Cake Shop vs. Couple, my take on the case

Thomas Searl, Co-Editor-in-Chief, Video Editor

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As the symbol of the Judicial Branch, the Supreme Court stands as the authority on the interpretation of laws in the United States. Currently, the case Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission is being tried in front of the Supreme Court. Image by Daderot, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I wrote a news article for the February issue of the Paladin covering the facts as well as student and teacher opinions on the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission Supreme Court Case. I will now address the facts of the case from my perspective.

Let’s clear up some of the confusion. The baker in question, Jack Phillips, did not refuse any and all services to the couple. He refused to bake a custom wedding cake for the couple, while still offering to sell them any pastries or pre-made cakes they might want to buy; he even offered to bake them a birthday or shower cake to use. Phillips was not comfortable baking a cake which sent a pro-gay marriage message. This demonstrates Phillips’ tolerant attitude toward the couple. He did not kick them out of the shop, and there is not even evidence he acted toward them with hostility.

Phillips simply refused to use his artistic abilityhis form of self-expressionto express a message he finds morally objectionable. Selling someone something already made or even custom decorating a cake without that message seems, to me, categorically different from decorating, with precision and care, a cake which says something you believe to be wrong.

I have seen the argument that if he held the couple in question to moral standards, then he should do so for a heterosexual couple as well. There are a few key differences with the two situations being compared.

First, it is more difficult to determine if a heterosexual couple has engaged in premarital sex, for example, than to see that a homosexual couple is indeed homosexual.

Second, Christians do not believe that a couple must be perfectly moral to enter into the Sacrament of Matrimony. Christians would still allow a couple engaged in sinful activityas we all areto marry. The difference between this and the homosexual couple is that Catholics and most Christians find the very institution of homosexual “marriage” to be flawed and not even actual marriage.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says of marriage:

“The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring…”

The Catechism also holds that

“Homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

It also states that “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” It would seem that the Catholic Church, or more specifically, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), would not categorize this particular case as unjust discrimination. Unjust discrimination must, then, refer to a denial of basic necessities to gay people, and it does not extend to a denial of creative services for a wedding.

Baking a wedding cake for a sinful heterosexual couple would be permissible to most Christians because we are all sinners, and that does not prohibit marriage. Baking a wedding cake for a homosexual couple would be to contribute to an inherently immoral institution.

The USCCB writes an Amici Curiae (a voluntarily presented legal opinion) on cases they find to be of importance to the Catholic Church in the United States. In its Amici Curiae, while summarizing its argument, the USCCB said:

“American citizens should never be forced to choose between their religious faith and their right to participate in the public square. This fundamental vision of our constitutional government is embodied in the First Amendment, which guarantees that all citizens, whether of a particular religious faith or no faith at all, are free both to speak and to act in accord with their conscience.”

The USCCB also used one of Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortations to demonstrate the Church’s opinion. Pope Francis said:

“…no one can demand that religion should be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life, without concerns for the soundness of civil  institutions, without a right to offer an opinion on events affecting society.”

The Church’s opinion here is clear: the religious convictions of an individual must be allowed to manifest themselves in the way the religious person lives his life. It is worth noting that Phillips does much more to bring his faith into his business. He refuses to bake anything relating specifically to Halloween because it celebrates demons and witches. His employees are paid above minimum wage, and he loans them money when they ask for it. Phillips’ bake shop is closed on Sunday to allow him and his employees time to attend church. Phillips will also not bake cakes which express atheist, anti-family and anti-American messages. It is clear that Phillips is not just grandstanding on this one issue because he is evil and wishes to harm homosexuals, rather, Phillips seeks to live his life in accord with his Christian values in a variety of ways.

What is the point of the Gospel if we hear, but do not listen? It is nothing but hypocrisy to sit in the pews on Sunday and listen to, and perhaps agree with the message being spoken, but to refuse to change yourself in response. We must challenge ourselves to live out what the Church of Jesus says, and this includes our commercial and social pursuits. Nobody should be punished for that.

Thomas Searl, editor-in-chief, video editor