The case of the cakeshop

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE - JOHN STONESTREET WITH DAVID CARL­SON

There are too many myths be­ing prop­a­gated about the Supreme Court case in­volv­ing Jack Phillips and Mas­ter­piece Cakeshop. It’s time to set the record straight.

On Dec. 5, the Supreme Court will hear oral ar­gu­ments in Mas­ter­piece Cake Shop v. Colorado Civil Rights Com­mis­sion, which could be one of the most sig­nif­i­cant cases in our na­tion’s his­tory in­volv­ing free­dom of speech and free­dom of re­li­gion.

If your only source of in­for­ma­tion is main­stream me­dia out­lets, you’ve prob­a­bly heard the case de­scribed along these lines: Hid­ing be­hind a spe­cious claim to re­li­gious free­dom, anti-gay baker Jack Phillips re­fused to serve a same-sex cou­ple in his store. The cou­ple re­ported this hate­ful dis­crim­i­na­tion to the Colorado Civil Rights Com­mis­sion, which rightly fined Phillips.

There’s only one prob­lem with this de­scrip­tion of what hap­pened. It’s hog­wash.

Here’s what you need to know about Jack Phillips and Mas­ter­piece Cakeshop—what you need to know and tell your friends, fam­ily, and co-work­ers when the topic comes up:

First, Jack is a cake artist, some­thing that’s be­come more fa­mous since re­al­ity tele­vi­sion shows like Cake Wars. He doesn’t just bake cakes; he cus­tom-de­signs master cakes. How­ever, from the be­gin­ning, Jack has seen his busi­ness as an ex­pres­sion of his faith (hence the name), and that has led him to re­ject busi­ness through­out his ca­reer. For ex­am­ple, he’s re­fused to make cus­tom cakes for Hal­loween and di­vorce cel­e­bra­tions, and he’s turned down re­quests for lewd cakes for bach­e­lor and bach­e­lorette par­ties.

Back in 2012, two men asked Jack to de­sign a cake for their same-sex wed­ding. Now mind you, back in 2012, the state of Colorado didn’t even rec­og­nize same-sex wed­dings. Jack told them that he would gladly sell them any item in the store—in­clud­ing cakes—but that he could not, due to his re­li­gious con­vic­tions, use his cake-de­sign tal­ents to par­tic­i­pate in the cel­e­bra­tion of their cer­e­mony.

The cou­ple left fum­ing. Vile phone calls started pour­ing in, even death threats. The Colorado Civil Rights Com­mis­sion not only fined Jack, but or­dered that if he made cus­tom wed­ding cakes for het­ero­sex­ual cou­ples, he also had to do it for same-sex cou­ples. Then the com­mis­sion—be­hav­ing like some com­mu­nist dic­ta­tor­ship might—or­dered Jack and his em­ploy­ees to go through a “re-ed­u­ca­tion” pro­gram and pro­vide quar­terly com­pli­ance re­ports.

Ob­vi­ously Jack ap­pealed, and his case has made it to the Supreme Court. Jack has stopped sell­ing wed­ding cakes, and has lost 40 per­cent of his busi­ness, and has had to lay off em­ploy­ees.

Now those are the facts. You can find them at ADFLe­gal.org, the web­site of the Al­liance De­fend­ing Free­dom, which is rep­re­sent­ing Jack.

Nonethe­less, the me­dia, the LGBTQ lobby, the ACLU, and even mem­bers of Congress con­tinue to mis­rep­re­sent the case and smear Jack Phillips.

At a re­cent press brief­ing, Mary­land Con­gress­man Stenny Hoyer told the cam­eras, “We’re bet­ter than ex­clu­sion, we’re bet­ter than hate, we’re bet­ter than prej­u­dice. We re­spect each and ev­ery one of our fel­low cit­i­zens.”

Well, each and ev­ery ci­ti­zen ex­cept, I sup­pose, Jack Phillips.

The lib­eral web­site ThinkProgress (which by the way calls the Al­liance De­fend­ing Free­dom an “anti-LGBTQ hate group”) wrote that Phillips re­fused to sell the gay cou­ple “any prod­uct.”

That’s sim­ply not true. He of­fered them any­thing in the shop that was al­ready made.

I could go on and on with the mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tions and the omis­sions. But the fact is that Jack was not sin­gling out gay cus­tomers. He sim­ply re­fuses to use his artis­tic tal­ent in a way that would vi­o­late his core con­vic­tions.

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