Q&A with Sr. Maria Jacinta, IHM: What’s your take on the Cake Case?

Thomas Searl


What is your overall opinion of the Masterpiece Cake Shop case?

I am very sorry that individuals who seek to follow their consciences can find themselves in the middle of court cases that take up a lot of time, money and worry. Even if Jack Philips wins, cases like this serve to intimidate others and tempt them to surrender their conscience-driven convictions in order to avoid such a legal battle.

In all cases like this, there’s a lot at stake. This isn’t really about baking a cake. It’s about setting a precedent in which people no longer have the right to have their religious convictions influence them once they leave their Church buildings on Sunday morning. That goes against the very purpose of our Sunday worship. One option for the closing of the Mass is for the priest to say, “Go in peace glorifying the Lord by your lives”; another option: “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord”. Pope Benedict changed the English ending to give it the language of commissioning, in which the priest is sending the people out to live what they have just received at the Mass. We cannot ignore our faith in daily living.

What will the gay rights ramifications be?

In this case, Jack Phillips did not refuse to make or sell cakes to Charlie Craig and David Mullins because of their sexual orientation. In fact, Mr. Phillips offered to make them shower cakes or birthday cakes, or to sell them a variety of brownies or cookies. He simply refused to use his talents to create a cake that celebrated same-sex marriage. He treated Mr. Craig and Mr. Mullins with respect. It was not their sexual orientation but the message on the cake that made Phillips refuse the job.

My hope is that if Phillips wins the case, it will serve to clarify what is actually a violation of human rights. Currently, some people in our society proclaim that if an individual chooses not to celebrate same-sex marriage or refuses to support all aspects of the “gay agenda”, this is a violation of gay rights, when such is not the case.

How will this affect religious freedom?

Religious freedom includes the practice of the faith in all aspects of life. We have a growing trend by some people in our country to reduce this freedom to “freedom of worship”. Worship only includes official times of prayer. Our U.S. Constitution, however, purposefully guards our freedom of religion, the freedom to practice and live our faith. Pope Benedict expressed concern at more frequent attempts by our government “to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Bishops of the United States of America from Region IV on Their Ad Limina Visit (2012).

Teaching a Christian Morality class, Sr. Maria Jacinta Weide, IHM, seeks to share her faith with her students. She is concerned about how the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission Supreme Court case could affect how religious people live their lives. Photo by John Biehler







Is this more of a gay rights or religious freedom case?

This is about religious freedom, but even more broad than that, it is about conscience rights, which affects all Americans, not just those who adhere to a faith. It’s about whether an American citizen can be forced to use his/her talents to promote or celebrate something that goes against his/her beliefs. We’re not talking about denying someone who experiences same-sex attraction a place to live or food to eat or legitimate pay for a job well done, or treating this individual with less respect than others. We’re talking about an individual being forced to create an artistic message that goes against his personal, and in this case religious, convictions.

What would be the perspective of the Catholic Church?

The Church is concerned with all human rights, including the protection of the rights of religious individuals and religious organizations under the First Amendment. This includes legal battles in our court systems. Our bishops have made public statements and filed briefs for the Supreme Court in several cases where these rights are threatened. We must be concerned about these issues because court cases are used to set precedents. Each individual is important, and these cases are about the individual targeted in the case, as well as all the individuals to follow.

Regarding this court case in particular…

“‘American citizens should never be forced to choose between their religious faith and their right to participate in the public square’ is a principle that our First Amendment protects, and it is in danger in the Masterpiece Cake Shop case. This is not just a Catholic principle; it is a principle of our own U.S. Constitution.” (USCCB Amicus Curiae, page 4)

“‘The First Amendment“prohibit[s] the government from telling people what they must say.’ Agency for Int’l Dev. v. Alliance for Open Soc’y Int’l, 133 S. Ct. 2321, 2327 (2013). This protection means the government cannot force an artist to engage in artistic expression to celebrate a wedding ceremony that she believes violates God’s law, nor can it force an artist to celebrate through her expressive activi-ties any President of the United States.” (USCCB Amicus Curiae, page 5)

“Second, the Free Exercise Clause guarantees every individual the right to seek the truth in religious matters and then adhere to that truth through private and public action.” (page 5)

This also includes the right of any religious person to operate their business according to their religious principles.

The Second Vatican Council conveyed a similar insight in the Declaration on Religious Freedom issued in 1965. “[T]he human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power [such] that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly . . . .” (7) That is because all people are “impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth,” which, once known, requires them “to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth.”(8)

This Court should hold that the Free Speech Clause protects Phillips from being compelled to use his artistic talents to express a message that violates his deeply held religious beliefs.” (page 13)

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

[The answers to this question consist of things Sister found in her research which she believes would help someone’s understanding of the case. It does not contain any direct quotations from her.]

“Indeed, it is easy to witness the concrete ways Phillips lives his faith in the commercial world:

  • Phillips “believe[s] it is important to treat [his] employees honorably,” and so he pays his employees above minimum wage and helps them by loaning or giving them money when they are in need. Id. ¶¶ 50–53.
  • Phillips’ business, Masterpiece Cakeshop, is closed on Sundays “to honor God” and to allow Phillips and his employees to attend church. Neither the business nor its employees will even deliver cakes or baked goods on Sundays. Pet. App. 281a–82a, ¶¶ 54–55.
  • Phillips honors the dignity of all individuals by gladly serving all customers regardless of race, faith, sexual orientation, or economic status. Pet. App. 282a, ¶ 56a.
  • When Phillips first opened Masterpiece Cakeshop, he gave careful consideration to determining what cakes and products would be created there to ensure that God would be honored through his work. Id. ¶¶ 57–58.

For example, Phillips made the decision not to sell any goods with alcohol in them, including coffee drinks or baked goods that include alcohol. He did not want to lead those with a drinking problem into temptation. Pet. App. 282a–83a, ¶¶ 57–59.

  • Phillips also refuses to create cakes that promote anti-American or anti-family themes, a flag-burning or a cake with a hateful message, a KKK celebration of an atrocity against African Americans, an atheist message such as “God is dead” or “there is no God,” or even simple vulgarity or profanity on a cake. Though Colorado’s statute also protects customers seeking to express these messages as creeds, “the heart-attitude of them does not honor Christ and that is . . . why [Phillips] will not design or create them.” Pet. App. 283a, ¶¶ 60–62.
  • For the same reason, Phillips will not create or sell Halloween cakes, cookies, brownies, or anything else related specifically to that holiday. Although turning away this lucrative business results in lost revenue, Phillips would rather lose the business than “make a profit on a day that exalts witches, demons and devils.” Pet. App. 283a–84a, ¶¶ 63–64.

Phillips will design and create wedding cakes for the marriage of one man and one woman regardless of their sexual orientation. Conversely, he will not do so for a same-sex wedding, regardless of the couple’s sexual orientation. Phillips is not concerned about anyone’s orientation. But he believes that celebrating a same-sex marriage violates God’s law and ‘to create a wedding cake for an event that celebrates something that directly goes against the teachings of the Bible, would [be] a personal endorsement and partici-pation in the ceremony.’” Pet. App. 284a–85a, ¶¶ 66–67; 287a–88a, ¶ 86.