The Supreme Court might not be the safest conversation topic around the Thanksgiving table, but it’s certainly on our minds this week here at Alliance Defending Freedom.
In just under two weeks, on December 5, Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips’ case will be heard before the High Court. His case, Masterpiece Cakeshop, has been deemed by many political commentators and experts as a landmark religious liberty case.
But as we gear up for an exciting and dramatic showdown at the Supreme Court, it’s important that we take time to think about Jack Phillips – and all of our clients –and thank them for the sacrifices they have made to take a stand for religious liberty.
For all of the creative professionals that we represent, their art is also their financial livelihood. While we tend to focus on the big picture – the constitutional and legal ramifications of these court battles – we can lose sight of the fact that on a personal and financial level, these clients are risking a great deal in these fights.
Take Jack for instance. After the Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled against him, Jack was ordered either to violate his faith by designing custom wedding cakes for same-sex weddings or to completely stop designing wedding cakes. To Jack, the choice was clear, but that doesn’t mean it came without great personal sacrifice. Custom wedding cake orders make up about 40% of Jack’s business – the court’s order left a significant gap in his shop’s revenue.
When Washington floral artist Barronelle Stutzman declined to use her creative floral skills to beautify the same-sex wedding ceremony of a long-time customer, she was sued by the ACLU and the Washington State Attorney General in a professional and personal capacity. This means that ultimately losing this case would mean Barronelle could lose nearly everything she has.
Barronelle and Jack have also had to endure death threats, threatening mail, and phone calls. In one case, a caller told Jack that he knew Jack and his daughter were in the store and he was on his way to shoot him.
And as if all of that weren’t enough, Barronelle and Jack and our other creative professional clients are putting on the line the ability to do what they love.
Barronelle and Jack have both been working in their respective fields for decades. They love their craft and they love their clients. Think about your very favorite activity, hobby, or job – would you be willing to risk never doing that again?
I remember the first time I heard Barronelle and Jack tell their stories in person – I was not emotionally prepared. I knew all the facts of their respective cases; I’d read the briefs and petitions. But to hear the incredible personal risk they are taking just to participate in these legal battles moved me to tears.
While the outcome of these cases are important and could have significant impact on our nation, we shouldn’t forget the individuals at the core of these lawsuits. As we enter this season of Thanksgiving, let’s take the time to be thankful for people like Jack and Barronelle who are willing to take great personal risk to stand for religious liberty.
And as we bow our heads over our Thanksgiving feast, let’s lift a prayer for these individuals who are risking so much for our freedoms, with so little in return.