Will Christian Baker’s Supreme Court Case Decide Future of First Amendment?

Start

It strikes one as an episode of the Twilight Zone to think that in the present moral climate, as The Washington Post reports, the Department of Justice would argue in defense of a Christian baker’s right to not bake a cake for a same-sex “wedding.” The enthusiasm to promote same-sex relations and “gay marriage” has reached such hysterical proportions that one seemingly risks censorship for speaking out against them. Merely touch the periphery of the issue and prepare for an onslaught of hateful and bigoted accusations of hate and bigotry. Common Sense, common decency, ethics grounded in the natural law and civil debate are a thing of the past in our public square.

The Christian baker in question is Jack Phillips, the proprietor of the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., who four years ago refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The couple turned to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to press for their rights under Colorado’s accommodations law which protects against “discrimination” based on sexual orientation. Phillips lost the case and the Court of Appeals upheld the ruling.

This is an important case for many reasons, but the most important are buried under layers of ideological subterfuge. Americans’ First Amendment right to freedom of speech has long been under siege, and it has been the trend to condemn virtuous speech and protect vicious speech. However, the issue goes much deeper still. What has been nearly lost to our civilization is the very foundational nature of speech as the First Amendment intended it to be understood and protected. Our Founding Fathers understood that language has two purposes, to convey truth and to serve others. Language that is deceitful and self-serving by definition ought not to be protected by the First Amendment in its original intent.

The increasing number of anti-discrimination cases initiated by same-sex plaintiffs is wholly grounded in the misuse of speech; in equivocations, false propositions and fallacious inferences in order to silence and even destroy the livelihoods of those who would reject the latest incarnations of the sexual revolution. The grounds on which plaintiffs come to sue over wedding cakes, flowers and other accommodations are false. Words like “marriage,” “equality” and “discrimination” are necessarily misused to make an enemy of virtue and an ally of vice.

The etymological roots of “marriage” reveal that at its most basic it means the “state or condition of being husband and wife.” It is a contract which implies the eligibility and complementarity of a man and a woman for the fact of unity and procreation. The original sense of “wedding” or “to wed” is “to make a woman one’s wife by giving a pledge…” We have a God-given right and are protected by the Constitution to hold this definition because it conveys truth about the nature of marriage and family as it serves the common good.

Equality is commensurately abused. As Aristotle said, “the worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal.” Claims of “marriage equality” are based on a false notion of equality. A couple comprised of a man and a woman is qualitatively different than a couple comprised a man and a man. One stark difference is that in one couple there is a woman, and a woman is different than a man — therefore a man and a man does not equal a man and a woman. The term “marriage equality” is an oxymoron in its intension and extension. That we can no longer see this basic reality and, worse, still that we are not allowed to express this truth publicly is a violence against our First Amendment rights.

The misuse of the word “discrimination” is perhaps the most troubling of all. It is an artifact of true common sense to realize that a statement is absurd that explicitly denies what it implicitly affirms. Discrimination at its roots means simply to “distinguished between.” Discrimination is a species of judgement and a natural faculty of the human intellect. The ACLU’s Louise Melling is representing the same-sex couple at the Supreme Court. She epitomizes the absurdity of modern expressions about discrimination by claiming that if the court rules in favor of Phillips, it “will enshrine a constitutional right to discriminate.” The absurdity of her statement is that she is discriminating between the notions of Phillips and the same-sex couple. She is implicitly discriminating while explicitly eschewing discrimination. Discrimination is not a conventional right; it is a natural power and as such is meant to be exercised properly with truth and charity.

Jack Phillips has a natural law right to refuse those requesting his services to participate in a same-sex “wedding” by virtue of his religious convictions. He does not have the right to refuse service in general to those who are same-sex attracted by virtue of that attraction. It is hopeful that Masterpiece Cakeshop respects the dignity and intrinsic worth of all human persons and has no problem serving all walks of life, but in the case of celebrating a same-sex wedding, a religious exception is reasonable and ought to be respected. This Supreme Court decision holds the potential to bring some truth back to our understanding of the First Amendment.


Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg

Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg is a senior fellow at the American Principles Project, a writer in residence and teacher of philosophy and theology at Holy Spirit Preparatory School in Atlanta. He is also a senior contributor to The Imaginative Conservative and has written for numerous venues on matters of faith, culture and education.