By John McClaughry
Last week the U.S. Supreme Court gave a partial victory to Colorado baker Jack Phillips, who had declined to make an artistic cake for a gay wedding based on his strongly held Christian beliefs. Apparently Phillips was perfectly willing to sell cakes off the shelf, but wouldn’t employ his artistic talents to make a cake glorifying a union that he believed to anti-Christian. Instead of choosing another cake artist, the gay couple ran to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which found that Phillips had unlawfully discriminated against them.
The Supreme Court found not that Phillips had a right to refuse based on his biblical beliefs, but that the Civil Rights Commission exhibited religious bias in issuing its order, exemplified by a member who likened Phillips’ beliefs to supporting human slavery and Holocaust genocide. That left open the persecution by a commission that kept its collective mouth shut and just issued the order.
Justice Clarence Thomas, concurring, argued that Phillips had a right not to be an active participant in the gay marriage celebration. He invoked court precedents that tolerated white supremacist expression, and concluded that the court should have held that “states cannot punish protected speech because some group finds it offensive, hurtful, stigmatic, unreasonable, or undignified.”
You don’t have to share Jack Phillips’ religious views to believe that the state should just leave him alone, and the couple should engage a baker who supports their preferences, or doesn’t care either way.
John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.