At SCOTUS, a Make or Bake Moment

At SCOTUS, a Make or Bake Moment

June 04, 2018

It doesn't seem that long ago when I sat down with CBS's "Face the Nation" and told a very surprised Bob Schieffer about the battle for religious freedom that was raging. Like many people, he seemed astonished to hear that any American -- let alone the wedding industry -- would be punished for their mainstream views on marriage. "I must say this is under my radar. I haven't -- I haven't heard this." Today, almost three full years into Obergefell, nearly everyone has heard their stories. And this morning, in the same court that created the mess of same-sex marriage, at least one of them has a happy ending.

For Jack Phillips, the national nightmare of June 26, 2015 came long after his own personal one. It would be two years until five justices on the Supreme Court empowered themselves to redefine an institution as old as civilization itself. Even then, the war for the freedom of dozens of bakers, florists, and wedding photographers had already begun. His own chapter in the broader drama started like so many others already had. Two men walked into his bakery and tried to order a custom cake for their same-sex wedding reception. As he had done before, Jack politely explained that as a Christian, he didn't make cakes for activities that violate his conscience. Halloween, for instance. Divorce parties, for another. And yes, same-sex marriages.

"Everyone is welcome in my shop," he tried to explain in an op-ed for the Washington Post, "be it homeless folks (many of whom I've befriended over coffee, cookies and conversation), the two men who are suing me, or anyone else who finds their way in. The God that I serve, whose arms are open to all, expects that of me, and it is my joy to obey Him. But creating a cake that celebrates a view of marriage in conflict with my faith is not something that I can do."

The men sued -- and in a case that took five years to resolve, the justices finally gave Jack his freedom back. In a 7-2 ruling, the Supreme Court agreed: Colorado's treatment of Masterpiece Cakes was "inconsistent with the state's obligation of religious neutrality." "The government, consistent with the Constitution's guarantee of free exercise, cannot impose regulations that are hostile to the religious beliefs of affected citizens and cannot act in a manner that passes judgment upon or presupposes the illegitimacy of religious beliefs and practices," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote on behalf of the court." The Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in its obvious contempt for Jack's beliefs, "was neither tolerant nor respectful of his religious beliefs." The judgment, they concluded, "is reversed."

For the Phillipses, who suffered through a half-decade of harassment, business losses, death threats, and everything else from the extreme Left's playbook, the outcome was worth the wait. "It's hard to believe that the government punished me for operating my business consistent with my beliefs about marriage. That isn't freedom or tolerance," he said. "I'm so thankful to the U.S. Supreme Court for this ruling." Although the ruling was limited to Jack's case, it's an incredible victory -- not just for the Phillipses, but for America's long-cherished freedom to believe.

No one -- and certainly no American -- should be forced to compromise their views just because they're unpopular with the government entity in charge. The newest member of the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, touched on this in his own concurrence. "... No bureaucratic judgment condemning a sincerely held religious belief as 'irrational' or 'offensive' will ever survive strict scrutiny under the First Amendment." In this country, he writes, "the place of secular officials isn't to sit in judgment of religious beliefs, but only to protect their free exercise... Popular religious views are easy enough to defend. It is in protecting unpopular religious beliefs that we prove this country's commitment to serving as a refuge for religious freedom."

Like us, Justice Clarence Thomas knew this crisis was coming. "In Obergefell, I warned that the Court's decision would 'inevitabl[y]... come into conflict' with religious liberty, 'as individuals . . . are confronted with demands to partic­ipate in and endorse civil marriages between same-sex couples.' This case proves that the conflict has already emerged. Because the Court's decision vindicates Phillips' right to free exercise, it seems that religious liberty has lived to fight another day. But, in future cases, the free­dom of speech could be essential to preventing Obergefell from being used to 'stamp out every vestige of dissent' and 'vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.' If that freedom is to maintain its vitality, reasoning like the Colorado Court of Appeals' must be rejected."

The time is coming -- and soon -- when the court will have to wade into the bigger clash between religious liberty and same-sex marriage. When it does, let's hope it agrees with the majority of Americans, who understand that -- regardless of what you think about marriage -- no one should be forced to violate revealed and established biblical truth. "Now that the decision has arrived, I can see the sun once again," Jack wrote in an emotional response today. How much longer until dozens of other Christians can see theirs?

For more analysis on the Masterpiece ruling, check out this post from FRC's Travis Weber.

