Approximately six years ago, a man named Jack Phillips, who is a cake artist and owns the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado, was asked by a same-sex couple to bake a cake for their wedding ceremony. At the time, same-sex marriage was not the law of the land in Colorado—or in America for that matter.
Phillips, a devout Christian, decided his sincerely-held religious beliefs and conscience would not allow him to bake the cake, but said that he would be happy to sell the couple other baked items. After Phillips declined to bake the wedding cake, the couple filed a discrimination complaint with Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which turned around and tried to force Phillips to bake the cake… or else.
From there, a lengthy legal battle ensued that went all the way up to the Supreme Court, and on June 4, the legal battle came to its conclusion. “In a 7-2 opinion, (the Supreme Court)… ruled the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated the religious free exercise clause of the First Amendment by penalizing Jack Phillips for declining to design and decorate a cake for the wedding of two men.”
It was also decided that “the commission demonstrated ‘religious hostility’ toward Phillips in its action, the justices said in a decision on one of multiple court cases involving wedding vendors who oppose using their talents in support of same-sex marriage.”
In speaking about the decision, Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said, “The Supreme Court got this one right. I have long been concerned by the erosion of religious liberty and the characterizing of some of the most basic religious convictions of millions of Americans as hateful or bigoted. So I was very glad to see the strong rebuke of hostility toward religious people’s viewpoints.”
The ERLC, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief last year in support of Phillips, also called the high court ruling “a win for all Americans.”
“At stake at this debate was the question of whether or not the state can force an individual to violate their conscience,” Moore said. “We need to live in the kind of country where we can be free to persuade one another, not bully each other into silence.”
I could not agree more with Moore. At the core of the issue is whether religious liberty and freedom of conscience is upheld not only for business owners and artists, but really for all in civil society.
This case had far-reaching implications for all Americans, related to all sorts of scenarios. Think of it. We would not want an African American professional photographer to be forced to take pictures at a KKK event. We would not want a Jewish chef to be forced to serve pork, for example.
Thankfully, the Supreme Court recognized that the U.S. Constitution guarantees religious liberty and got this case right, for Phillips and for all Americans. At the same time, as Christians, we recognize that religious liberty ultimately comes, not from the High Court, but from our Most High God.
When religious liberty is ensured, Christians have equal footing to advance the Gospel. As importantly, Christians living in America will not be forced to violate the law in this way when they obey God and their conscience.
Religious liberty, then, must be safe-guarded with all the strength God can give us. Because, when you think about it, religious liberty takes the cake.