Baker Wins in Gay Cake Case — But Leaves Many Unanswered Questions

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By Kevin Price, National News Editor, USA Daily Chronicles

Social conservatives are elated over the Supreme Court decision of the Colorado baker that was fined for not wanting to bake a cake for a gay couple.  The Court, rightly (in my opinion) voted that Jack Phillips and his wife had their constitutional and First Amendment rights violated when they were heavily fined — in the six digits — for being unwilling to make a cake that violated their values.  This case was not just significant for social conservatives, but for anyone concerned about individual liberties.  Think about it, if the politicians can determine what is “hate speech,” and that can be infringed on by the law, how long will it be before legitimate complaints about elected officials will be seen as “inappropriate” and “illegal”?  If one thinks about it, the only kind of speech that needs protection is “hate speech.”

Conservative groups are basking in the “victory.”  American Family Association President Tim Wildman said in a statement that Today, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of Jack Phillips and more importantly the First Amendment (in the now known as the Masterpiece Cake Shop decision).  The high court specifically rebuked the Colorado Commission for its demonstrable venomous hostility toward Mr. Phillips’ Christian beliefs in handing down their decision. This is an important day for all who value liberty in general and religious liberty in particular.  We applaud the Supreme Court’s decision.”

If one thinks about it, the only kind of speech that needs protection is “hate speech.” 

As well they should and 7-2 is a significant vote against this assault on the First Amendment.

Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, weighed in on the decision as well, telling reporters:

“This is a victory for Jack Phillips and our nation’s long cherished freedom of following one’s deeply held beliefs without fear of government punishment.   The Supreme Court made clear that the government has no authority to discriminate against Jack Phillips because of his religious beliefs.

“Misguided government officials singled out Jack’s religious beliefs for discriminatory treatment – but that isn’t freedom, it’s tyranny.   It’s simply un-American to force people like Jack to compromise their religious beliefs just because they are disfavored by those who have used government entities like this Colorado government commission.

“Thankfully, the Supreme Court’s ruling means Jack will remain free to live according to his beliefs whether he is at work, at home, or in his place of worship. As Americans, our consensus on religious freedom has historically recognized the God-given right of Americans to live all aspects of their lives according to their faith.  This is no different today,” concluded Perkins.

It is a beautiful sentiment from Perkins, but the reality is, Philips may never fully recovery.  The legal costs were enormous, and the opportunity costs (dealing with this rather than growing his business) are unbelievable.  It is the kind of thing no business owner should have to face, and still might with the adjudication of this decision by the court.  It was not the “slam dunk” it is being promoted by social conservatives.

Reason Magazine notes the decision leaves more unanswered questions than issues solved:

“Do bakers have a First Amendment right to refuse to bake cakes for same-sex weddings, even if there’s a state law banning sexual orientation discrimination by such businesses?

“Do they have a First Amendment right to refuse to bake such cakes that contain text or symbolism (e.g., rainbow striping) that the bakers disapprove of?

“How about wedding photographers or videographers, who create products that (unlike most cakes) are traditionally seen as speech? How about calligraphers or graphic designers, who have an objection to personally writing or typing certain messages?”

This is a win, but not the one the Constitution and American people deserved. 

You get the point.  There is nothing from the Supreme Court decision to make one think they are free to act as they wish when it comes to their First Amendment freedoms.  What we get is a situation where it will be on a case by case basis.  This is tragic for people who want to be left alone and speak freely.  Speaking freely, they might win a lawsuit, but they will still have to fight.  That is expensive in both time and money.

In the end, I think government entities that went after Mr. Philips will think twice before going after a person’s civil liberties.  That is a wonderful thing.  However, this decision will likely temper how people exercise those liberties. That is very sad.  This is a win, but not the one the Constitution and American people deserved.

Kevin Price is a nationally syndicated columnist, editor, author, and host of one of the longest running business shows in the country, the Price of Business on the Biz Talk Radio Network.  He is also National News Editor of US Daily Chronicles.  

 

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