On Tuesday, December 5, Jack Phillips—the Christian owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado—finally had his day before the Supreme Court of the United States.
As Albany Update has previously reported, Phillips and his business have been embroiled in litigation since he declined to design a cake for a same-sex “wedding” in 2012. According to the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), Phillips “offered to make [any] other type of baked good or sell them a pre-made cake, but, because of his faith, [stated that] he could not design a cake promoting a same-sex wedding ceremony.” After Phillips was accused of discrimination, an administrative law judge and an appeals court both ruled against him. Masterpiece Cakeshop has lost approximately 40 percent of its business due to the court ruling. According to Phillips, the court battle has been “‘very hard on me and my family… We are struggling just to make ends meet.’”
The oral argument in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission went surprisingly well. Over the past two decades, the Supreme Court has taken a series of steps to the left on LGBT issues; sadly, those steps culminated in the Court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the Court declared that the Constitution required same-sex “marriage” to be allowed nationwide. In many of the Court’s cases relating to LGBT issues, Justice Anthony Kennedy—who is often the “swing” vote on the Court—cast the deciding vote in favor of the pro-LGBT position. Given the Court’s ideological divide, it is quite possible that Justice Kennedy will be the “swing” vote in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case as well. Thus, Christians were encouraged by the following remark made by Justice Kennedy to Frederick Yarger, the Solicitor General of Colorado: “‘Tolerance is essential in a free society, and tolerance is most meaningful when it’s mutual. It seems to me the state in its position here has been neither tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips’ beliefs.’” Emily Belz of WORLD Magazine commented that “[it] sounded as if [Justice Kennedy] was trying out a line for an opinion.” Justice Kennedy also noted the apparent hostility of one Colorado Civil Rights Commissioner’s toward Jack Phillips’ religious freedom claims. While it is never wise to read too much into a Supreme Court Justice’s line of questioning, NYCF believes that Justice Kennedy’s efforts to see both sides of this case are an encouraging sign. Could it be that punishing a Christian baker for declining to design a cake that celebrates sin is a road too far for Justice Kennedy? Time will tell.
A decision in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case is expected by June 2018. Friends, please pray for wisdom for the Supreme Court. The stakes are high in this case. In essence, the question is whether freedom of speech and religious liberty will continue to be fundamental rights in the United States, or whether Christians confronted with LGBT activist demands must leave those rights at the door when they enter their places of business.