OPINION – Jack Phillips isn’t a household name, but that’s likely to change in the near future. Phillips is the Colorado cake artist whose decision to decline participating in same-sex nuptials has sparked a case that is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court.
Three years ago, when a same-sex couple approached Phillips about creating a cake for their wedding, he informed them he would not be able to fulfill their request. He offered to sell them anything in his shop but reiterated that his personal beliefs would not permit him to be a part of their celebration by creating a custom wedding cake for them.
This proved to be a triggering event for the couple, who stormed out of his shop and promptly launched a jihad against Phillips, culminating in a lawsuit filed with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The commission ordered Phillips to create cakes for same-sex weddings or stop baking them altogether.
That decision was upheld by the Colorado Court of Appeals, but now Phillips’ case is headed to the Supreme Court on the grounds that forcing his participation in a same-sex wedding is a violation of his rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
The fact Phillips declined an opportunity to make money by being part of a celebration that is contrary to his values isn’t outrageous. That this particular same-sex couple has sought to harness the power of the state to force him to do so is a genuinely contemptible act.
Unfortunately, the use of government force to coerce conscience is now commonplace in the realm of same-sex activism. How quickly some forget that the detestable Jim Crow laws were also the product of a collectivist ideology backed by the violence of the state.
Legitimate intervention on the part of the state was once properly reserved for instances where the alleged victim could show demonstrable harm had been done. Now, peaceful refusal to be conscripted into participating in a same-sex wedding ceremony is treated as a dangerous thought crime.
Phillips is being punished – not for harming the couple in any objectively measurable way but for refusing to validate their ideology at the expense of his own religious convictions. He’s being forced to choose between his own sacred standards of right and wrong and the prevailing mindset of government.
Most of us, at some point, have been faced with choosing between our conscience and what’s popular. At worst, it may have cost us the approval of our peers or caused us to miss out on some trendy activity.
Today, the potential costs of standing on personal principle are considerably higher, and that’s not by accident. Thoughtful persuasion has been discarded in favor of ideological browbeating and subjugation, all conspicuously backed by the threat of official sanctions.
In Phillips’ case, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruling has cost him a significant amount of business. This isn’t surprising since we live in a time when a person must be prepared to suffer for his or her values, assuming they’re willing to stand for them in the first place.
Those whose personal convictions have never required them to forgo participation in activities that are in clear conflict with their foundational standards most likely have never stood for anything at all.
When his critics smugly claim that Phillips is duty-bound to create cakes for same-sex couples because he is engaged in commerce, they are relying on legalistic impulses rather than right and wrong. Simply opening a business does not subject the proprietor to cultural servitude or economic slavery.
The couple that set in motion this exercise in high drama wasn’t just looking for a wedding cake; they were looking for an excuse to legally bludgeon Phillips or anyone who believes as he does into submission.
This is self-evident from the contrast between how Phillips conducted himself in politely declining the opportunity to create a wedding cake and the disproportionate anger, profanity and totalitarian retaliation unleashed by the unhappy couple and their activist supporters.
Phillips doesn’t use his talents to make custom cakes for bachelor parties, Halloween cakes or cakes that celebrate witchcraft or demons either. He hasn’t sought to prevent anyone from obtaining these types of cakes from his competitors.
He hasn’t picketed the baking establishments that do provide such cakes. He hasn’t sought to impose his convictions on another human being. The fact that he’s drawn the line on what he considers the most appropriate application of his skills doesn’t mean he’s launched a crusade.
He simply has chosen to put his passions, gifts and creative ability to the possible highest use that he can.
If, at any level, you have deeply held ideals you wouldn’t want commandeered for another’s political agenda, then Phillips’ fight is your fight too.
Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events viewed through the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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