The LGBT Agenda vs. Religious Freedom

One day in 2012, Charles Craig and David Mullins entered Jack Phillips’ Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, to order a wedding cake. Phillips, a Christian and self-described “cake artist” who custom-designs cakes for various occasions, politely declined, citing his religious beliefs.

Having previously, in the words of his lawyer, refused to bake cakes for Halloween, or with anti-American, anti-family, or what he considered profane messages, Phillips also would not design a cake to celebrate an event in violation of his understanding of Leviticus XX, 13.

Craig and Mullins promptly filed a complaint alleging discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The commission ruled that Phillips must be compelled to provide wedding cakes equally celebrating any kind of union, or get out of the business.

The basis of the ruling is a Colorado law that prohibits businesses open to the public from discriminating against anyone on the basis of race, religion, “gender,” or sexual orientation. Twenty other states have similar laws.

Phillips has appealed to the Supreme Court on the grounds that the Colorado law infringes his right to the free exercise of his religion. Two years ago, the Supreme Court declined to hear a similar appeal filed by a New Mexico photographer who refused service for a same-sex ceremony; but it has agreed to hear this one.

The case has been widely covered from a Christian point of view, which is understandable, since Christianity is the religious worldview that Phillips professes. But the implications of the ruling by the Orwellian Colorado Civil Rights Commission are far broader than that. So Agudath Israel of America, a 94-year-old Orthodox Jewish advocacy organization, has filed an amicus curiae brief in the case (full disclosure: I have the honor of serving as the Midwest regional vice president of the Aguda).

The brief, which can be read in its entirety here, formulates the question:

Will our society honor the guarantees of the Free Exercise Clause when a religious practice is based upon a moral judgment that is anathema to the contemporary zeitgeist ?

It then goes on to document the uniqueness of the American experience in Jewish history and the resultant compelling interest of the Aguda in the outcome of this case. As a summary of its argument, the brief cites the words of Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., from 56 years ago:

"[T]he issue in this case … is whether a State may put an individual to a choice between his business and his religion. … [S]uch a law prohibits the free exercise of religion.” Braunfeld v. Brown, 366 U.S. 599, 611 (1961) (Brennan, J., concurring and dissenting).

The brief notes numerous examples in which Jewish practices have been infringed, restricted, and prohibited in foreign countries. For example, Jewish law not only limits the species of that which can be consumed, but also mandates the method of slaughter that must be pursued for the meat to be kosher. Yet in Belgium, Denmark, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland, all countries with a Jewish population, the practice is prohibited. Indeed, the UK recently made a serious attempt to ban the practice there.