WASHINGTON — As the Dec. 5 oral argument date for his case grows near, the drumbeat proclaiming Jack Phillips must be forced to create a same-sex wedding cake against his conscience grows louder.
The most important consideration in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, we are told, is eliminating discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Finally, the state and its defenders claim, the emotional harm felt by prospective customers upon hearing someone disagrees with their actions for religious reasons cannot be tolerated either.
Yet none of what we are being told here is true. First, no “discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation” has occurred in this case at all.
Jack, who owns and operates Masterpiece, is not opposed to serving people who identify as homosexual; he simply objects to the celebration for which he is asked to create a cake — the same-sex wedding.
This becomes even clearer when we understand that Jack will not create a wedding cake for two men even if they claim a heterosexual orientation, but will create a cake for a wedding between a man and a woman despite them identifying as homosexual.
Thus, Jack is not acting based on the sexual orientation of his prospective customers; he’s only opposed to what they are celebrating, and asking to not be forced to be a part of it.
This is a reasonable stance, and indeed, most people agree with Jack Phillips: 68 percent of Americans recently surveyed said a baker should not be required to create a custom wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony.
The reason for this is simple: The cost of protecting this freedom is minimal, only entailing some offense on the part of the prospective customers, who will now have to go elsewhere to find a cake — most couples inquire with multiple shops anyway — for their wedding ceremony.
The two men who initiated the legal case against Jack could have visited any one of 67 other bakeries in the Denver area willing to create their cake, including one only a tenth of a mile from Masterpiece.
Instead, they filed complaints against Jack with the state, which followed up by suing him. But in light of all these providers happy to create the cake, is it really necessary to force Jack Phillips to be the one to do so?
The would-be customers, after getting over their offense at Jack’s beliefs, could have traveled 500 feet down the street to obtain their cake from someone happy to provide it.
Instead, they want to force Jack Phillips to create it — meanwhile, they had already obtained one free of charge from another bakery by the time they filed charges against Jack.
Unfortunately, this coercion comes with the heavy price of forcing Jack to violate his conscience or shutting down wedding cake operations and possibly going out of business.
At a recent practice oral argument, the American Civil Liberties Union claimed that this case is about “full and equal participation in civic life,” and if Jack wants to say “God blesses this union” for any wedding, he must be forced to say it for all weddings.
Yet if those who want the government to punish Masterpiece get their way, Jack and many like him around the country will themselves be excluded from full and equal participation in civic life.
Allowing religious business owners to continue to operate their businesses according to their deeply held religious beliefs will not push those identifying as homosexual out of society. However, forcing business owners to violate their beliefs could force many religious individuals out of the marketplace.
The Supreme Court should keep this in mind as it decides this case in the upcoming months.
Travis Weber is Director of The Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, he was a two-time sailing All-American. He earned a law degree with distinction from Georgetown University. Readers may write him at FRC, 801 G St NW, Washington, DC 20001.