COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., December 8, 2013 — On Friday, Denver administrative law judge Robert Spence released a ruling that forces Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to either make a wedding cake for two homosexual men who requested one or face fines and possible jail time.
The facts of the case are not in dispute. On Thursday, July 19, 2012, David Mullins and Charlie Craig entered the shop to enquire about having a cake made. Owner Phillips was there to serve them. When he heard the request, Phillips told them that he didn’t make cakes for same-sex weddings. His expanded his response to say that he would make cakes for their birthdays, showers, sell them cookies, brownies, or whatever — just not a wedding cake.
Phillips is a devout Christian. He also does not make anything associated with what he views as the pagan rite of Halloween. He lives his life and runs his business according to his beliefs.
Like the Green family that owns Hobby Lobby, and Elaine Huguenin of Elane Photography in New Mexico, Phillips is not being allowed to do that.
When the polite refusal was voiced, the intimidation began. According to Phillips, the two both stood and stormed out of the store, one of them by his own admission making an obscene gesture and swearing something about an “(expletive deleted) homophobic bakery.”
Within minutes, Phillips had a negative phone call. By closing time a little more than an hour later, there were six, some obscene, some rude, according to him. By the next morning he had over 200 negative emails and the shop’s two phone lines were constantly ringing. Someone threatened to come and shoot him. He called the police, but they were unable to trace the call.
On Saturday, five people picketed the shop, calling in the local news. The picketers told the news that they would return the following Saturday with many more picketers. Next week about 30 picketers showed up — as well as more than 500 supporters.
All this over a wedding cake, something that should be celebrating a joyous occasion. How did the word spread so quickly? Phone calls, threats, pickets, and eventually a civil suit — why all the hate?
Phillips says, “My decision not to participate in the gay weddings is not motivated by politics, i.e., my rights, guaranteed by the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution, or a business decision, or hatred of gays, though I’ve been accused of all these and many other things. My decision is based solely on a desire to live my life in obedience to Him and His Word.”
In handing down his ruling Friday, Judge Spence wrote “At first blush, it may seem reasonable that a private business should be able to refuse service to anyone it chooses. This view, however, fails to take into account the cost to society and the hurt caused to persons who are denied service simply because of who they are.”
Mullins said in statement that “Being denied service by Masterpiece Cakeshop was offensive and dehumanizing, especially in the midst of arranging what should be a joyful family celebration. No one should fear being turned away from a public business because of who they are.”
It seems that joyful family celebrations turn ugly fast in Mullins’ world.
Forget the fact that the two men are homosexual. Forget the Christian beliefs of Phillips. Spence should have stopped his ruling at first blush. He said very directly that private businesses should not be able to refuse service to anyone — period.
Better take down those “No shirt, no shoes, no service” signs.
This ruling and the laws behind it strike directly at the heart of American entrepreneurship. Imagine the cases: I go into a Ford dealership and sue because they will not sell me a Jaguar. If Phillips can be made to sell a cake he doesn’t want to, why can’t a Ford dealer be forced to sell a Jaguar?
Or a Wiccan sues a Christian bookstore for not selling her a book on satanic practice. Can a tattoo artist do crosses and not pentagrams?
Up until this point in America, anyone could set up any kind of business they wanted to and focus on any customer group they chose. Even though that right is now threatened, Phillips is not defending his actions on that ground. He simply defends his right to practice his religion as he sees it.
We have seen this kind of circumscribing of religious practice before. In Nazi Germany, it was argued that religion was a private matter and was subordinate to the rules of the state. That didn’t end well.
What is that cost to society that the judge alludes to? It’s not what he thinks. Jack Phillips was targeted. Mullins and Craig could have gone to any number of shops that would have met their needs. In the end, one cannot exclude the lifestyle choice of the two men or the religious beliefs of the baker.
The free exercise of religion is central to the idea of America, from the Pilgrims who came here to freely practice their beliefs to the enshrinement of that right in the First Amendment to the Constitution.
When Mullins and Craig targeted Masterpiece Cakeshop to destroy that right, they probably did not know the character of Jack Phillips. Friends say he is in good spirits following the ruling. His faith is strong and his trust in God is unshakeable.
That’s a very good place to be.
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