For Cake Shop, a Make or Bake Moment
As the owner of Masterpiece Cakes, Jack Phillips is used to making batter. What he's not used to is being battered for his beliefs. Unfortunately for Jack, the two now go hand in hand under a ruling many would argue is its own masterpiece of religious intolerance. The case had been brewing since July 2012, when two homosexuals stormed out of Phillips's shop, irate that Jack wouldn't make a cake for their upcoming "wedding."
Despite Jack's polite decline and an offer to sell them pastries for "any other occasion," Charlie Craig and David Mullins left the bakery determined to make an example out of the Christian owners. Hours later, the threatening phone calls started -- followed by death threats, boycotts, protests outside the shop, and eventually, a lawsuit. For the 40-year-old business, a fixture of the Denver community for over a generation, it was a defining moment. "My decision not to participate in the gay weddings is not motivated by politics," he explained, "or hatred of gays, though I've been accused of [that]. My decision is based solely on a desire to live my life in obedience to God and His word."
But to Colorado Judge Robert Spencer, Jack's rights -- and those of thousands of other Christian businessmen -- are not what matters. What matters is Americans' ideological conformity on an issue that contradicts the teachings of every mainstream world religion. To Judge Spencer, surrendering those beliefs is just the price of doing business in a politically correct market. "Conceptually," Spencer wrote, "[Jack Phillips's] refusal to serve a same-sex couple due to religious objection to same-sex weddings is no different from refusing to serve a biracial couple because of religious objection to biracial marriage."
Like most activist judges, Spencer tries to equate sexual behavior with skin color, a comparison with no basis in science -- or logic. What's more, he tied the case to a Supreme Court suit involving Bob Jones University, in which the justices stripped the college's tax status over its rule against biracial relationships. But, as FRC's Ken Klukowski pointed out, Jack's case is an enormous leap from that decision because the Supreme Court never told Bob Jones that it couldn't hold those views. It simply stripped the university's tax exemption. In Jack's case, the judge is ordering the bakery to abandon his beliefs (in a state that defines marriage the same way Jack does) -- or else. "Cease and desist from discrimination," he ruled, or face punishment (which, until recently, included jail time).
Sound familiar? It should. The President's HHS mandate insists on the same kind of viewpoint capitulation. Of course, the logical conclusion of this "marriage mandate" is that the government can force businesses to participate in anything it wants them to. "If the government can tell Jack what to think and say, that is a government we should fear," said Phillips's attorney, Nicolle Martin.
In both instances -- the HHS mandate and marriage -- Americans are being required to do something the Founders never intended: separate their values from their vocations. If Jack Phillips, Barronelle Stutzman, Elaine Huguenin, or Hobby Lobby want to serve the Lord full time, the First Amendment encourages it. What it doesn't encourage are judges like Spencer, who trample Americans' rights as a way of inventing others. "I'm a huge supporter of gay rights, gay weddings, gay marriage," said Denver talk show host Peter Boyles, "but these guys are wrong and Masterpiece Cakes is right. [Jack] doesn't say, 'You can't come in here and buy;' he says, 'I'm not going to make you a cake of two men getting married.' As much as I support two men getting married, I support his right to say no."
So do 85% of Americans, who agreed that vendors like Christian wedding photographers should be able to turn down jobs if they had strongly-held beliefs on same-sex "marriage." Now, instead of turning down work, some may have to discontinue theirs altogether. "If Jack can't make wedding cakes," his attorney pointed out, "he can't continue to support his family. And in order to make wedding cakes, Jack must violate his belief system. That is a reprehensible choice."
Tragically, it's a choice more Christians are having to make in industries like counseling, broadcasting, education, small business, and even the military, where conservative views are consistently squeezed out. As far as Masterpiece Cakes is concerned, friends say the Phillipses are in good spirits despite the ruling. Serving customers is important, but these bakers believe serving God matters more.
Jingle Bills, Jingle Bills, Jingle All the Way...
With Christmas recess just a week away, Congress is making its list -- and checking it twice. Before members call it a year, leaders are scrambling to tie up loose ends on everything from the federal budget and judges to military funding. After a weekend of talks, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) is hoping to put a bow on the negotiations for spending in fiscal year 2014 and 2015. The small-scale budget was snagged by unemployment benefits, federal pensions, and sequestration cuts, but the two sides seem to be moving close enough to strike a compromise before the House leaves town on December 13 -- "with or without a deal," Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) warned. To speed the process along, Republicans and Democrats agreed to avoid the political hot potatoes of entitlement programs and tax reform, meaning that Washington is farther away than ever from that "grand bargain" the President once promised.
The next big undertaking is the Senate's debate on the National Defense Authorization Act -- legislation that has, for 51 years, had the unique distinction of passing through Congress on time. If members want to keep the streak intact, the Senate will have to pick up the pace on the bill -- which is famous for the hundreds of amendments leaders typically attach. With time running out before current authorizations expire, leaders from the House and Senate Armed Services Committee have been negotiating a bill behind the scenes that would extend key provisions, while laying aside some of the controversial policy differences between the House and Senate. What's not controversial is that the conscience rights of men and women in uniform must be protected. Both the House and Senate passed bipartisan provisions earlier this year strengthening religious freedom protections for military personnel. Champions of conscience like Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Congressman John Fleming (R-La.) have been working overtime to ensure that our troops are protected.
Later this week, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will be focusing on another kind of defense -- ObamaCare's -- in another House hearing starring the woman overseeing the mess. In the meantime, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), mastermind of the "nuclear option" that gives the Left a blank check on nominations, is more concerned about stuffing the courts than his stockings. Before Friday, the implications of blowing up Senate rules will come back to haunt America, as Democrats start their slow parade of liberal extremists to the bench. First up is Patricia Millett, the President's anti-marriage, anti-religion pick for the D.C. Circuit Court. After the Senate blocked her nomination 55-38 in October, Millett's confirmation is a sure thing in a chamber where the minority can no longer filibuster.
While Democrats will almost certainly bring up two more nominees to the underworked D.C. Circuit, the addition of Millett officially tips the ideological balance of an evenly divided bench. As legal experts like our own Ken Klukowksi explain, Millett's lifetime appointment only increases the odds that the court's three-judge panels (which typically hear cases instead of the full court) will include liberal judges. That should send a shudder through anyone who's read Millett's endorsements of same-sex "marriage," feminism, Christian viewpoint discrimination, and her views on the "separation of church and state."
** Is the NFL the No Firearm League? It certainly seems so after the League's censorship of a family-friendly ad on personal protection. Check out Ken Blackwell's take on the controversy in his new CNSNews piece, "Responsible Gun Ownership Is as American as the NFL." Also, don't miss Ken's CNN interview on the latest ObamaCare fallout (below).
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.