Earlier this week, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jack Phillips – the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop who refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding, citing religious reasons. It was a case that drew national attention, partly because of the controversy surrounding it and partly because of the significance of its ruling.
In the end, though, the Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision in favor of Jack Phillips still does not amount to the landmark victory that supporters of religious freedom were hoping for. Phillips and his attorney argued that baking a cake is an artistic expression and therefore protected under the First Amendment, meaning that he should have the right to use or not use his artistic ability in any way that he desires.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy – who penned the majority opinion – however, barely touched on this argument. Instead, Kennedy argued that Phillips had been mistreated by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, citing hostile remarks by one of its members regarding Phillip’s religious beliefs.
Kennedy went on to make a point of saying that the ruling in this case applied only to this specific case and should not be used as a precedent to suggest that artists who refuse to use their artistic abilities to promote homosexual events are protected under the First Amendment, saying “The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts. All in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.”
In other words, the Supreme Court, in essence, took the easy way out. Kennedy had previously lamented the fact that his only options in the case seemed to be deciding against the rights of gays and lesbians to seek service without discrimination or deciding against the rights of Christian artists to use their abilities in the manner that they see fit.
By deciding that Phillips’ rights were violated by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission due to the open hostility they showed to his religious beliefs, however, Kennedy and the rest of the court were able to find a third option, weaving around the larger issues of the case while still giving Phillips a victory that he rightly deserved.
Nevertheless, even if the Court failed to address some of the larger issues concerning religious freedom that this case brought up, their 7-2 ruling in favor of Jack Phillips is still a victory worth celebrating. The gay couple who sued Phillips over his refusal to bake a cake for their wedding were vindictive and purposeful in their actions.
Jack Phillips was well known throughout the community as a devout Christian who stuck to his beliefs, and he had refused in the past to bake cakes for a variety of events that he felt did not align with his religious beliefs, even going as far as to refuse to bake Halloween themed cakes.
The couple’s decision to visit Masterpiece Cakeshop was likely no accident, and their decision to come after Phillips and his business after he refused to bake their cake was certainly no accident. Both the couple and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission deserved to lose and deserved the national humiliation that follows.
While not the clear-cut victory for freedom of speech and religious rights that many may have hoped for, the Supreme Court’s decision to rule in favor of Jack Phillips – regardless of their reasoning – may still discourage people from targeting other Christian artists in hopes of a quick payday.
Then again, it may not, as even Justice Kennedy alluded to the fact that the issues brought up in this case must await further deliberation in future cases. Once again, supporters of religious freedom must brace themselves for more battles to come until the courts eventually decide one way or another how far the protections of the First Amendment extend.
Nevertheless, in a day and time when victories for religious freedom are few and far between, the Supreme Court’s decision to at least extend the rights of Christian artists for another day is still worth a sigh of relief.
~ American Liberty Report