BLOGColorado Courts Moving to Pronounce Last Rites for Religious Freedom

By Alan Sears Posted on: | April 28, 2016

Does that sound like an overstatement? As followers of Christ, we believe in His ability to bring life out of death – and take comfort in that, even as we watch the cruel blows being inflicted on so many of our brothers and sisters in the faith these days.

This week, for instance, the Colorado Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of Jack Phillips. And the implications of that decision – a precedent that will be closely considered by many other courts around the country – are ominous for religious freedom in America.

Those implications may seem a little vague, even if you’re acquainted with the case. Phillips, artist and owner of Masterpiece Cake Shop outside Denver, told a same-sex couple he couldn’t design their special wedding cake, given his biblical convictions on the meaning of marriage. It wasn’t a matter of baking – he cheerfully offered to bake anything else they liked.

But Jack doesn’t just bake wedding cakes, he designs them – composes small masterpieces of color and decoration specifically designed to convey the personality of his customers and the spirit of their occasion. When he can’t do that – he doesn’t, for instance, make Halloween cakes, or include liquor in his ingredients – he gracefully passes on a customer’s request.

Some understand, some don’t. The two men who asked him to design their cake didn’t, and took their case to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which – incredibly – has ordered Phillips to:

  1. bake wedding cakes for same-sex as well as man-woman couples – or not to make them at all.
  2. prepare quarterly reports for the government for two years, clarifying which cake orders he has accepted and which he has refused – and why.
  3. train his employees (including his mother and daughter) to understand that he is wrong to believe what the Bible teaches, and to run his business according to that faith.

The meaning of this week’s decision, then, is as easy to read as the writing on a Masterpiece cake. In the eyes of Colorado’s highest court, Phillips’ conscience is not his own. Which means, in the eyes of our government – his soul is not his own. And yours isn’t your own, either.

If you think you’ll be spared that Big-Brother-knows-best treatment because you don’t bake cakes in Colorado … think again. Watch how fast other states take their cue from this ruling.

The American Civil Liberties Union knows. With its usual gift for irony, the group was quick to assert its approval of the Colorado high court’s denial of … civil liberties:

“We all have a right to our personal beliefs,” an ACLU spokesperson said, “but we do not have a right to impose those beliefs on others and discriminate against them.” Unless, of course, the government says we can … because our beliefs are the politically correct flavor of the month. (The same Colorado commission ruled that three other bakeries were free not to make cakes for Christians. whose messages violated their personal beliefs. You can’t make this stuff up.)

Isn’t it interesting that those pressing legal and political agendas that embrace abortion and homosexual behavior … that redefine marriage … that denounce faith and biblical truth … are choosing people like Jack Phillips as their targets?  And that all too many government officials, legislators, and judges across the country are eagerly joining these witch hunts?

Think about it: all of these people being targeted – the photographers, florists, grocery owners, fire chiefs, all of them – are outstanding in their line of work. They’re professionally successful, personally well-liked, generous with their time and contributions to the needs of those less fortunate in their neighborhoods. Law-abiding, family-oriented – the kind of people every civic leader wants living next door, thriving and investing their talents and tax dollars in the local area.

Unless: they’re not willing to help kill unborn babies. Or quietly choose not to exercise their creativity in support of ideas they don’t agree with. Then, they must be eradicated.

Not just disagreed with or debated. Not just passed over in order to do business with someone else whose ideas are more ingratiating to the current culture. But brought to their knees. Driven out of business. Robbed of their reputation, their life savings, their place in the community. They must be destroyed.

Sure, they’re good people – but they’re only allowed to be good so long as their goodness is amputated from the very faith that inspires it.

Those amputations are currently being scheduled in courtrooms all over America. We’ll soon see how many people – even Christians – are willing to go out on a limb for religious freedom.

We thank God for the courts that are still following the written Constitution, and for those clients brave enough to render unto God what is His and not Caesar's. But this week’s Colorado decision reminds us that people like Jack Phillips must not stand alone.

It’s time for all of us who cherish religious freedom to pray. To speak up. To write our legislators, talk to our pastors, get stories like this in front of our family and neighbors. It’s time to embrace our birthright as Americans – as children of God, “endowed by [our] Creator with certain inalienable rights.” And entrusted with a responsibility to stand for the truth we know.

Alan Sears


Alan Sears serves as founder of Alliance Defending Freedom, building on his experience as longtime leader of the organization to strengthen alliances, forge new relationships, and develop ADF resources.

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