BreakPoint: Jack Phillips and Religious Freedom Prevail!

A Welcome Ruling from the Supremes

Yesterday, the Supreme Court delivered a big victory for the cause of religious freedom and for my favorite cake artist. I’ll unpack the decision.

Yesterday’s surprising 7-2 majority decision was announced by the Supreme Court in favor of Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips.

We’ve talked a lot on BreakPoint about Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, so I won’t rehearse all the facts today, other than to say that the facts that we’ve emphasized were not what interested the majority the most. Instead. the Court focused on the atrocious conduct of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy said the case raised “difficult questions as to the proper reconciliation of at least two principles. The first is the authority of a State and its governmental entities to protect the rights and dignity of gay persons who are, or wish to be, married but who face discrimination when they seek goods or services.”

The second principle is “the right of all persons to exercise fundamental freedoms under the First Amendment,” namely both “the freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion.”

At the Supreme Court, Phillips’ attorney emphasized freedom of speech. During oral arguments, many questions arose about which wedding-related activities would rise to the level of speech.

But in his opinion, Justice Kennedy and the majority took a surprising turn, and essentially punted on the question of speech altogether. Instead, he wrote “the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s consideration of this case was inconsistent with the State’s obligation of religious neutrality.”

As Kennedy put it, the Civil Rights Commission exhibited “clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs” of Jack Phillips.

Justice Kennedy scolded the commissioners for telling Phillips that “religious beliefs cannot legitimately be carried into the public sphere or commercial domain,” for “implying that religious beliefs and persons are less than fully welcome in Colorado’s business community,” for saying that “freedom of religion” has been used to justify discrimination, slavery, and the Holocaust, and for saying that claiming religious freedom is “one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use.”

Reading Kennedy’s opinion, it’s clear that Jack Phillips prevailed because Kennedy, along with justices Kagan and Breyer, saw that the Commission’s actions were driven by hostility and animus toward religion and religious people.

As the Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Kristen Waggoner commented after the ruling, “Tolerance and respect for good-faith differences of opinion are essential in a society like ours. This decision makes clear that the government must respect [Phillips’] beliefs about marriage.”

So, where does all this leave us? In many respects, the ruling itself – by which I mean the wording, not the margin – was a narrow one. It is still far from clear what level of “respect” Kennedy was looking for, or how the court would have ruled had the Commission not been so horrible to Jack.

Thankfully, justices Thomas and Gorsuch did address the free speech claim of Phillips in their concurring opinion. Both agreed though, that there’s no way to know if a similarly-situated person, such as florist Barronelle Stutzman, would prevail on these grounds.

Still, this is a win, if for no other reason than a loss would have been a disaster. If the Court had allowed the Colorado Commission to get away with their flagrantly hostile conduct, they would have launched an “open season” on people of faith in the marketplace.

We owe thanks first of all to God, then to Jack Phillips and ADF for their steadfast courage, and finally, to the Supreme Court.

But know this, this decision doesn’t settle the biggest challenges that religious freedom faces. Hopefully however, it did wake up any Christian, church, or pastor who decided to sit this one out.

 

Jack Phillips and Religious Freedom Prevail!: A Welcome Ruling from the Supremes

Read more about the Supreme Court’s encouraging decision in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. Check out the links in the Resources section. And taking John’s advice, be prepared for further free speech/religious liberty battles.

 

Resources

US Supreme Court rules in favor of Colorado cake artist’s freedom
  • news release | Alliance Defending Freedom | June 4, 2018
Get the Facts about Jack (Phillips, that Is) The Case of Masterpiece Cakeshop
  • John Stonestreet | BreakPoint.org | November 9, 2017
A win for Masterpiece Cakeshop but it ain’t over yet
  • Todd Starnes | FoxNews.com | June 4, 2018

Comment Policy: Commenters are welcome to argue all points of view, but they are asked to do it civilly and respectfully. Comments that call names, insult other people or groups, use profanity or obscenity, repeat the same points over and over, or make personal remarks about other commenters will be deleted. After multiple infractions, commenters may be banned.

  • Just One Voice

    I was curious when BP would post about this news. I first saw it on local news this morning.

