

            Except that homosexual wedding cakes are considered a thing by a significant part (the majority?) of the community. Phillips didn’t say that he wouldn’t sell a wedding cake, he said he wouldn’t sell a homosexual marriage cake.

      • KittenChow

        Any business owner should be able to turn away any one for their religion, skin color, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation. The Bill of Rights is to prevent the government from discriminating, not individuals.

        • Paul

          Yes indeed, the Constitution limits govt not the people

    • Andrew Mason

      Is anybody saying this debate is about the right to turn away customers? No the debate is about the right not to violate your conscience – whether offensive requests must be catered for.

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