There is an interesting case before the Supreme Court right now that is of great interest to believers. And despite what you may have heard from both sides, it’s not an easy decision for the court.
The case is relatively straightforward. A Colorado baker refused to design a cake for a gay couple. He would have gladly sold them anything off the shelf. He didn’t refuse to do business with them, but he did refuse to design a cake celebrating their wedding. Here are his words:
“I’m happy to sell a cake to anyone, whatever his or her sexual identity. People should be free to make their own moral choices. I don’t have to agree with them. But I am responsible for my own choices. And it was that responsibility that led me to decline when two gentlemen came into my shop and invited me to create a wedding cake for their same-sex ceremony. Designing a wedding cake is a very different thing from, say, baking a brownie. When people commission such a cake, they’re requesting something that’s designed to express something about the event and about the couple. What I design is not just a tower of flour and sugar, but a message tailored to a specific couple and a specific event — a message telling all who see it that this event is a wedding and that it is an occasion for celebration. In this case, I couldn’t. What a cake celebrating this event would communicate was a message that contradicts my deepest religious convictions, and as an artist, that’s just not something I’m able to do, so I politely declined.”
Colorado, however, considered their actions discrimination, since they were a public bakery and Colorado law doesn’t allow discrimination on the basis of sexual preference. The case has made it all the way to the Supreme Court. Essentially, the case pits the rights of business owners to exercise their religious freedom against the rights of a state to enforce anti-discrimination laws.
Religious freedom is a bedrock value of our country and our constitution. At the same time, we all want to live in a country where discrimination has been eliminated. So I encourage you to understand both sides of the argument before you decide which is right.
On the one hand, all believers can understand the point-of-view of the baker. He is saying that it goes against his strongly held religious beliefs to contribute his talents to a wedding that he doesn’t agree with. He asked the court a good question, “If a consumer tried to hire an ad agency to promote the KKK, would the ad agency have the right, based on their religious and moral values, to say no? Does the court have to agree with my moral and religious values in order to say that I have a right to refuse?”
I completely understand his argument and the point of his questions.
On the other hand, the state is saying that they have a right to enforce anti-discrimination laws. And they asked a good question, “If a restaurant said that it was against their religious and moral beliefs to serve black people, couldn’t we enforce our anti-discrimination laws and force them to do so or else shut them down? And since the courts have ruled that gay marriages are legal and that homosexuals are a protected class, can’t we enforce our anti-discrimination laws against the baker?” (Set aside the argument, for now, about whether sexual identity should be a protected class. The courts have ruled, at least in Colorado, that it is a protected class.)
Colorado asked some good questions, but I think that they are missing an important distinction, and it’s my hope that our Supreme Court will be wise enough to see it.
There is a significant difference between selling a cake and being forced to use your artistic talents to design a cake that promotes something you don’t agree with. A Christian baker should sell anything in his bakery or in his design book to anyone that comes in off of the street. If a gay couple comes in and says “I want that cake in your design book that has two rings on it,” and the baker refuses to sell it to them, he is guilty of discrimination. But if the same couple comes in and says, “I want you to design a cake that celebrates a man marrying a man,” the baker should have the right to refuse based on freedom of religion.
Here’s the bottom line for me if I’m a Christian baker: I want to treat all people with respect and equality, so I will sell them whatever I can whether I agree with them or not. But I don’t want to put my talents into promoting a value that I am morally opposed to, so I want the right to say “No thank you” when necessary.
It’s a fine distinction, but an important one, and one that the court should understand. If the court decides appropriately, it can honor our country’s strong stand on religious freedom. At the same time, it can still express a strong and necessary anti-discrimination message.
I’m praying that our court can see this distinction, and make a wise decision.