Anti-Discrimination Ruling Forces Baker Out of the Wedding Cake Business

James Tonkowich | Columnist | Thursday, June 5, 2014

Anti-Discrimination Ruling Forces Baker Out of the Wedding Cake Business

Jack Phillips, a committed Christian, owns the Masterpiece Cakeshop and wow, can he make cakes. Take a look at his website. I like the three-tiered Wedgewood wedding cake especially. If you’re getting married anywhere near Denver, Colorado, you should probably give Phillips a call. Or at least you should have before he got out of the wedding cake business last week. 

While Phillips will make you a birthday cake, a retirement cake, some other celebration cake, or a cake because you want to pig out, according to the Huffington Post, he will no longer make you or anyone else a wedding cake.

A same-sex couple complained in 2012 that Phillips would not make them a wedding cake. Last week, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission made a unanimous ruling that if Phillips makes any wedding cakes, he must make wedding cakes for same-sex couples regardless of his deeply and sincerely held religious convictions about the meaning of marriage. Oh, and regardless of the fact that, in Colorado, same-sex couples can’t get married with our without cake. So while Phillips still makes other sorts of cakes for anyone and everyone, he has announced that he’s made his last wedding cake. 

In an interview last December, Phillips told Fox News, “I don't plan on giving up my religious beliefs ... I don't feel that I should participate in their wedding, and when I do a cake, I feel like I’m participating in the ceremony or the event or the celebration that the cake is for.” Phillips explained that he is willing to go to prison or to close down his business if that’s what it takes. “My priorities,” he said, “would be towards my faith rather than towards my safety or security.” Quitting the wedding cake business seems a good compromise for now.

The plaintiff cry of the LGBT community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) has been, “Can’t you just accept us?” But the reality is very different. The reality goes far beyond, “Accept us,” or even, “Affirm us.” The reality is: “Obey us—or else.”

That’s why University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock who supports same-sex marriage is in the crosshairs of both gay rights and the pro-abortion activists. It turns out he also supports academic freedom, toleration and, worst of all, religious freedom and that will not be tolerated.

According to an article in the Washington Examiner by Matt Bowman of Alliance Defending Freedom, “Laycock earned these activists’ scorn because he signed a scholars’ letter saying that both sides of the marriage issue should have religious and intellectual freedom of conscience. And he also filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties cases arguing for religious liberty against Obamacare’s mandate that religious objectors buy early abortion pills and birth control for other people.”

That is, favoring same-sex marriage is no longer sufficient. You need to close ranks with those who believe that no one should have the freedom to disagree.

As Dahlia Lithwick points out in Slate, Professor Laycock is an eminent scholar who has seen more than his share of controversy.  These attacks are likely to have little or no impact on his long and distinguished scholarly career. 

But what impact they have on the careers of those who are not so well established, not so eminent, not even tenured? What impact will it have on young graduate students with religious convictions as they face decisions about whether to pursue an academic career? Or, for that matter, any career that could be jeopardized by a reputation for or even a stray Facebook post about religious beliefs that might include pro-marriage, pro-life, or pro-religious liberty leanings?

The seventeenth century philosopher Thomas Hobbes noted, “Desire of ease, and sensual delight, disposeth men to obey a common power.”

If Western culture is marked by anything it is our “Desire of ease, and sensual delight.” And obedience to the spirit of the age can certainly be purchased today by threatening the stream of creature comforts, consumer goods, entertainment, and the thousand little luxuries that have become necessities.

The choice between our religious convictions and our livelihoods doesn’t seem like one most of us need to make. Yet the pressure Jack Phillips, Douglas Laycock, and many other small business owners and academics are facing is becoming more and more common. 

Jack Phillips has said, “My priorities would be towards my faith rather than towards my safety or security.” May the rest of us be willing to say the same.

Publication date: June 5, 2014