The Never-Ending Persecution of Jack Phillips

The Never-Ending Persecution of Jack Phillips

There is no legal “right” to compel others to say things they don’t believe. Until the Supreme Court explicitly reaffirms the foundational protections of religious liberty and free speech, there will be no end to the state compulsion or harassment.

By the time I visited Masterpiece Cakeshop in 2016, Jack Phillips, the man who had famously refused to bake a specialty cake celebrating the wedding of a gay couple, had been the victim of a four-year campaign of harassment by the authoritarians at the Colorado Civil Rights Commission intent on punishing him for a thought crime.

Now Phillips is back in the news, as his lawyers attempt to get new charges against him dismissed on appeal from a Colorado judge’s decision last year.

For the past decade, the media and lawyers and judges and leftists have misrepresented Phillips’ position. No, the baker never turned a gay couple away from his shop. Or a transgender person. Or anyone else. No, he never refused to sell anyone a wedding cake (ceremonial, in the case that made him famous, as the request predated both Obergefell and Colorado’s recognition of gay marriage). Philips refuses to create any specialty item from scratch that features any message that conflicts with his long-held religious beliefs. He will refuse to create such cakes for any customer, gay or straight or black or white.

After years of fiscal hardship, Phillips finally won a 2018 Supreme Court decision, in which the Court ruled that the Colorado commissioners had displayed “a clear and impermissible hostility toward [Phillips’] sincere religious beliefs” in their efforts to punish him—by which the justices meant members had compared Phillip’s faith to that of Nazis and segregationists. While it was a personal victory, it did almost nothing to preserve religious liberty or free expression rights.

Really, Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission wasn’t much of a personal victory, either. All the commission now had to do was avoid openly attacking faith. A person can still walk into a business in Colorado and demand the proprietor create a message that conflicts with their sincerely held convictions — as long as that message comports with the contemporary left’s evolving virtues.

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