By Tony Perkins
Originally published in Tony Perkins’ Washington Update on September 8, 2017
Tony Perkins is the President of the Family Research Council (FRC)
It may be one of the most important religious liberty cases in a century—and President Trump isn’t about to be on the wrong side of it. In the latest sign that this isn’t Barack Obama’s DOJ, the administration is going to bat for Jack Phillips, the Christian baker at the center of a five-year firestorm over vendors’ forced participation in same-sex marriage. In a brief to the Supreme Court, the last stop for his case, the Justice Department argues that Jack was well within his rights to turn down a wedding cake order for a ceremony that contradicts his faith.
The government may not compel an unwilling speaker to join a group or event at odds with his religious or moral beliefs (Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ team argued). Otherwise, a graphic designer whose clients include ‘a Jewish affinity group’ could also be forced to make fliers ‘for a neo-Nazi group.’
The Left is desperately trying to turn this into a debate about Christians refusing service to same-sex couples. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Like Barronelle Stuzman and dozens of other wedding vendors, Jack offered to sell the men anything in his store.
That didn’t satisfy them—nor did the long list of area bakeries who would have gladly accepted the job. Instead, they wanted to force Jack to use his creative talents to celebrate a message that violates his beliefs.
Just as a painter does more than simply apply paint to a canvas, a baker of a custom wedding cake does more than simply mix together eggs, flour, and sugar (DOJ officials went on). Both apply their artistic talents and viewpoints to the endeavor.
Public accommodations laws are important, acknowledged a Justice Department official, but:
A whopping 86 Members of Congress agree. In their own appeal to the Court, they warn about the implications for every American. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), one of the signers, knows exactly how dangerous this precedent would be. So do voters. According to Rasmussen, only 29 percent of the country thinks Jack should be prosecuted.
they—like other laws—must yield to the individual freedoms that the First Amendment guarantees.
What matters (Lee points out) is how our laws can be brought to bear against those who believe. The government cannot force you to speak where you would choose to remain silent. These are foundational pillars of Constitution.
Already, bakers, florists, website designers, and dressmakers have been sued, fined, and harassed for trying to live as openly about their faith as the Left has about its sexuality.
As we’ve said from the beginning, tolerance is for everyone—or else it isn’t tolerance at all. Taking a wrecking ball to a young couple’s business or threatening a grandmother’s home isn’t a down payment on “equality;” it’s a death warrant for freedom. As FRC reminds the Court in our own amicus brief:
The First Amendment has never been confined within the walls of a church, as if it were a wild animal needing to be caged. On the contrary, the Constitution broadly guarantees liberty of religion and conscience to citizens who participate in public life according to their moral, ethical, and religious convictions.
There is discrimination in this case—but not against people who identify as LGBT. It’s against Jack Phillips and the millions of others who share his views about marriage.
Unfortunately, this is exactly what Samuel Alito warned when the Supreme Court redefined marriage for everyone in Obergefell.
I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.
Now, two years later, clashes like this one are exploding in Christian businesses all across the country. It’s time for the Supreme Court to step in and stop this crusade against faith it started. President Trump is doing his job on religious liberty. It’s the justices’ turn to do theirs.