Jack Phillips and the Freedom to Be Christian
We were told the new sexual orthodoxy wouldn’t impact anyone who didn’t want to endorse it. Well, that was false. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker who declined to design a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding reception. To understand this case in the midst of all of the misreporting and, shall I say it, fake news, please read Ryan Anderson’s recent article on the topic in National Review. Anderson noted that the Court announced its decision to hear Phillips’ case on the second anniversary of its decision in Obergefell, which made so-called same-sex “marriage” the law of the land. While the timing of the announcement may have been serendipitous, the connection between the cases isn’t. In his dissent in Obergefell, Chief Justice Roberts wrote that the decision “creates serious questions about religious liberty.” Even before the Chief Justice wrote those words, the clash between religious liberty and the new sexual orthodoxy, including, but not limited to, LGBT rights, was well underway, and Phillips was among the earliest examples. Why this clash? Well, as Anderson tells readers, “liberal advocacy groups [have] decided that civil liberties aren’t for conscientious objectors to the sexual revolution.” Twenty-five years ago, the ACLU played a role in securing the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Today, the same ACLU opposed the application of that Act to the Little Sisters of the Poor in their battle against the HHS contraceptive mandate. And the current threat to religious liberty and freedom of conscience isn’t limited to the usual suspects such as government or the ACLU. As Anderson reminds us, “As the law insists that social conservatives are like racists, big businesses and other institutions will bring their own pressure to bear on anyone who dissents.” For instance, Anderson describes, “The American Bar Association has promulgated new model rules of professional conduct that make it unethical for lawyers to ‘discriminate’ on the ‘basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomic status,’ including in ‘social activities,’ which . . . would include ‘church membership and worship activities.’” At the heart of this challenge to religious freedom is what Anderson calls “the never-ending expansion of anti-discrimination statutes. What started out as well-justified efforts to combat racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism have morphed into laws protecting against the [harm to dignity] allegedly inflicted by anyone who disagrees with progressives about human sexuality.” This alleged “harm to dignity” is the rationale behind Colorado’s attempt to punish Jack Phillips, whose “offense” was that he was unwilling to completely affirm the current sexual orthodoxy, a refusal that somehow “diminished” someone. This is of course silly, and underscores Anderson’s argument that “Ultimately, our goal should be to convince our neighbors that what we believe about sex is true,” and, “In the meantime we need to convince them that what we believe is at least reasonable and poses no harm to others.” Part of that convincing includes standing up for everyone’s religious liberty, not just our own. “Provided they don’t harm the common good, violate human rights, or otherwise offend justice,” Anderson writes, “Muslims should be free to be authentically Muslim, just as Jews should be free to be authentically Jewish and Christians should be free to be authentically Christian.” A lot is at stake in this Phillips case. But the battle for religious freedom isn’t limited to the courts. It’s also being waged, as Chuck Colson liked to say, over the backyard fence and in the public square. We’ll have much more to say about the case of Jack Phillips. In the meantime, please, come to BreakPoint.org, click on this commentary for a link to Ryan Anderson’s excellent article. And be sure to share it with folks you know.