The artist with his work

May a dress designer refuse to do business with Melania Trump? May a baker refuse to create a cake with a racist message? May that same baker also refuse to create a cake celebrating a same-sex marriage?

The answers, in the liberal culture of the day, are inconsistent. Apparently, the government forcing you to violate your conscience is appropriate when the Left deems it so. Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop has been taken to court over that last question, and his case has made it all the way to the Supreme Court. Arguments will be heard on December 5th.

In this episode, I give the background of this case, and explain how the framing of this issue by the ACLU and the Left is completely dishonest (and why we should all hope Jack wins).

Mentioned links:

Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission [Alliance Defending Freedom]

Why I’m asking the U.S. Supreme Court to protect artistic freedom

The Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court Case Is One Piece of a Much Larger Attack on LGBTQ Lives

Episode 171: How Free Are You to Run Your Business?

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Show transcript

On December 5th, 2017, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Let me explain some of the background.

Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece, will sell anyone any ready-made cake in his shop. Anyone. Any cake. Separately, he will sit down with them and design a custom-made cake, a cake that will communicate a special message for some special occasion.

When performing that second role, Jack Phillips is an artist. If you don’t believe me, try catching the TV show “Cake Wars” on the Food Network. Bakers are challenged to create cakes on a particular theme or to communicate a particular idea or message. Yes, I’ve actually seen it. But in order to properly judge Jack’s artistic ability, you should, too.

Now Jack has his own standards as to what messages he will and won’t be commissioned to create. These standards are informed by his Christian faith. For example, he won’t create a Halloween cake. Some in the Christian community, including Jack, don’t see it as proper to celebrate what is essentially a holiday with Satanic overtones. That’s not a hard and fast rule in Christianity, but for Jack, that’s his belief. There are other kinds of cakes he won’t create either, such as for celebrating a divorce, or any containing alcohol, or any that are racist. He won’t make lewd cakes for a bachelor or bachelorette party.

In this respect, he is similar to another entrepreneur with her own standards. Dress designer Sophie Theallet designed items for Michelle Obama, but refuses to make dresses for Melania Trump. Her standard is informed by her politics, and because of that she won’t do anything that even appears to support President Trump.

Are we OK so far? Has either of these artists crossed a line? If you think they have, or especially if you think one has but not the other, leave me some feedback explaining why. But let’s move on to the point of contention.

Back in 2012, two men went to Masterpiece Cakeshop and talked with Jack Phillips about creating a custom cake for their same-sex wedding. Jack politely declined, but he offered to sell them any other cake in the store. Instead, they left and brought him before the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. In December 2013, a judge for the commission ruled that Phillips discriminated against the couple and ordered him to change his store policy against making cakes for gay weddings or face fines. He has been appealing that ruling, and now it’s on the docket of the Supreme Court.

Understand that, in 2012, same-sex marriage was not legal in Colorado. This couple had been married in Massachusetts, so, to me at least, it’s unclear how a civil rights commission can enforce civil rights that don’t even exist.

The ACLU claims, “This is not about cake. This is about demolishing the legal protections that exist against discrimination in places of public accommodation.” These public accommodation laws grew out of the Jim Crow era when many places refused to serve blacks, or, when they did, segregated them to specific areas. In some towns, blacks couldn’t, for example, rent a room for the night anywhere. With the civil rights movement, public accommodation laws meant you, as a public business, couldn’t refuse service to someone based on race, or a number of other categories. But this situation is not one of “public accommodation”, which refers to serving people. Jack Phillips accommodates all people. He does not accommodate all messages or events. As another example, he’s also turned down creating cakes with messages that disparage the LGBT community. But you have likely heard, and will continue to hear, that he refused to serve two gay people. That’s how some would like to frame it, but that’s simply a lie.

I want to close with Jack’s own words:

I’ll sell anyone any cake I’ve got. But I won’t design a cake that promotes something that conflicts with the Bible’s teachings.

You shouldn’t have to agree with my faith beliefs to understand that. In fact, I support the other cake artists in the state who have beliefs about marriage that differ from mine. When a man wanted them to design a cake that was critical of same-sex marriage, they said no. They didn’t want to create a cake that expressed a message about marriage that they disagreed with — and they have that right. I just wish the same government commission that supported their freedom to decline would have supported me instead of engaging in a double standard.

No one — whatever his moral convictions — should be forced by the government to communicate a message he disagrees with. And because the Colorado courts wouldn’t support that principle, I and my Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm my freedom — and that of every American — to decide for ourselves what messages we will or will not advocate, promote, or celebrate. I don’t know of a more fundamental freedom — a more intrinsically American idea — than that.

So considering all these facts, the question before the court is this: Are artists of any sort going to be required to perform work that goes against their beliefs, or is that going to be applied solely to Christians? Actually, a more accurate question might be, will this be applied solely to issues that the Left decides it will not tolerate any objection to? I’m sure they don’t mind Jack Phillips turning down racist cakes, so this standard is almost certainly going to be applied subjectively, which will ultimately mean that there is no standard at all. Let’s hope Jack prevails, and that freedom of conscience remains.

Always be aware of how people frame their arguments, even when you hear those arguments from me. When you hear charges of “hate”, it’s unfortunate, but too often those charges really just mean “disagreement”. Jack Phillips is not singling out same-sex marriage for his refusals. This is demonstrably not hate; it is action consistent with his belief, and with his other actions; other similar actions that he’s not being sued for, I might add.

We need to get the word out on this, and not let people frame this in a way that ignores the whole truth of the situation. I’d ask you to share this with your social media crowd so that more people understand what’s really at stake here.

Filed under: Free SpeechGovernmentMarriageReligionSame-sex Marriage