The U.S. Supreme Court will soon determine whether an artist, in this case a cake decorator, has the right to determine for whom he will use his talents based on religious beliefs. I think the issue is more basic. The question is whether a business should be required to participate in any activity that is against the owner’s religious beliefs.
In July, 2012, Jack Phillips, who owns Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, was asked by Charlie Craig and David Mullins to custom decorate a cake for their same-sex wedding reception. Jack graciously explained to them his religious opposition to same-sex marriage and that he could not offer his services to them. He offered them an already baked cake and suggested other conveniently located bakeries that would accommodate them. They sued, and the case was appealed all the way to the highest court in the land. Religious freedom vs. public accommodation was being put to the test. Meanwhile Jack’s cake sales are down 40%, and he has gone from 10 to 4 employees.
The same Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that same-sex couples could marry. This decision was a grave disappointment and an offense to us Bible-believing Christians. We were told at the time to be tolerant and that such law would not impact our way of life. But, as we know, this attack on traditional marriage has affected many people’s lives. The wedding cake case was already making its way through the courts when same-sex marriage became legal nationwide. Other businesses have suffered or closed due to refusal to participate in weddings or other activities of same-sex couples.
This landmark Supreme Court decision will signal further how Christians will be treated for their biblical belief in traditional marriage between a man and a woman. If the court sides with Masterpiece, Christian business owners will at least have some protection against being forced to support the celebrations and activities that the Bible clearly calls an “abomination to the Lord.” Sadly, if it sides with the gay couple, business owners will be forced to participate in such celebrations and activities, close their business, or commit a crime. This ruling against religious freedom would also have implications for many other types of businesses and organizations, even churches.
A main reference by the plaintiff is the 1968 case of Newman vs. Piggy Park Enterprises, Inc. This case involved the owner of a drive-in who refused to serve black customers because of a so-called religious belief against integration. The Supreme Court found in favor of the black customer in an 8-0 decision. I hope the court rightly sees this case as having no bearing on the cake issue. Certainly, a public business shouldn’t discriminate in sales on the basis of ethnicity, a handicap, or any other natural difference. But, to refuse to apply one’s talents to something that is against a strongly held religious belief is a basic religious freedom.
The plaintiffs say it is not about a cake; it is about equal rights. I suggest it is neither. It is another assault on the Christian faith. The couple could have walked a couple of blocks and ordered a cake from another bakery without a problem. If a Muslim meat processor refused to butcher a farmer’s hog because it was against his religion, no court would even hear the farmer’s case. Yet, America’s courts have increasingly pushed Christians to tolerate behaviors that dishonor God and to accept them as lawful. Issues like abortion, gender identity, and same-sex marriage are becoming legally off-limits for debate in the public domain.
The odds of this case are in favor of the same-sex couple. The Supreme Court, when almost evenly divided, will usually tip in the direction of the lower courts. Court watchers are already reporting that this case is equally divided between the conservative and liberal judges with Justice Anthony Kennedy having the determining vote. Kennedy generally supports LGBT issues and wrote the majority opinion for same-sex marriage. One bright spot is that, of many equally divided legal briefs, one was from the Trump Administration Department of Justice supporting Masterpiece. The result most American Christians hope to see will be a long shot. I encourage you to pray that the Supreme Court sides with Jack Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop–and God–in their ruling in a few months.