Christian Living

Making a Case for Religious Freedom

Author Melinda Penner Published on 11/29/2017

In a post-Christian culture, religious freedom is being challenged by some in an attempt to reject any external standards for morality. When individualism is pervasive, the idea that religious people live under an external authority to which their consciences are accountable is a foreign idea. Studies show that most Americans are interested in fair accommodation, so it’s important for Christian ambassadors to be adept at explaining the issues to their friends and family.

One legal case is scheduled to be argued before the Supreme Court in December. Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado, declined to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. He had served the couple who made the request and had no problem continuing to do business with them, but he didn’t want to use his services and creative skills to express a message that conflicted with his conscience. The state has tried to compel him to do so, and that’s what the case is about.

By the way, Phillips has declined to make cakes for other messages he believes are wrong. He previously declined to make a Halloween cake. He’s turned down other business, too, that violated his conscience.

His case isn’t about same-sex marriage. It’s about the constitutional right to live in accordance with religious convictions and not be compelled by the state to engage in speech we don’t consent to. You can find out more about this case at the Alliance Defending Freedom.

There are other cases, and not just with same-sex weddings. California legislators passed a law compelling Crisis Pregnancy Centers in the state to counsel their clients that abortion is an option and to give references where one can be obtained. The government is compelling pro-life groups to engage in speech they believe is abhorrent and at complete odds with their purpose.

These cases are about much more than same-sex weddings, and they aren’t just about Christianity. There is more at stake than some Christian-owned businesses and crisis pregnancy centers. Religious freedom and free speech are values for all Americans, and no less religious people.

The government compelling speech is a complete reversal of our constitutional right to freedom of speech—to engage in speech and refrain from speech—and will have far-reaching consequences. Such a precedent will apply to any religious person and non-religious person, as well. It will apply to any and every citizen that holds a view contrary to what the government deems acceptable.

Alliance Defending Freedom recently streamed on Facebook Live a debate between Supreme Court litigators David Cortman of ADF and Ria Tabacco Mar of the ACLU on the merits of the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.

ADF tweeted some highlights of the points Cortman made that I think are helpful soundbites to help frame the issues at stake (see @AllianceDefends tweets on November 13).

“It is precisely unpopular decisions about #speech that need the most protection.”

”Jack gladly serves everyone, but he doesn’t create art that conflicts with his religious beliefs.”

“God is his master. He closes #Masterpiece on Sundays to engage in worship. He treats all of his customers with respect and dignity. He does not create [things] in violation of his beliefs. For Jack and many others, marriage is sacred.”

“This case is not solely about same-sex marriage. It’s about whether or not speech can be coerced by the government.”

“Jack’s disagreement is not to the person, it’s to the event he is requested to create for. There is a clear distinction.”

“Jack has testified that he would serve the couple anything in his shop. But he cannot create for that event.”

“Just because the government believes something is legal, doesn’t mean a citizen can be forced to create a message supporting it.”

“This is not about sexual orientation. This is about the event itself.”

“The law aims to stop discrimination, and that is a great thing. It’s when the law is misapplied in terms of speech that it fails.”

Learn about these cases. Learn about the facts and issues. The courtroom isn’t the only place to make a case for religious freedom and free speech. Christian ambassadors need to make a case to their friends and families to persuade them. The court of public opinion counts, too.