Inside The Historic Christian Baker Supreme Court Ruling
Earlier this week, the United States Supreme court handed the Denver cake artist and business owner Jack Phillips a significant personal victory, absolving him of the lawsuit handed to him by the Colorado Court of Appeals. While it has already stirred up the left’s fervor, it is not as much of a decisive victory for freedom of association and religion as those on the right would like to hope for.
The 7-2 ruling in favor of Phillips was very specific to this one case and therefore will not set much of a precedent for future cases. The court did not make much of a definitive statement either way about the nature of religion, belief, and freedom of expression. The justices stated that the reason they ruled in favor of Phillips was due to the fact that his religious faith was treated with hostility by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and the fact that the Civil Rights Commission did not pursue bakers who refused to bake anti-same-sex marriage cakes.
In other words, the door is still open for potential lawsuits against religious bakers so long as the laws are applied consistently and the Civil Rights Commission does not act in a hostile way when talking to the baker in regards to their religion. Since the core issue has not been addressed, not much will change in the nation. However, Jack Phillips himself is much better off, no longer having to worry about the lawsuit, re-education and quarterly “compliance reports” with the state every time he declines a cake order.
The nationwide legal debate was sparked six years ago when two gay men attempted to purchase a wedding cake from Phillips in 2012. Despite there being other businesses who would have provided them with one, the couple decided to create a highly-publicized lawsuit against the baker. The financial and publicity fallout from the encounter against Phillips was brutal, with his shop losing about 40% of its business. The Masterpiece Cake Shop’s yelp page was flooded with angry reviews and Phillips received a death threat against both him and his family. Phillips has since appealed his case all the way up from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to the Supreme Court.
Phillips was represented by attorneys form the Alliance Defending Freedom, a right-wing legal group whose stated mission is to advocate on behalf of conservatives who have been wrongly litigated against for either their political beliefs or religious faith.
The main arguments put forth by the ADF legal team extended beyond religion, however. They made the case that Phillips's custom-made cakes were a form of art and therefore free expression. To make a specific art piece in affirmation of an act he does not agree with would be akin to forcing someone to express their public support for something they do not actually support in reality. Additionally, Phillips has been consistent in his beliefs, turning down cakes for Halloween, bachelor parties, and divorces.
On the other side, the same-sex couple David Mullins and Charlie Craig, argue that Phillips offered an economic service to the public, and by law, goods and services must be offered to paying customers regardless of sexual orientation.
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