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US Christian baker wins Supreme Court case

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In a major religious liberty victory in the US this week, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favour of a Christian baker who declined to create a cake for a same-sex ‘marriage’.


Sued for discrimination

Christian baker, Jack Phillips, declined to create a cake for a same-sex ‘wedding’ in 2012. He made clear that he is happy to serve all kinds of people, but that his Christian convictions would not allow him to participate in celebrating a same-sex ‘marriage’. He referred the couple to alternative bakers they could use.

The couple sued Phillips for discrimination, and Phillips lost when the case was heard in the Colorado courts. Phillips had to cease his custom wedding cake services and release six of his 10 employees to comply with these rulings. Phillips then took his case to the Supreme Court of the United States which ruled in his favour this week.


Religious convictions at stake

Phillips made clear, “I’m happy to sell a cake to anyone, whatever his or her sexual identity.” However, his religious convictions meant that he could not design a cake that would convey the message that a same-sex ‘wedding’ is “an occasion for celebration”.

“My religious convictions on this are grounded in the biblical teaching that God designed marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” he said.

The US Department of Justice filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court which supported Mr Phillips. “Forcing Phillips to create expression for and participate in a ceremony that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs invades his First Amendment rights,” the brief argued.


The ruling

The court ruled by a majority of 7-2 that Colorado had violated Phillips’ right to free exercise of religion. 

The ruling states: “The reason and motive for the baker’s refusal were based on his sincere religious beliefs and convictions... It is proper to hold that whatever the outcome of some future controversy involving facts similar to these, the Commission’s actions here violated the Free Exercise Clause; and its order must be set aside.”

“The Civil Rights Commission’s treatment of [Phillips’] case has some elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs that motivated his objection,” it states.

The ruling focusses on what happened in Colorado, and thus avoids making a more widely applicable judgement.


Commercial freedom

While many people focus on religious freedom, the freedom that is often missed in cases like this is commercial freedom. Advertising agencies frequently turn down clients for ideological reasons. They may not want to advertise certain political views or types of services. They should have this freedom.

Public relations firms, and events firms also decide which clients they are happy to service and which they are not. Builders routinely turn down business they deem too risky or just not their kind of business. Printers should be able to decide that they will not print certain political or religious material – e.g. cartoons of Muhammad, or pornography, or racist material. Businesses require commercial freedom in order to run an effective business.

Any business should be able to have complete commercial freedom to decide what clients to serve. If potential customers decide that the business is  discriminatory then they are free to choose to go to competitors.  The business may lose out as a result, but that is part of the commercial decision not to serve certain customers. Free markets tend to promote tolerance by penalising those that discriminate and allowing maximum freedom for businesses and customers.


Just one of many

Phillips is just one of many bakers, florists, photographers, and other service providers who have been sued for discrimination by LGBT activists. More cases of this kind are expected to go to the supreme court. In the UK we await the ruling on the Ashers Baking Company case which was heard in the UK Supreme Court in May. This ruling from the US Supreme Court is an encouraging boost for Christian freedoms.

 

Links:

USA Today: “Here's why I can’t custom-design cakes for same-sex weddings”, by Jack Phillips.

Department of Justice Amicus Brief on the case.

Lifesite News: Supreme Court sides with Christian baker who refused to do gay ‘wedding’ cake

 

 

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