Supreme Court hears landmark religious liberty case

Posted by    |    December 6th, 2017 at 5:56 am

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard what Eric Metaxas calls “perhaps the most important free speech and religious freedom case in our lifetime.”

Eric explains the case succinctly: Jack Phillips is an artist who designs cakes. His business, Masterpiece Cakeshop, is an expression of his faith. He has refused business in the past that conflicted with his faith–for instance, he won’t design Halloween cakes or cakes that celebrate divorce. The Satanic Temple recently asked him to create a cake for Satan’s birthday, but he refused.

When a same-sex couple asked him to design a cake for their same-sex wedding, he declined. He offered them any cake or other product in his store.

But the couple was infuriated and brought him before the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. It fined Phillips and ordered him and his employees to go through a “re-education” program. He has since stopped making custom wedding cakes, a decision that has cost him 40 percent of his business.

The Supreme Court has previously ruled that government cannot force citizens to make, say, or do something that carries a message they reject. For example, the Court has ruled that the government cannot compel Jehovah’s Witnesses to salute the flag. Now the Court is being asked to extend this religious freedom to the rest of us.

Can businesses “discriminate” against customers?

Writing for The Hill, Emilie Kao states, “At stake is whether the First Amendment to the Constitution protects all Americans at all times.” When Justice Anthony Kennedy authored the decision legalizing same-sex marriage in 2015, he stated, “It must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.”

We can claim that people who go into business forfeit the right to “discriminate” against customers. But Colorado already respects the rights of African-American cake artists to decline requests expressing the racist ideals of the Aryan Nations Church. Now the state refuses to respect the rights of a Christian cake artist to decline a request that violates his religious beliefs.

Consider the logic of this decision. Should a Jewish baker be required to make a cake celebrating Hitler’s birthday? Should a Muslim be required to make a cake that defames the Prophet Muhammad? Should a Christian be required to make a cake with pornographic images on it?

This is about more than wedding cakes. As Kao notes, a farmer in Michigan was banned from selling his fruit at a local market because he declined to host same-sex weddings. Families in Illinois are prevented from fostering children if they won’t affirm transgenderism. Residents in Minnesota and Arizona face criminal penalties if they operate a business that doesn’t conform to the state’s view of marriage.

Should Chick-fil-A be allowed to close on Sunday to honor the Lord’s Day? Should Christian retailers be allowed to refuse to sell pornographic magazines? Should Christian bookstores be permitted to refuse to sell the Satanic Bible?

What about racial discrimination?

Of course, some see this as an issue akin to racial discrimination. Would Jack Phillips be able to refuse to make a wedding cake for an interracial couple?

The connection between same-sex marriage and racial discrimination is tenuous, however.

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson of Los Angeles calls this connection “offensive” and says that the civil rights movement “is not about sex.” Bishop Gilbert Thompson of Boston: “I resent the fact that homosexuals are trying to piggy back on the civil rights struggles of the ’60s.” Pastor Garland Hunt of Atlanta adds: “Same-sex marriage has nothing to do with civil rights, this is an issue of morality.”

What are the differences between gay rights and civil rights? In his excellent A Biblical Point of View on Homosexuality, Kerby Anderson notes these facts:

• Race is clearly inherited; the origins of homosexual orientation are still very much in dispute.
• The biological differences between people of different races are miniscule, varying by just two-tenths of one percent. But the anatomical and biological differences between males and females are obviously very significant.
• Race cannot be chosen, while homosexual activity is a choice.
• While minorities continue to face economic discrimination, there are far less financial consequences for homosexuals. To the contrary, studies place the average income of homosexual households at either twice or 60 percent higher than the national average.

I would add that the Bible clearly rejects racism (Galatians 3:28). But it also forbids homosexual relationships and defines marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman.

I want to be clear: racism in all its forms is wrong. God loves the entire world (John 3:16) and calls us to do the same (Matthew 22:39). But it is not discriminatory for a Christian to refuse to make a cake that violates his religious beliefs.

To the contrary, it is discriminatory to force him to do so.

Conclusion

I invite you to pray for Jack Phillips and those who are defending his religious freedom. Pray for the Supreme Court justices to preserve our First Amendment rights.

And pray for God’s people to use this issue to speak the truth in love, defending biblical morality in a spirit of humble grace. We are all broken sexually and morally. We are all in need of grace. And the ground is level at the foot of the cross.

NOTE: A minister recently claimed that those who want to see the Church of England embrace a more open view of the LGBT community should pray that Prince George grow up to marry a man. For Ryan Denison’s thoughtful response, click here.

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