Roy Exum: A Baker Stands His Ground

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Jack Phillips owns a bakery in Lakewood, Co., which is 15 minutes west of Denver. His shop, the Masterpiece Cakeshop, is a thriving business that Jack has built on Christian principles so it is understandable why he turned down a request for a same-sex wedding cake. He believes a marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

But this week the state’s Civil Rights Commission ruled unanimously that he discriminated against David Mullins and Charlie Craig, saying it was against the law to turn away customers based on their sexual orientation. The commission ordered him to change his store policies immediately and demanded that his staff attend training sessions. Further, for the next two years he must submit quarterly reports that will disclose if he has turned anyone away for any reason. 

Talk about a mess. While 19 states now allow same-sex marriages, in Colorado such a union is considered to be – bluntly speaking – also against the law. David and Charlie were actually married in Massachusetts and wanted a cake in Colorado for a reception for their friends. Jack the baker said he would happily make them a cake but a wedding cake was out of the question. It would be counter to his Christian beliefs. 

Let’s start with the First Amendment of The Bill of Rights: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

For the record Jack said he is not changing anything. He’ll quit making wedding cakes if he is forced to do that but as far as his beliefs are concerned, “my old ones are pretty adequate as far as I am concerned. I don’t plan on giving up my faith,” he told Fox News. 

Obviously there are people who are indignant. Nicholle Martin, a lawyer with a group called Alliance of Freedom, said the ruling was “Orwellian” and said people of faith are being turned into “religious refugees” by our increasingly misguided society. “Is this the society we want to live in – where people of faith are driven out of business?” she said on Fox. 

She said the quarterly reports demanded by the Civil Rights Commission are “so Jack can demonstrate that he doesn’t exercise his belief system any more – that he has divested himself of his beliefs. We consider this reporting to be aimed at ‘rehabilitating’ Jack so that he has the right thoughts. That’s offensive to everything America stands for!” 

Katina Banks, the chairwoman on the Civil Rights Commission, took this posture. “You can have your beliefs but you can’t hurt people at the same time,” she said. “Religious freedom is undoubtedly an American value, but so is the right to be treated equally under the law, free from discrimination.” 

Amanda Goad, who is a lawyer for the ACLU, explained everyone in America is free to believe whatever they please “but businesses like Masterpiece Cakeshop cannot treat customers differently than others based on who they are as people.” 

I disagree. While wishing the married couple had simply gone to another bakery, I believe that Jack’s religion trumps sexual orientation. Our nation was set up based on the Constitution and that First Amendment doesn’t come with an asterisk. In the United States there cannot be a law prohibiting the free exercise of anyone’s religion. 

Believe it or not, Jack Phillips doesn’t care. “My God is bigger than any bullies they’ve got. I don’t worry about it. I honor my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and I’ll be true to what He wants me to do. There is civil disobedience,” he admitted, “but I’m not giving up my faith. Too many people have died for this faith to give it up that easily,” he added, saying, “Obey Christ rather than worry about what man can do to you.” 

Ironically, since the Civil Rights Commission rebuked Jack, he has sold so many brownies, cookies and cakes that the Masterpiece Cakeshop has had to suspend making wedding cakes. The cash register is twirling. You see, in Colorado they like it when a man stands his ground. And there is one other thing. Jack said his 87-year-old mother helps out at the shop “and she’s told me she’s not going to be rehabilitated.” 

So there.

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