The head of a North Carolina seminary argues that a Supreme Court ruling in a case involving a Christian baker will determine if "weaponizing" the government against its own citizens is the direction the nation will pursue.
A high-profile case before the U.S. Supreme Court today – Masterpiece Cakeshop v. the Colorado Civil Rights Commission – is predicted to be a landmark case on the First Amendment rights of free speech and religious freedom. The Associated Press reports that Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is considered to be the "swing vote" in the ultimate ruling, voiced "competing concerns" during today's oral arguments.
In July 2012, a same-sex couple walked into Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, and asked owner Jack Phillips for a custom wedding cake. Phillips had no problem serving Charlie Craig and David Mullins – in fact, he had done so several times before. But what the Christian baker politely refused to do was to use his artistry to support a same-sex "marriage" ceremony. Craig and Mullins sued Phillips under the state's anti-discrimination law.
"Jack [Phillips] is on the front lines for us all as we desire to live in a truly free society tolerant of a biblical worldview."
Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO
National Religious Broadcasters
"[Jack] Phillips does not discriminate against anyone because of who they are. He serves all customers – he just doesn't communicate all messages, namely those that violate his conscience. And the government should not force him to do so."
Monica Burke, research assistant
The Heritage Foundation
"... Viewpoints, messages, and speech can be expressed in many forms – including the creation of a cake for a ceremony. Public accommodation laws are used to protect people against unequal treatment, not to force citizens to participate and then endorse an activity with which they disagree."
Jonathan Alexandre, director of public policy
Dr. Richard Land is the former head of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and now president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in North Carolina.
"[Jack Phillips] said he would bake them a cake," Land begins. "He just didn't feel that he could lend his expertise – his talent, which he believes comes from God – to celebrate that which he finds morally unconscionable."
Colorado found Philips guilty of discrimination, and the case finally was heard this morning in the highest court in the U.S. But according to Land, it's about so much more than cakes.
"It's about conscience and religious freedom," he explains. "It's about the most basic core values of the American experiment – the belief that we have freedom of conscience and freedom of faith."
The prosecution says the First Amendment doesn't apply because the anti-discrimination laws Phillips allegedly broke target conduct, not speech. Land says if the particulars were changed, many who are so certain Phillips is nothing more than a homophobic bigot might change their minds.
"It's no different than requiring a Muslim butcher to provide pork sausage to a customer, even though Muslims believe that pork is something they're not to touch," he suggests.
He says the religious freedom of all believers is at stake. "It's one thing to say that you're going to make same-sex marriage legal – [but] it's another thing to say that we're going to weaponize our own government against its own citizens and say We want to compel you to affirm it."
The Supreme Court's is expected to announce its decision in the case by late June.