Fighting for Freedom: Colorado Baker Traveled to Supreme Court
Practicing the tenets of one’s religion is a crucial part of the daily lives of millions of Americans. Religious people of all faiths seek to not just hold their religious beliefs, but also exercise them. The Constitution of the United States guarantees this freedom, allowing citizens to have freedom of speech and religion as enshrined in the First Amendment. Recently, these freedoms have been threatened; those who decide to refuse to cater gay events are facing lawsuits, fines, and possible jail time. No one is entitled to force others to associate themselves with a particular event. For a free society to prosper, people need to permit others to act in ways they may disagree with; supporting the cause of a particular ceremony does not validate mandated approval and participation from the rest of society.
In 1993, Jack Phillips opened Masterpiece Cakeshop to pursue his dream of owning a bakery. He wanted to use his artistic skills to serve his community through baking, his favorite medium of artistic expression. Phillips continued to serve the community for years, not turning any clientele away due to their sexual identity or race. However, there were certain activities or ceremonies for which he would not bake a cake.
Phillips would refuse to bake cakes that were for halloween, an anti-American message, an adult-themed party, or a message that is disparaging to a particular group of people. Declining service to a gay couple is what ultimately instigated a lawsuit against him. In 2012, David Mullins and Charlie Craig entered Phillips’ store, requesting to bake a cake for their wedding. After respectfully declining, the couple stormed out and later filed a lawsuit on grounds of discrimination. The couple is arguing from a perplexing notion of freedom, where they are able to enter into a relationship with the baker, but the baker cannot abstain from having a relationship with them. Finding a bakery where the business and couple consent to making the cake would have been very easy.
While the incident transpired in 2012, gay marriage was not even recognized in the state of Colorado; the wedding was scheduled in another state. Mullins and Craig decided to move forward with the lawsuit, claiming they were facing illegal discrimination. The ACLU defended the couple in the case, and Judge Robert Spencer in 2013 ruled Phillips violated discrimination laws. Masterpiece Cakeshop appealed the decision, and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission decided in May 2014 that Phillips had violated Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act. The court ordered Phillips to change his company’s policies, give “comprehensive staff training” to his employees, and provide quarterly reports on how the business was dealing with customers. This forced him to lose 40 percent of his business and lay off several employees.
Continuing to fight for his business, Phillips appealed the decision again, but the Colorado Supreme Court declined to hear Phillips appeal in April 2016. After hearing of Phillips’ situation, the Alliance Defending Freedom petitioned the Supreme Court to hear his case. The Supreme Court agreed to take the case, and oral arguments were made on December 5th, 2017. Now the country waits to see how the court will adjudicate this dispute, and will cause Americans to contemplate how they stand on the issue.
Hopefully, the principles laid out in the Constitution will prevail, enabling individuals to have the freedom to choose which events they will decide to support . The founders operated under the notion that all men are created free to worship God in their personal way, and are allowed to exercise their religious convictions, not merely hold beliefs in their minds. People do not have the right to force someone else to work for them; citizens are free to choose what practices they participate in, and should be able to control their actions. By compelling Phillips to decorate the cake in a homosexual way he disagrees with, the government is clamping down on freedom of speech and forcing the artist to create a work of art of which he disapproves.
Opponents to this position, who support the plaintiffs, postulate that private businesses should be forced to do business with whoever enters, under the concept of social decency. This slippery slope is incredibly subjective, due to the nature of different people having various concepts of what constitutes decency.
Possible scenarios plague the argument in favor of compulsory behavior. If the couple happened to be speech writers instead and were committed Democrats, why should they be allowed to refuse service to write a speech for President Trump’s border wall? If a gay couple owned a bakery, why should they be able to refuse baking a cake for the Westboro Baptist Church that says, “God Hates Gays” on it? Should Muslims be forced to bake a cake with Mohammed on it? When the argument is rested on equal access to all people from private businesses, that paves a precedent for unanticipated compulsion against the will of an individual. The gay couple could have purchased any other cake cake in the shop, and Phillips would have happily made them a cake; the issue was Phillips would not decorate a cake with a gay theme.
Assuming the case gets decided in favor of the couple, the Left has to answer for enforcing the law universally. Pursuing true justice in the law means holding everyone to a given standard, not playing favorites with particular groups. Leftists in favor of this limit of freedom need to openly call for the fining or jailing for Muslim bakers who refuse to cater same-sex marriages; about half of the United States Muslims are not supporting of homosexuality. If they do not support this universal enforcement, it will clearly demonstrate motive to largely target Evangelical Christian businesses.
The fractious nature of our current democracy is being tested in many ways in 2017. The case presently in front of the Supreme Court is another example of heightened polarization. Hopefully, the justices will err on the side of freedom and the Constitution, not forcing an individual to participate in a function they find immoral. Having Phillips lose tens of thousands of dollars, have his reputation smeared, and spend an enormous amount of time in court shows the government overreach and tyranny potentially on the horizon of the country. The gay couple could have easily found another baker willing to cater the wedding, but instead pursued a costly lawsuit lasting multiple years to punish a man who simply wanted to live his life in peace. The pinnacle of a tolerant society is agreeing to leave others alone, even if others find their views incorrect; people lack any right to compel others to engage in activities they find sinful. Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules in this case, the decision will undoubtedly change the trajectory of the country.
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