When the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Christian baker Jack Phillips in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, I was disappointed, because the Court refused to rule on the key free speech issue. As time goes by, however, their ruling that government had used anti-Christian animus against a small-town baker seems ever more important.
This week, Michael D’Antonio and Peter Eisner published “The Shadow President: The Truth About Mike Pence.” From the reports I’ve read on the book, its pages ooze with exactly the kind of anti-religious animus the Supreme Court condemned in Masterpiece. On Friday, Vice President Mike Pence responded to the book by quoting James 1.
“The Bible says, ‘count it all joy’ when you endure trials of many kinds,” Pence told CBN News in a video interview. “Anytime I’m criticized for my belief in Jesus Christ I just breathe a prayer of praise.”
This quote comes from the introduction of the book of James. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2).
The book refers to Pence as “the most successful Christian supremacist in American history,” who is already a “kind of replacement president” preparing to “fashion a nation more pleasing to his god [sic] and corporate sponsors.”
The smear “Christian supremacist” echoes a longstanding fear among the far-Left that a cabal of Christians aims to turn the United States into a theocracy. This phrase packs a punch, echoing as it does the term “white supremacist.” It also lines up with the common refrain that President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are secretly pushing a misogynistic dystopia similar to “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
Picking up on the refrain, The New York Times‘s Frank Bruni reported on the book in an article entitled, “Mike Pence, Holy Terror.” Bruni described Pence as “self-infatuated,” “a bigot,” “a liar,” and “cruel” — just like Trump. But Pence is worse, because he also has “the conviction that he’s on a mission from God and a determination to mold the entire nation in the shape of his own faith, a regressive, repressive version of Christianity.”
“Trade Trump for Pence and you go from kleptocracy to theocracy,” Bruni declared.
Pence has made many missteps — what politician hasn’t? But this kind of hyperbole — theocracy, Christian supremacist — crosses the line from fair criticism into an anti-religious attack.
In the book “So Many Christians, So Few Lions: Is There Christianophobia in the United States?” sociology professors George Yancey and David Williamson painstakingly document the presence of bias against conservative Christians, proving that it is as real as animus against Muslims and Jews.
It is important to note that anti-Christian animus is directed towards conservative Christians, and has a clear political slant. This kind of bias reaches a fever pitch against Pence. Conservative positions on marriage, family, and abortion are specifically targeted — since these positions seem to threaten the secular Left’s push on abortion and LGBT issues.
So the animus against Mike Pence ties back to the animus against Jack Phillips. The Christian baker gladly serves LGBT people at his shop, but he refused to bake a custom cake for a same-sex wedding. For this refusal to take part in an event that would have violated his religious beliefs, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission found him guilty of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Phillips’ refusal to support such an event falls under his First Amendment right to free speech. The commission did not only overrule that right, however.
In one telling exchange, a member of the commission compared Phillips’ denial of service to those who defend the Holocaust. The commissioner declared that “freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the holocaust, whether it be — I mean, we — we can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use to — to use their religion to hurt others.”
This wasn’t just insulting to Phillips — it was personal. His father served in World War II, and liberated a concentration camp. Not only was Phillips’s father the opposite of a Nazi, he actually helped undermine the Holocaust, and was stricken to his core to see the horrors the Nazis had done.
The Supreme Court ruled that the commission had displayed “clear and impermissible hostility” to Phillips’ religious beliefs, violating his right to free exercise of religion. Media outlets described the decision as “narrow,” because it did not focus on the free speech issues. However, it is extremely difficult to win a case like this on free exercise grounds.
Most importantly, the Masterpiece decision sounded an earth-shattering alarm from the heights of the U.S. government that undercuts a central narrative. Many say that Christians in the U.S. cannot experience real persecution because Christianity is the majority religion on paper.
Masterpiece shattered that narrative. While Christians in the U.S. do not face anything like the persecution Christians face across the globe, conservative Christians do face a broad animus in American society.
George Yancey and David Williamson documented that animus. Seven justices of the U.S. Supreme Court officially recognized that animus. The popularity of “The Handmaid’s Tale” also bolsters that animus.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) brands mainstream conservative Christian organizations — including Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal nonprofit that won 9 Supreme Court cases, including Masterpiece Cakeshop, in seven years — “hate groups.” A terrorist used their “hate map” to target the Family Research Council, another Christian nonprofit, in Washington, D.C. in 2012.
LGBT megadonor Tim Gill has announced his intention to target Christians like Jack Phillips, saying he would “punish the wicked.” LGBT groups have announced their intentions to force churches to host same-sex weddings. Activists have launched a nation-wide push to force Christian adoption and foster care agencies to place children with same-sex couples against their consciences.
Furthermore, one week ago, a Marxist militant antifa group directly targeted a Christian megachurch in Austin, Texas. They yelled, “Bigots out of Austin, don’t come back!”
Finally, Jack Phillips’s saga in the courts isn’t over. The very same Civil Rights Commission the Supreme Court denounced for its animus against him has again targeted Phillips, this time for refusing to craft a cake celebrating transgender identity — from a transgender lawyer who seems to have requested Satanic cakes as well, including one with a vibrating dildo… Mainstream media outlets conveniently overlooked these details.
This book and articles attacking Mike Pence as a “holy terror” also did not emerge in a vacuum. In April, LGBT activists stormed Pence’s hometown. In March, HBO’s John Oliver mocked Pence by making his bunny gay in a children’s book. Olympic skater Adam Rippon attacked Pence. Oh, and on the eve of the inauguration last year, LGBT activists held a “queer dance party” in front of Pence’s house.
Anti-Christian animus is real. It has been documented by sociologists, and denounced from the Supreme Court. Of course, any American persecution pales in comparison to the horrid conditions Christians face in Islamist countries like Iran and Turkey, in North Korea, in India, and elsewhere. But the persecution is still real, and many say it is deserved.
Pence had the right response to all of this: “Count it all joy.” Christians need to make sure that they do nothing to bring such animus on themselves. As Peter wrote, “But in your hearts honor Christ the lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in you. Yet do so with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that when you are slandered, those who revile your good name in Christ will be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:15-16).
When conservative Christians act graciously, but stand for their faith and face persecution, they will be blessed. As Jesus said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matthew 5:11).
Not all of the animus against Mike Pence may be due directly to his faith, and his conscience is between him and God. Pence is far from perfect. That said, Jesus promised that those who face persecution for His sake are blessed. Mike Pence certainly falls into that category.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.