    Interesting that this happened during “pride month.” I bet it’s going to fuel a Hulk in that crowd.

    It’s also times like now when I wonder where another person is that used to comment daily on here. Something significant must’ve happened ’cause I don’t see him at all, as of the past 6 months-ish. He was always very sure that Philips would lose this case. But 7-2 is quite the opposite.

    Thanks for clarifying the “narrow margin” concept to this. Other news outlets used that, but left me confused (7-2 is narrow???) Sounds like the Colorado CRC’s conduct was a big piece of the puzzle. Freedom of speech and all that sounds like its still in the fog.

    At the end of the day, when the dust has settled (which will never happen on this topic until the trumpets sound) my two cents is: just get over it already and go to another bakery.

    • Awana Commander

      LGBT community seeks out those who will refuse to accommodate their wickedness. No way will they just go to another baker. They will not stop until they find another uncompromising Christian like Jack.

      • Just One Voice

        Yeah, exactly why I said the dust will never settle until the trumpets sound.

        • Shere Khan

          whereupon what?

          • Just One Voice

            After being absent from the discussion, mind elsewhere for quite a while, I’m not positive I know what you’re asking.

            But I think you’re asking, what will happen when the trumpets sound? My answer to that is: that was more of a metaphor than anything. A metaphor for Jesus’ return and all things are settled.

            Getting more technical though, when the trumpets in Revelation sound, there will be a lot of tribulation. In black/white terms, the dust will NOT be settled.

            Did I answer your question?

      • Shere Khan

        one of the things that I have noticed about homosexualists is that they tend to treat their particular whatever you want to call it as if it were the only thing in the entire world – they speak of little else.

  • Scott

    This is an answer to no small amount of prayer! PRAISE God!

  • Scott

    For true freedom (in America and everywhere else that is willing to attempt the concept) to exist, people are going to have to make room for each other to live differently… for people to disagree amicably. Our republic is best designed for that, but such a thing is fragile and will take nuanced laws that require more thought and cooperation between opposing viewpoints.

    • Shere Khan

      freedom can be both internal and external and who has internal freedom need not concern himself with external freedom.

  • Helen Louise

    This decision relates to the beliefs of many and even a majority of Christians. But it affects those of other faith bases also, e.g., Muslims and various branches of Judaism, as well as perhaps others. It also may affect what is yet to come. As marriage is legally no longer an exclusive one man-one woman relationship, it most probably will widen beyond what it is today. Polygamists desire the same legal recognition. also those involved in incestuous relationships as well as–believe it or not–those wanting to marry animals. Some have already claimed to have married themselves. All I’m saying, is this legal protection will eventually relate to other forms of wedding celebrations. Therefore, the ramifications are deeper than what appears here today. This is what I personally perceive due to reading what others wish to legalize as well.

    Additionally, I believe this affects people in other areas of life. Some are already in the position of losing their faith-based liberty to not participate in the abortions of babies. Some fear their loss of faith-based liberty in not wishing to participate in mercy killings or assisted suicides. We know many sought freedom of conscience from participating in killing in wars in the past as conscientious objectors who were willing to serve in support services that did not require being armed.

    I share these thoughts, as I believe this decision goes way beyond baking a cake in celebration of a union one cannot in good conscience participate in to other controversial areas of life.

  • Helen Louise

    Wondering where my post is?

    • Timothy D Padgett

      We moderate all our comments, meaning that someone (me) goes through them all and makes sure that there’s nothing offensive, abusive, blasphemous, antagonistic, etc before they become visible.

      Yours was none of these, but there can be a delay between the time a reader writes something and when I am able to go through and approve them.

      Timothy D Padgett
      Managing Editor
      BreakPoint

      • Helen Louise

        Thank you. I was concerned as I’ve given this issue a lot of thought and from a biblical viewpoint. I’ve studied Bible, Greek, hermeneutics, and theology. At the same time, I believe this is a victory for many faiths, not just Christian. It protects coercion to go against one’s deeply-held convictions.