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Black to Basics on School Shootings

June 04, 2018

There isn't a good person alive who wouldn't do everything in their power to stop the horror story that keeps playing out in our nation's schools. It shouldn't matter what political party you subscribe to, how much money you make, or where you're from, everyone wants the shootings that have snuffed out hundreds of innocent lives to end. But, the reality is, until we have an honest conversation about our culture and what's driving our young people to do this, it won't.

An honest conversation was exactly what Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) was trying to have during a meeting with local pastors last week. Unfortunately for Diane, who's running for governor in Tennessee, her opponents just couldn't resist the opportunity to take her quotes out of context and turn an opportunity for sincere dialogue into a cheap political headline.

Like a lot of conservatives, Diane knows that there's no magic solution to the violence that's sweeping through society. Our children aren't picking up guns and killing their classmates because there's a Second Amendment. There's been a Second Amendment for almost 230 years -- and commonplace shootings have only been around the last 20. As Dr. Ben Carson once said, the heart of the matter is the heart. Gun control only deals with one aspect of that. Until we're willing to address the motivation for the violence, Americans won't change anything. There has to be a moral component – an agreement that, somewhere along the way, our society lost its way.

"We have devalued life in this country," Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said after the Parkland shooting. "We threw God out of school... We have families that are broken apart, no fathers at home. We have incredible heinous violence as a [video] game, two hours a day in front of their eyes. And we stand here and we wonder why this happens to certain students." Rep. Black couldn't agree more. She, like so many Americans, thinks a big part of the problem starts at home. "As a nurse, I look at the root cause...I think it's a deterioration of family. They don't have that good support system. And where are they looking? They're looking for something... maybe on the internet, maybe something in a small group of friends. And they're going in the wrong direction." She made the connection with violent movies, and the steady desensitizing that's taking place with America's young people. And it isn't just violence, Diane went on, but pervasiveness of all kinds.

"Pornography. It's available -- it's available on the shelf when you walk in the grocery store. Yeah, you have to reach up to get it, but there's pornography there. All of this is available without parental guidance. And I think that is a big part of the root cause that we see so many young people that have mental illness get caught in these places."

"Every one of those school shootings go back to looking at that child, and their friends can actually pinpoint a time where they saw a change in their behavior."

"So I believe mental illness is something we've got to address. We've got to address the family."

Almost immediately, some liberals ran to their keyboards and started tapping out columns, suggesting that Diane Black was blaming school shootings on pornography. Obviously, that's a distortion of what she said. Pornography is just another example of the damaging influences that have somehow become morally acceptable in this culture. With the advent of technology, violence, sex, profanity, contempt, ridicule, bullying – it's all at our fingertips. And worse, at our children's.

Thirty years ago, every teenager wasn't walking around with a smartphone that let them download every vile and grotesque thing on command. If you think pornography isn't one of the contributors to violence, then you haven't read the data. The link between crimes like sexual assault and porn is there, whether the media wants to admit it or not. Our friends at Fight the New Drug make a pretty compelling case that, like so many other addictions, pornography is mentally numbing.

"'... [T]he FBI's own statistics show that pornography is found at 80 percent of the scenes of violent sex crimes, or in the homes of the perpetrators.' Now we think that's kind of tough to ignore, while those who promote porn think this is easy to overlook... We're not saying consuming porn will automatically make someone a serial rapist. Even so, looking at the raw data, porn is connected with sexual violence."

Still unconvinced? Read this astonishing piece in the New York Times about what teenagers are learning from online porn, including how to rough up your sex partner. "'It gets in your head," Q. said about the harsh treatment of the actresses in these videos. 'If this girl wants it, then maybe the majority of girls want it.'" "As one suburban high school senior boy told me recently, 'I've never seen a girl in porn who doesn't look like she's having a good time.'" Maggie Jones, who did every parent in America a public service by publishing this feature, points out that Indiana University did a national survey of teenagers, and around one-sixth of boys admitted to sex acts like choking a partner. And yet we think that violence won't translate into other aggressive behavior? Or worse, we don't understand that devaluing or disrespecting other people gradually chips away at human decency -- or dignity?

Pornography didn't kill those 17 bright, promising futures in Parkland. No one, including Diane Black, is suggesting that. What we are suggesting is that these are the slow burns of the cultural crisis that's destroying us.

Josh McDowell delivered a powerful talk on the impact of pornography at our Watchmen on the Wall conference last month. If you haven't watched it, please do so.

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

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