Religious Liberty Case Is Not about Refusing to Serve People “Because of Who They Are”

Today, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. I recommend you read this article by David French to clear up a major misconception about the case that’s being promoted out there. The article responds to a New York Times opinion piece that completely misunderstands the case, claiming it’s about denying people services “because of who they are.” (See here and here for more responses to this common mistake.)

The actual facts of the case are crystal clear. Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, refused to custom-design a cake to help celebrate a gay wedding. As a Christian, he finds same-sex unions to be unbiblical and immoral, and he wasn’t willing to use his artistic talents to advance a message he holds to be wrong. In fact, he’d frequently declined to design cakes that advanced messages he found to be offensive. But he never, ever — not once — discriminated against any customers on the basis of their identity. He baked cakes for people of all races, creeds, colors, and sexual orientations….

Phillips isn’t discriminating against a protected class. I’ll repeat this until I’m blue in the face. He serves gay customers.

If a black baker refuses a white customer’s request to design a Confederate-flag cake, he’s not discriminating on the basis of race. He’s refusing to advance a message….

If progressive designers refuse to design dresses for the Trump women, they’re not discriminating on the basis of sex. They’re refusing to elevate and help honor a political family they dislike....

Boylan [the NYT author] claims that Phillips is seeking special religious exemptions. To the contrary, sexual revolutionaries are seeking exemptions from the Constitution. They believe that same-sex marriage is so precious that even artists can be conscripted into the ceremony — despite their deeply held beliefs. They believe that the cost of entering the marketplace is not just the loss of your distinct artistic voice but the commandeering of that voice by your ideological foes to advance their ideological interests.

The author of the New York Times piece is transgender, and I understand that makes this personal and emotional—just as this case will be personal and emotional for many; but if we don’t support religious freedom for all, even when we dislike the religion, then there will be religious freedom for none. The whole concept will be meaningless, because, after all, religious freedom protections are only needed when those in power disagree with a religion. If those protections are thrown out when people disagree, then they exist for no purpose whatsoever.

Some out there have refused to serve people because of who they are; that’s morally wrong, and the government doesn’t allow it. The claim out there now is that if we grant Phillips his liberty in this situation, the result will be chaos, with people denying service to anyone they’re bigoted against. That’s absurd. Certainly, as a nation, we’re capable of making a distinction between the two situations (just as this LGBT activist did).

For more on this topic, see the posts linked below. And to understand how the government has balanced its interests with religious liberty claims in the past, see here and here. We have established ways of dealing with this that honor and protect our liberty. There’s no need to deny anyone’s liberty out of fear that it will lead to imagined craziness.

Amy K. Hall

Dec2017

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