If all there was to designing a cake was slapping on some icing, adding
a few letters and colorful swirls, Jack Phillips’s place of business would not
be called “Masterpiece Cakeshop,” and he wouldn’t be nearly so renowned for his
skills and creativity. He’d just be another guy who sold cupcakes and cookies.
The name “Masterpiece” is not an expression of personal hubris, nor just an
indicator that Jack creates artistic cakes. The name is a testimony that his
work takes its inspiration from something—or, rather, Someone—inseparable from
what Jack believes and who he is: namely, the Master of all creation and all
Jack is a Christian. His life is grounded in his faith…and so is his
livelihood. His desire to live a godly life is not something he can leave at
the breakfast table and pick up again when he walks in for supper at the end of
the day. For people like Jack, living is about consciously honoring his Master.
And in ruling for Jack this week, the Supreme Court found that beliefs like his
deserve protection too. They can’t be singled out for mistreatment just because
they embrace views on marriage the government may disdain.
Some in our culture find that kind of religious devotion fanatical. But Jack
doesn’t go by the culture; he goes by the Bible. And the Bible tells him to
love everyone—even those with whom he disagrees. It doesn’t tell him to agree
with everyone he shows love to, or to bend his beliefs to fit their requests.
He can treat his customers with respect without doing everything they might ask
That’s not so hard for most Americans to understand. All of us, whatever our
beliefs, have people we care about who just don’t see some things the way we
do. That doesn’t mean we hate them, or want them mistreated. It means we
disagree. We do our best to live and let live. They make their choices, and we
No one should want to live in a country where anyone—including the government—can change that, by forcing us to take actions that contradict our conscience. That
idea violates the most basic, universal definition of freedom. It corrupts our nation’s DNA as “the land of the free.”
In this age so fraught with hatred and turmoil, many loud and prominent voices
demand that we all bow to the same social and political agenda. But the Supreme
Court resisted the roar of that crowd, recognizing that the First Amendment
rests on a different premise—the government cannot selectively punish people
for sticking to their religious beliefs, even if a growing number of people
despise them for it. Everyone should be able to have their arguments heard. And
we all deserve a government that will administer justice, regardless of a
person’s faith or views on marriage.
As the court wrote, “the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s consideration of
this case was inconsistent with the State’s obligation of religious
neutrality.” The opinion adds that “[t]he reason and motive for the baker’s
refusal were based on [Jack Phillips’] sincere religious beliefs and
convictions” and condemns the “clear and impermissible hostility toward
[Jack’s] sincere religious beliefs.” In other words, their hatred for his
viewpoint kept them from giving him a fair and reasonable hearing.
What those now deriding the decision refuse to understand is that, in deciding
as it did in Jack’s case, the court affirmed freedom not just for him but for
all Americans. In extending to him those constitutional protections, it ensured
for each of us—whatever our beliefs about marriage or the nature of faith—the
right to live out our deepest convictions free from government hostility.
That’s the life each of us truly wants. It’s our great legacy as Americans, the
best courtesy we can offer the people we interact with each day, and the
richest gift we can pass on to our children and grandchildren. Having the
nation’s highest court affirm that legal foundation was worth all that Jack has
been through, these last few years…even if it wasn’t a piece of cake.