​Jack Phillips Has Gained A Small Space - Will it Last?

Do not declare victory. Do not mourn your claimed but yet-to-be-granted rights. Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission is not as precedent-setting as conservatives had hoped for, nor as final as gay rights activists had feared. The Supreme Court’s narrow ruling will likely end up being a mere pause and will probably result in a later, broader ruling that may very well change how the First Amendment - especially the Free Exercise Clause - is interpreted by future Supreme Courts. Another conservative appointee to the nation’s highest court may delay that day, but social trends point to a worrying attack on those who exercise their beliefs as Christians (or for example, as Orthodox Jews, Mormons, or Muslims, among others).

Essentially, Justice Kennedy's majority opinion correctly questioned the neutrality of members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, especially Diann Rice who reportedly stated:

Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the holocaust, whether it be -- I mean, we -- we can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination.

Because a baker was unwilling to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, while apparently more than happy to offer them other products or services, he's equivalent to a Nazi guard at Auschwitz, to put it in as dramatic a form as Commissioner Rice did. Which is a rather extreme take on religious belief, and a reasonable example of hate speech in of itself. That leaves open the question of whether a Colorado Civil Rights Commission that carefully avoided such comments would have produced a different decision by SCOTUS. That question remains uncomfortably unanswered.

Also, unfortunately, the fact that the cake maker and owner - Jack Phillips - put his beliefs into action is viewed as wrong by a clear majority of Americans. This points to a cultural shift where acting on your religious beliefs -however confined to small gestures - is becoming a crime. Keep your beliefs to yourself or be punished.

According to a poll by Morningconsult:

57% of all adults in America oppose any refusal of service to LGBT customers.
77% of Democrats oppose any such refusal.
38% of Republicans oppose any such refusal.
51% of Christians oppose any such refusal.
55% of Catholics oppose any such refusal.
48% of Protestants oppose any such refusal.
34% of White Evangelicals oppose any such refusal.
Think about it. One third of white evangelicals think it wrong that Jack Phillips refused to bake that wedding cake back in 2012. Where will these numbers stand in 10 years? In 15 years? Jack Phillips pleaded for a very narrow exception, merely his right to not serve a wedding cake to a gay couple for their marriage ceremony. For that, not only was he compared to a Nazi by a commissioner, but a plurality of Protestants, a majority of Catholics and Christians, and even a substantial minority of white evangelicals, all believe he was wrong to do so.

It is said that many of us professed Christians are increasingly reluctant to see our faith as a proselytizing one, and are retreating into the safety of our own thoughts and conscience, without having the courage to act on that faith. Hardly surprising, seeing Masterpiece Cakeshop was ordered to put in place sensitivity training for their employees and submit quarterly reports to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Under penalty of substantial fines. While Phillips' courage has been rewarded for now, the not-so-slow yet at the same time inexorable movement of shifting precedents in America's judiciary is less than encouraging. 140 years ago, the Supreme Court said these words in its ruling on Reynolds v United States (a case dealing with Mormons and charges of bigamy):

Freedom of religion means freedom to hold an opinion or belief, but not to take action in violation of social duties or subversive to good order.
It matters little to those who care little for originalism, that the Justices who wrote those words could scarce imagine the use to which they would someday be put. The Free Exercise clause may become so restricted in practice as to be meaningless. And who amongst us cannot point to some religious practice that we abhor or even just disapprove of, and for which we wholeheartedly agreed with the courts' restriction of? The Supreme Court of 1878 quoted Jefferson on the distinction between religious belief and religious action, and sentenced Reynolds - a practicing Mormon - to 2 years hard labor and a fine of $500. We all draw limits around certain practices. But where will limits on those who cannot support same-sex marriage be drawn in the years ahead? And by whom?

Jack Phillips has gained a small space in which to practice his faith. It may be taken away from him, sooner than most think.

Posted by Keeley at June 5, 2018 5:29 PM
Comment #427737

Keeley, can you link to the poll by Morningconsult that you quote?

Polls are easy to manipulate. We need to see who was polled and what questions were asked.

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission should be sued for…”Civil Rights” violations.

Posted by: Royal Flush at June 5, 2018 5:40 PM
Comment #427738

There are other bakers, there are other florist, I respect the rights of Gays. They in turn should respect my right to Religious beliefs and doing something I find objectionable. If the baker refused to sell them a birthday cake or other baked goods then I would side with the Gays. The baker just wouldn’t bake them a Wedding cake, anything else he was happy to do for them.

Posted by: Rich KAPitan at June 5, 2018 5:56 PM
Comment #427741

“us professed Christians”
1. avowed; acknowledged.
2. professing to be qualified; professional, rather than amateur.
3. having taken the vows of, or been received into, a religious order.
4. alleged; pretended.


1. to lay claim to, often insincerely; pretend to: He professed extreme regret.

1300–50; Middle English (in religious sense) ss)

Posted by: Ohrealy at June 5, 2018 8:29 PM
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