      • Shere Khan

        moderate being a euphemism for censoring anything that the moderator does not happen to like, which is fair enough so long as you don’t pretend that it is anything other than simple censorship; someone is bound to find anything with which they disagree antagonistic; if you really wish to understand the nature of human beings study their synonyms and their euphemisms, or rather their lies.but it is your bat and ball and you get to say who plays with them

        • Timothy D Padgett

          You are free to form whatever opinion of my editorial policy that you wish. I can hardly stop you. However, as you will note from the fact that of your comments, twenty-one and counting on this single article, some have been approved and some have not, it’s not quite as simple as you have suggested.

          If you take the time to peruse more than this one piece, you’ll note that there are a great many comments by readers which are highly critical of what we post. There are some regular readers who rarely say anything positive about our opinions, yet their words are published. I publish critical comments which are made in good taste, and I block supportive comments which are unacceptable in tone. My liking or agreeing is irrelevant and to this I am indifferent.

          So, some of your posts have been just fine, and some have not. One thing not mentioned in my previous message is that overly-lengthy comments don’t make the cut. Collectively, your comments here approached that rule on the principle of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Hence the delay in approving any.

          Here’s the shorthand rule for getting posted here. Say what you want, but say it nicely. Snide comments about the reality of God and Jesus’ paternity, however, will not make it in.

          Timothy D Padgett
          Managing Editor
          BreakPoint

          • Shere Khan

            Fair enough, I am justly reproved, and suitably embarrassed; just a little hazy on the meaning of ‘nice’-or ‘nicely’

  • ah.1960

    Every news story I have read declares this victory “a narrow one.” Breakpoint is the only publication to date (including some Christian ones) that has taken the time to clarify what was narrow.

    What was NOT narrow was the vote itself. When was the last time we had a 7-2 decision from the court on such a contentious issue? Perhaps I am reading too much into other publications’ use of the word “narrow,” but I am left with the impression that they are trying their best to downplay the significance of this decision.

    Whatever comes in the future, we will praise God today for this decision and continue to pray for SCOTUS and our nation.

    • Just One Voice

      I’m right there with you. I was confused by everyone’s use of the term “narrow.”

  • The Bechtloff

    The issues at play here are far more than religious freedom, and the right concedes too much ground from the start to only categorize this as that. The real issue is freedom of association. That’s something we really haven’t had in this country for 50 years now and what made this fight inevitable. We need to start pushing the Overton Window back rightward on this issue.

  • Graeme Howarth

    I wonder how this will unravel in the future when it comes to a Muslim following the dictates of Sharia law and refusing to, say, serve a Jew or a Christian? Will their genuinely held religious beliefs mean they can exercise genuine and real hateful discrimination? Never mind the straw man argument that this baker hates homosexuals – a Christian is not permitted to hate such people even if they want to because our Lord taught us not to. There is however a real argument that Sharia compliant Muslims genuinely hate Jews & Christians as Sharia teaches them to do that.

    Real hate this time. Will the Supreme Court protect that? This is a real issue in the making.

  • RobertArvanitis

    Thank God for the present respite from anti-religious fanatics.
    But we are engaging at the wrong point.
    We must not plead for religious exemption! Where does the state get the right to abrogate the right of association?!
    The state rather must be forced to make a powerful case for a compelling public interest in nationalizing private property. That’s what the state is doing when it declares a business is a “public accommodation.”
    There was some justification for this in 1964. We expanded government power to rectify ANOTHER abuse of government power — southern racist democrats in Jim Crow. But that was only for African-Americans, and it was three generations ago.
    Instead of limits, the camel’s nose ran wild. Permanent takings, and metastasizing grievance classes.
    ****************************************
    In short, the fight is against overreach and abusive manipulation of society, not pleading for crumbs of “tolerance” for religion.

  • Just One Voice

    Some of them do seem bent on that very thing indeed.

    I personally wouldn’t generalize the entire community into that description though. Not only do I know LGBT people who are non-hating and non-persecuting, but the question comes to mind: how would it make you/me feel to just be passively lumped together as hateful Christians? There really shouldn’t even be such a thing, but thanks to bodies like the Westboro Baptist Church, there is.

    • zonie6044

      I fully agree with you. I also know many who embrace a “live and let live” philosophy. I was referring to the rabid activists, who, while maybe not the majority (who knows?), dominate in the culture and media, and have been amazingly successful in implementing their radical agenda.