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Conventional Thinking: Butcher, baker, liberty-breaker?

There is a case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court that has enormous consequences for religious liberty in America. The case is Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and oral arguments before the nation’s highest court are scheduled for December.

Here are the details of the case, as explained by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). “As the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado, Jack Phillips is not in the business of turning away anyone. In fact, when two men came into his shop one summer afternoon asking Jack to design a cake for their same-sex wedding, Jack gave them the same answer he gave someone requesting a custom cake for a Halloween party or bachelor party. He told them he simply doesn’t design cakes for those events because he can’t participate in something or promote a message that conflicts with his faith. But he’d be happy to create something else for them. Shortly after, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission sued Jack for sexual orientation discrimination.”

There are a host of issues at stake with this case, but most prominently is religious freedom and freedom of conscience, as protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Recall that the First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

So if the Supreme Court rules against Jack Phillips, it would fly in the face of the First Amendment. In essence, what Jack Phillips is being accused of is intolerance. But in the end, he himself is the real victim of intolerance.

Phillips was not forcing his beliefs on anyone. He was simply trying to abide by conscience and his sincerely-held religious beliefs. If there is no longer room for that in America, then Christians and all people of faith could be facing uncertain days in the future, when it comes to religious freedom.

Think about it. “If Jack is forced to create custom artwork that celebrates events in conflict with his core convictions, others will be similarly compelled to create various forms of expression that violate their conscience,” an ADF source explained. “So for example, the government could force a Muslim singer to perform at a Christian religious event or order a Democrat speechwriter to draft speeches for a Republican candidate.”

To build on these examples, would we compel a cake shop owner who is African American to bake a cake for a White Supremacist gathering? Would we compel a Jewish butcher to custom design a pork plate for an event? Or would we compel a cake shop owner who is an LGBT activist to bake a cake with a pro-biblical marriage message? The answer to these, of course, is no.

The logical and legal consequences of this ruling cannot be overstated. Almost as important will be how the public conversation on this topic goes. Because if the butcher and the baker can have their consciences overruled by the Supreme Court or the court of public opinion, then that’s a religious-liberty deal breaker for you and me—and for everyone.

Brian Hobbs

Author: Brian Hobbs

Brian is editor of The Baptist Messenger.

View more articles by Brian Hobbs.

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