Faithful Christians Can Still Run Bakeries: Masterpiece Cakeshop Victorious Before Supreme Court
Expert baker Jack Phillips is also a devout, faithful Christian. He holds a sincere religious conviction that the teaching of the Hebrew Scriptures, the New Testament, the Christian tradition and the Natural Moral law on the nature of marriage is true. And that it must be embraced by all believing Christians.
What is that teaching? Namely, that marriage is solely possible between one man and one woman and is intended for life, open to children and formative of family. No other relationship can be a marriage. In other words, he agreed with the ancient and almost universal Christian teaching and most of humanity through human history.
That proved to be a problem for some. Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins entered Phillips’ Masterpiece Cakeshop in 2012 and told Jack that they were planning to marry. Jack explained to the same-sex couple, “I’ll make your birthday cakes, shower cakes, sell you cookies and brownies. I just don’t make cakes for same-sex weddings.”
The couple filed a discrimination action against the baker with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The Commission ruled against the Baker in an opinion laden with anti-Christian hostility. The Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed that decision.
The homosexual couple asserted that the refusal to design and bake the wedding cake violated the Colorado Public Accommodation Statute, as well as violating the state and federal Constitution. They said it was discrimination based upon their sexual orientation.
Phillips maintained that to compel him to bake a cake advancing the idea that two men can marry violated his fundamental constitutional right to the free exercise of religion. He also argued that it violated his rights to free speech. Forcing him to bake the cake would be a form of compelled speech, which the government cannot do.
A Notorious Case
The case gained national notoriety. Eventually the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear it. It has been one of the court’s most closely watched cases. Both religious people and homosexual activists saw that it could decide fundamental questions that would deeply affect them.
In his request for the Supreme Court to review his case, Phillips stated that his “main goal in life is to be obedient” to Jesus Christ. He wants to follow His “teachings in all aspects of his life.” He sees his work as an extension of his Christian discipleship. He said he seeks to “honor God through his work at Masterpiece Cakeshop.”
That was the problem for Craig and Mullins and then the state’s Civil Right’s Commission. No one minds that Phillips wants to be obedient to Christ. They object only if he follows Jesus in his business. They expect Christians to leave God at home when they go to work. Same-sex activists demand that Christians turn into secularists when they stand behind the counter or work in the shop.
The Christian who believes Jesus is the Lord of all life can’t do that. Phillips politely refused to be one man at home and another man at work.
Ruling in Phillips’ Favor
Six years and hundreds of thousands of dollars later, on June 4, 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in his favor. The majority opinion was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy. It held that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated his right to the free exercise of Religion. The commission failed to show the requisite neutrality in its handling of the entire case. The vote was 7 to 2, with only Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sonia Sotomayor dissenting.
The court acknowledged that “one of Phillips’ religious beliefs is that ‘God’s intention for marriage from the beginning of history is that it is and should be the union of one man and one woman.’” It added, “To Phillips, creating a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding would be equivalent to participating in a celebration that is contrary to his own most deeply held beliefs.”
The Supreme Court was correct. The majority opinion and the three concurring opinions are packed with material religious freedom lawyers will be using for years to come. In short, this opinion protects the role of believing, faithful Christians to fully and freely participate in commerce without having to deny their faith.
Not only did the court defend Phillips’ rights, it noted the hostility he faced from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The commission’s treatment “has some elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs that motivated his objection. That hostility surfaced at the Commission’s formal, public hearings, as shown by the record.” When the commission met,
commissioners endorsed the view that religious beliefs cannot legitimately be carried into the public sphere or commercial domain, implying that religious beliefs and persons are less than fully welcome in Colorado’s business community. One commissioner suggested that Phillips can believe “what he wants to believe,” but cannot act on his religious beliefs “if he decides to do business in the State.”
The Court Said
The court said clearly: Yes, he can. Jack Phillips can act on his religious beliefs when he does business in the state of Colorado. The Masterpiece Cake Decision is a sign that the protections of the First Amendment still apply to Christians in the United States of America. Jack Phillips, and his attorneys, showed great courage and are owed our gratitude, prayerful support and action.
But this decision doesn’t settle the matter. The court framed it narrowly. The justices didn’t offer a blanket rule protecting Christians in business. The people who persecuted Phillips aren’t going to stop just because they lost one case. They’re too committed to establishing same-sex marriage and driving defenders of true marriage into silence.
This presents us with a call for collaboration among all Christians. Phillips is a Protestant Christian. The people who persecuted him want to silence Christians of every sort. They’ll go after Catholics and Orthodox too. They see us as one in our defense of Christian morality. They’re right. But what they don’t see is we’re not only one in our morality. We’re one in Christ Jesus.
We must ask some important questions. How far will the increasingly radicalized secularist State go in asserting its police power over our practice of the Christian faith? What will we do in response? Are we entering the twilight of religious liberty in America?