This week, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. This is the case where Jack Phillips, a Christian baker, is arguing that the state does not have the constitutional authority to force him to use his artistic talents to express beliefs that are contrary to his deeply held convictions. Concerned Women for America submitted a brief in support of religious liberty.
To put it plainly, Jack believes in the Biblical model of marriage and sexuality and, in this case, he was asked to prepare a custom-made wedding cake for a same-sex marriage ceremony. He declined, and a complaint was filed with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
As expected, the interest in the case was tremendous. On the steps of the Court, large groups rallied in support and opposition to religious liberty for Jack. A long line of hopefuls curved around the side, some having waited all night to be sure to get a seat.
Entering the bar member’s line, the interest was palpable for the attorneys as well. The line immediately announced the courtroom and the lawyer’s lounge would both be full.
As usual, the Justices were ready.
Kristen Waggoner, a lawyer with the Alliance Defending Freedom, started the arguments arguing on behalf of Jack Phillips. She was stellar all throughout and started with a strong statement that set the tone: “The First Amendment prohibits the government from forcing people to express messages that violate religious convictions. Yet the Commission requires Mr. Phillips to do just that, ordering him to sketch, sculpt, and hand-paint cakes that celebrate a view of marriage in violation of his religious convictions.”
But that was as far as she could get before Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg eagerly jumped to attack mode. Ginsburg, having seniority, wins out to ask, “What if it’s an item off the shelf?” Ms. Waggoner pointed out that Jack did not refuse off-the-shelf-items; the case concerns custom-made wedding cakes.
Jack’s contention is not with the same-sex couple. This is something the other side will continue to try to argue, that the only thing Jack objected to was the “identity of the people.” But this is false, no matter how many times the other side says it. If the same-sex couple had asked for a wedding cake for their parents (a man and a woman), Jack would have sold them a wedding cake. Jack objects to designing a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding, no matter the identity of the buyer (they could be heterosexual, and he would still object).
I wish Ms. Waggoner had been given the opportunity to make that point a bit clearer, but alas, some Justices (Justice Sotomayor especially) seemed to have had some points they wanted to argue themselves, and it was difficult to maneuver the situation.
The Court pressed Ms. Waggoner most about where the line should be drawn when it comes to the protection of creative expression (of speech). This, of course, is something the Court has to do often, and it is very difficult. But just because something is difficult doesn’t mean that the government is entitled to trample our First-Amendment rights.
Justice Ginsburg recognized that it’s unconscionable to force somebody to speak in a manner that violates their conscience, so she broached excluding any writing from the government’s compulsion: “Well, suppose we exclude that and say let’s make the assumption that he — if he makes custom-made cakes for others, he must make it for this pair, but he doesn’t have to write anything for anybody. He doesn’t have to write a message that he disagrees with.”
That was the liberal side of the Court’s best argument, “It’s too difficult.” Well, boo-hoo.
On the other hand, the consequences of inaction would undermine the very essence of justice. The liberal justices would run every time U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco, who argued for the U.S. in support of Jack Phillips, brought up whether the Court thought it consistent with the First Amendment to force an African-American sculptor to design a cross for a celebration of the KKK. Justice Kagan’s response at one point: “Well, I — Mr. — General, really, I mean, could we just — I guess I would like an answer to my hypothetical.” That one was too hard, apparently.
Justice Kennedy got to the heart of the matter on the case, giving us the most pivotal moment of the oral arguments: “Counselor, tolerance is essential in a free society. And tolerance is most meaningful when it’s mutual. It seems to me that the state in its position here has been neither tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips’ religious beliefs.”
And there it was. Out in the open. Truth.
This is what we at Concerned Women for America (CWA) argued in our amicus brief before the Court. What the government is doing in the context of LGBT rights vs. religious liberty is not to stomp out discrimination but to merely substitute the target, putting people of faith right in the middle of the bullseye.
The Commission’s treatment of Jack Phillips in this case was reprehensible. Justice Kennedy also brought it up, saying that one of the commissioners saying “religion [is being] used to justify discrimination [was] despicable piece of rhetoric.”
But Justice Kennedy merely needed to open his window and hear the liberal’s chanting this all morning. This is the commonly accepted liberal narrative. The liberal media loves this suggestion.
But it is factually untrue and was accepted as so in this case. Still, regardless of the evidence and truth, the left continues to demonize people of faith as bigots and, in many places, they are using the force of government to punish them as such.
Obergeffell, the same-sex marriage decision, promised tolerance for religious people who abide by God’s model of marriage and sexuality, but in practice, the attacks have been relentless, as predicted by many. Now it is up to justices like Justice Kennedy, the very author of the marriage decision, to stand up for his own words and protect religious liberty and freedom of speech unequivocally or confirm the suspicions of so many who have cautioned against the current anti-liberty trends.