We received some big news yesterday.
In a 7-2 decision, the United States Supreme Court delivered justice for Jack Phillips. The High Court reversed the government’s decision to punish Jack for living and working consistently with his faith.
Obviously, this is fantastic news. Jack and his family have been through so much the past six years—bullying, threats, marginalization—not to mention the loss of 40 percent of their business.
Can you imagine the relief that Jack must feel right now?
For the past six years, all he wanted was the freedom to live and work consistently with his beliefs. Instead, the State of Colorado treated his faith with disgust. One commissioner characterized Jack’s plea for religious freedom as “one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use.”
This was a serious red flag for the Supreme Court. In the Court’s decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “[t]he neutral and respectful consideration to which Phillips was entitled was compromised here …. The Civil Rights Commission’s treatment of his case has some elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs that motivated his objection.”
Anyone who has met Jack knows that he loves and serves all people. Masterpiece Cakeshop is open to all. Jack simply declined to create a custom cake celebrating a same-sex marriage because that message conflicts with his deeply held beliefs. This is exactly the same way that Jack has responded to requests for custom cakes celebrating divorce or Halloween—he must stay true to his faith.
The only intolerance in this case was how the government treated Jack. Thankfully, the Supreme Court chose to set the record straight and protect Jack’s religious freedom. In doing so, the Court made a strong statement that religious hostility has no place in a diverse society like ours. And for that, Jack is truly grateful.
“I’m profoundly thankful that the Court saw the injustice that the government inflicted on me,” Jack said following the ruling. “This is a great day for our family, our shop, and for people of all faiths who should not fear government hostility or unjust punishment.”
You may be thinking…what happens now? What does the Court’s ruling mean for the rest of us or for someone like Barronelle Stutzman?
Barronelle’s case began in 2013 after she kindly told her longtime customer and friend Rob Ingersoll that she could not create custom floral arrangements for his same-sex wedding because of her religious beliefs about marriage. The Washington State government has targeted Barronelle for this simple gesture, and this gentle grandmother now risks losing everything she owns because of a lawsuit against her.
The Washington State Attorney General has already admitted that Barronelle’s artistic expression—her floral art—is speech. The issue in Barronelle’s case is whether the state can now compel her to express a government-mandated message celebrating same-sex marriage or if she has the freedom to live and work consistently with her faith.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Ultimately, the Supreme Court decided to hold Barronelle’s case until it announced a decision in Jack’s case. We’ve been praying that any protections afforded to Jack would be granted to Barronelle as well. Now we must wait and see what the Supreme Court does with Barronelle’s case.
And Barronelle is not the only one whose religious freedom is at stake.
We have seen threats involving all kinds of professions —filmmakers, promotional printers, photographers, and web designers. There have also been attempts to crush disfavored viewpoints held by judges, counselors, lawyers, family farmers, and even meat packers.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission is a step in the right direction. But there is more work to be done.
We must continue to stand for religious freedom for all people. As Jack said, “If we want to have freedom for ourselves, we have to extend it to others with whom we disagree about important issues like the meaning of marriage.”
As we all know, views about marriage change. But the First Amendment’s enduring promise is that people of good will who hold beliefs disfavored by the government are free to live out those beliefs. And that’s the freedom that people like Jack and Barronelle are fighting for.
Help keep the momentum moving forward
Jack’s victory at the Supreme Court is the eighth victory at the Supreme Court that you’ve helped us secure in the last seven years! God is using you in mighty ways—thank you. Now, we must keep the momentum moving forward and continue to defend the freedom to live and work consistently with our beliefs without fear of government punishment.
With your continued support, we will be ready to stand with the next person who needs our help to defend their freedom—and yours.
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