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Religious Freedom v. the Sexual Police, Coming This Fall to the U.S. Supreme Court
   Wednesday, June 28, 2017   at   12:53 PM

Even before the Supreme Court’s egregious Obergefell v. Hodges decision of 2015, state and local governments were running roughshod over the religious freedoms of men, women and businesses who declined to lend their talents to homosexual unions.

This week the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of a Colorado baker whose religious principles set him against a "social justice" movement, empowered by the state government, that has tried to destroy his business.

Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission could become one of the defining religious–liberties cases of our time. In a very real sense the case will determine what the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion actually means.

The case has its genesis in a 2012 encounter in suburban Denver between Masterpiece’s owner, Jack Phillips, and a same–sex couple, David Mullins and Charlie Craig. David Harsanyi of The Federalist, a same–sex marriage supporter, reports that the encounter took "maybe, 30 seconds."

The couple asked for a special cake for their wedding. Phillips declined and offered his store’s other products instead. The couple stormed off, presumably in search of another vendor for the cake they wanted – possibly at one of two grocery stores located within a mile of Phillips’s store, or the bakery across the street.

In another era, that would have been the end of it. Instead the "aggrieved" couple apparently sought to run Masterpiece Cakeshop out of business for "discrimination." There were protests and media calls, offers of support, and a nearby lawyer who stopped by to drop off her business card, assuring Phillips that "common sense would prevail."

It didn’t.

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission got involved and ultimately found him guilty of violations, fining him and ordering him to start participating in gay weddings, train his staff appropriately and file quarterly obedience reports to the commission for two years. Phillips appealed the judgment to state courts in Colorado without success, and then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which apparently held the case until Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the court earlier this year to accept it for its next term.

Same–sex marriage advocates and other social–justice warriors will tell you this case is about discrimination. And it is, but not in the way they think it is.

The rights at stake here are Phillips’s, not the couple he chose not to do business with. Phillips is the one under attack for his beliefs, even though the First Amendment specifically guarantees him the freedom to hold those beliefs and act upon them.

Fundamentally, the case is not about same–sex marriage at all, any more than the Hobby Lobby case was about contraception. It’s about whether it is permissible for Americans to act upon the tenets of their faith and beliefs – nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.

Increasingly the Left has sought to define freedom of religion as something that takes place only within houses of worship. We believe that’s intentional, in anticipation of a case like this one, so that courts may define what people may and may not do in the name of their God throughout the week.

Harsanyi, a self–proclaimed atheist, notes that Phillips determined to honor God with his business when he formed it in the 1990s (apparently he doesn’t create cakes for Halloween either). The fact that he turned away David Mullins and Charlie Craig was a function of the event they wanted him to help commemorate, not the fact that they sleep with each other.

You may agree with Phillips’s action, or not. You may agree with the Supreme Court decision that let Mullins and Craig marry each other, or not. What should be indisputable, but somehow is not, is that Phillips has the right not to do business with Mullins and Craig. The couple may have a right to buy a cake for their wedding, but they don’t have a right to force Phillips to bake it.

That a state government finds it within its scope of duties to judge whether Phillips’s faith is a good enough reason to turn down business is a failure of our culture that requires a laughable interpretation of the Bill of Rights.

Before the case is heard in the Supreme Court later this year, you can expect a flurry of words to be written and spoken about how this case involves "discrimination." Pay no attention to the left–wing spin doctors. This case is about religious liberties and nothing else.

We’ll know soon, possibly early next year, just how committed to the First Amendment the justices really are.

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