Martin Luther King, Jr. Day honors the immense contributions Dr. King made to civil rights in this country and all over the world. In a time when African-American citizens were told which water fountains they could use, which schools they could attend, and which seats they could use on the bus, Dr. King led a powerful, nonviolent movement for an end to segregation.
As we remember this historic man and the injustices he fought, some have tried to link the modern LGBT movement to the civil rights struggle of African-Americans.
But any attempt to compare the situation facing LGBT citizens today to the plight of African-Americans in King’s day is baseless.
The case of cake artist Jack Phillips illustrates this. Jack has been attacked by LGBT advocates and punished by the government for declining to design a custom cake for a same-sex wedding. They claim that Jack’s actions violate the civil rights of the same-sex couple.
But as we have pointed out before:
The racist laws of the Civil Rights era were aimed at the wholescale exclusion of a certain group of people from the economic, social, and political life of the country simply because of a personal characteristic, the color of their skin.
But when our clients decline to use their artistic talents to promote a certain message or event, they are solely motivated by the message, not the person. If you want to make an honest comparison to the civil rights era, it is our clients who are facing similar threats to their freedom. The government is saying there is no place for them at the free speech counter.
In stark contrast to racial segregation, cake artist Jack Phillips serves everyone who walks through his shop’s door, and always has. In fact, he offered to serve the same-sex couple that sued him: after politely declining to create a custom wedding cake, Jack offered to sell the couple anything else in the shop or to design a cake for a different event. Jack’s decision was based only on the message that a custom wedding cake celebrating a same-sex marriage would have conveyed – a message that was in direct conflict with his sincerely held religious beliefs.
Like other cake artists, Jack routinely declines to make particular custom cakes. He doesn’t create cakes that celebrate Halloween or divorce, and he doesn’t create adult-themed cakes for bachelor and bachelorette parties.
For Jack, it’s never about the person asking for a cake; it’s about the message he’s being asked to communicate.
And that’s why African-American leaders like Dean Nelson of the Frederick Douglass Foundation, Ryan Bomberger of the Radiance Foundation, and Dr. Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., have teamed up in support of Jack Phillips under the banner “We Got Your Back Jack.”
#WeGotYourBackJack serves as a reminder of the struggles that African-Americans have had to overcome throughout our nation’s history – and shows that it’s just not accurate to compare the racist business owners of Dr. King’s time with Jack’s willingness to serve all.
These African-American leaders have Jack’s back because they understand that Jack simply wants to live out his faith through the freedoms guaranteed to him by the Constitution. He shouldn’t be forced to design something contrary to those beliefs, and he shouldn’t have to endure economic and personal persecution for adhering to his core convictions.
If that freedom is taken away from Jack – as these African-American leaders understand – we all lose.
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