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SUPREME COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF CHRISTIAN BAKER
TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, earlier this week, after six years of litigation, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 7-2 ruling, favored a Christian cake baker, Jack Phillips, in the case Masterpiece Cake Shop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
This case was one of the most watched of the term. It was the first big showdown between gay rights and religious freedom since the court forced states to legalize same-sex marriage in 2015. The headline said it was a very narrow ruling. It was not narrow in the sense that it was a 7-2 vote, but it was narrow in how they framed their debate and argument.
DR. REEDER: What they did was slap the hand of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission because of their engagement, their animus to religion, etc. The point that many journalists have rightly made that this was not so much on the merits of Jack Phillips’ decision that, in light of his religious liberty, he should not have to participate in something that he disagrees with because of a sincerely held religious view that marriage is between a man and a woman. They did not go directly to that issue.
Now, there’s another case coming up that they’re probably going to have to deal with that, so it’s said as a narrow decision and those who are fighting for religious liberty should not take great heart in this. I would disagree. I agree with what they’re saying in that they didn’t go after the merits of Jack Phillips’ claimed exemption from participating because of religious liberty, but they did make a very significant statement.
THE COURT WALKS A FINE LINE
We cannot miss a couple of facts here, Tom. Fact 1: the same court that is pushing this notion that sexual activity and sexual practices have civil rights has now taken a pretty aggressive statement that the government cannot determine what someone’s religious convictions are in light of their validity or not. What they’ve basically said is this — they even used the language that was used by this civil rights commission in that they said that Mr. Phillips was claiming a rhetorical religious conviction, not a sincerely held religious conviction and that his conviction was “despicable to use such rhetoric as religious liberty to masquerade his clear discrimination against homosexual marriage.”
It shouldn’t escape our notice that not only did we have a court here that, on the one hand, has been pushing sexual anarchy under civil rights and now has pushed back on the government acting with animus toward religion through the activity of the civil rights commission. But the same person who wrote the majority opinion for the Obergefell decision that sought out the right to redefine marriage as two consenting adults whether they’re the same sex or not and leaving the historic definition of marriage of a man and a woman — the same guy who wrote that opinion now writes this opinion and his key word was “tolerance” and that we have to find a way in which those who are pushing for what has previously been known as sexual aberration, now that that is “protected behavior,” then you’ve got to find a way to tolerate those who, because of religious convictions, cannot participate or support in such behavior.
It’s been abundantly clear as this case has unfolded that Jack Phillips has friendships with those who claim homosexual orientation and his products have been available to everybody — he makes a cake — if you buy it, you buy it — but what he was asked to do here is to participate with his artistic ability in the celebration and implementation of a same-sex marriage and he said, “By religious conviction, I can’t do that.”
THE FIRST AMENDMENT MUST BE PRESERVED
There is no doubt that the First Amendment is the First Amendment. There’s a reason it is the First Amendment and the first of the First Amendment is religious liberty. There’s a reason why that’s important in terms of what it means to be an American and what has been crucial in the maintaining of the American experiment that has been unparalleled throughout history. And so, what you need to do is aggressively go after it and, to some degree, the Supreme Court did that, and you cannot miss a 7-2 vote.
In the majority opinion, he says that the civil rights commission is out of bounds when it calls someone’s religious beliefs as despicable. The government is not in the business of determining what religious beliefs are acceptable and not acceptable. The government protects the right of the practice of religion, but it does not pass judgment on what religions are right. That is not its job and that is one of the unique dynamics of the country. Then, when they use the word “despicable” because someone holds to a historic position of marriage, in other words, it’s telling every court and every government agency, “Get out of the business of passing judgment on religious belief.”
REACTIONS VARIED — SOME SATISFIED, OTHERS VOW TO DOUBLE DOWN
There are multiple responses to this. Some people were happy, some people were upset, but there were also some things that came out. The leader of the Democratic Party clearly came out in total opposition to this ruling, no protections of religious liberty cross the lips of the Democratic Party spokesman. It was an all-out assault on religious liberty and whatever Jack Phillips claims should not even be considered in light of the importance of pressing the issue of sexual anarchy in the name of sexual liberties. Now, the Republican Party has not spoken directly to this and it’ll be interesting to see how they do.
Also, what came out is those who want to press this matter said, “Our only answer now is we have got to move for a ‘human dignity amendment’ to the Constitution that protects sexual identity and that protects sexual practices.”
TOLERATION AND DISCRIMINATION
Well, let me just say that there’s two words here that I want to address: toleration and discrimination. Toleration is, ultimately, the resort of the arrogant. “I’m going to tolerate you.” While I am opposed to homosexuality, I don’t tolerate homosexuals — I am called to love them in a Christian world and life view.
I am called to love people made in the image of God, but that doesn’t mean I have to love their behavior. I’m not called to tolerate; I am called to actively, aggressively develop relationships that exhibit grace and mercy and dignity toward person — not toward their behavior, necessarily, but toward persons.
Secondly, this notion that we want a non-discriminatory society, no, please think through that. Even to this day, thankfully, there’s some sexual behavior we discriminate against. It’s wrong. Discrimination against people and their dignity is what must be affirmed, but discrimination on behavior is constantly practiced: “This is right; this is wrong. This is right; this is wrong.” Therefore, discriminating considerations are absolutely crucial in a society that is ordered by law that something is right and something’s wrong. Now, the question is is sexual activity outside of marriage — promiscuity, sexual activity that is abnormal between men and men and women and women — is that to be declared right and normal and acceptable or is there to be a discriminatory fact that, no, sex is between a man and a woman and sex belongs within the context of marriage?
That is the inevitable collision course in our culture and, while this case did not directly go to that issue, it did fire a shot across the bow to the government that you are here to protect the First Amendment and the free practice of religion, but you are not here to pass judgement and call someone’s free practice of religion “mere rhetoric,” when in reality it was a sincerely held belief.
COMING UP MONDAY: ANOTHER RELIGIOUS LIBERTY COURT CASE DECIDED
TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, on Monday’s edition of Today in Perspective, there’s actually another case that came out the same day as the Jack Phillip’s case. It was Azar vs. Garza.
DR. REEDER: Yeah, and here’s one that goes to the issue of sanctity of life and, by the way, has implications on religious liberty again. It’s kind of gotten lost in the shuffle, but there’s something insightful. And, by the way, there’s some other things that are taking place around it concerning the ACLU and Planned Parenthood that this case highlights and we need to address that on Monday.
Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.
This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.