Jonathon van Maren

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U.S. Supreme Court ruling against Masterpiece Cakes would’ve signaled end of religious liberty

Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon

June 7, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The reactions to Monday’s Supreme Court decision for Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshops have been coming fast and furious from both sides of the political spectrum. The consensus developing on the Right seems to be suspicious celebration—the Court, after all, did not protect all religious liberty, but specifically ruled that this particular Colorado baker had been the victim of anti-religious discrimination. Thus, the precedent did not go nearly as far as most of us had hoped, and LGBT activists are surely gearing up to fight another day. Perhaps an elderly florist will make a better target.

That being said, I do think that those who are determined to find a black cloud on every silver lining are also underestimating the significance of this ruling. For starters, it must be noted that Christians needed to win this one. The ruling might not have been everything we hoped for, but a loss would have signaled the end of religious liberty in the United States, and a campaign to force opponents of gay “marriage” to involve themselves in celebrations of gay "weddings" would have commenced. Those who are harrumphing about the limits of the victory should pause to remember what would have happened had Phillips lost his case. 

Additionally, this victory is more significant than some might think. As David French put it over at the National Review:

All bakers — regardless of religion — have the same rights and obligations. At the same time, gay and religious customers enjoy equal rights under state public-accommodation statutes. Any ruling the commission imposes will have to apply on the same basis to different litigants, regardless of faith and regardless of the subjective “offensiveness” of the message.

This is a severe blow to the state. It hoped for a ruling declaring that the cake wasn’t protected expression and a free-exercise analysis that simply ratified the public-accommodation law as a “neutral law of general applicability.” Such a ruling would have permitted the favoritism on display in this case. It would have granted state authorities broad discretion to elevate favored messages and suppress dissent, all while operating under the fiction that they weren’t suppressing protected expression or religious exercise.

Instead, civil-rights commissions now have to understand that restrictions on religious bakers will carry with them the same implied restrictions on secular bakers, and the protections given gay customers will extend on an equal basis to religious customers. In other words, the Court not only prohibited favoritism, it imposed a high cost on censorship.

Despite the fact that many smart conservatives have bemoaned the decision as a delay of the inevitable, French responded further by pointing out that many of the cases coming down the pipe are actually more favorable to us than the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, and that we may be looking at a very different Supreme Court soon. Essentially, Justice Anthony Kennedy rebuked the LGBT movement by stating, in no uncertain terms, that religious liberty was not just some pretext for bigotry and hatred as gay activists like to claim.

It’s important to remember the significance of having the Supreme Court of the United States affirm the concept of religious liberty. Most LGBT activists dismiss religious liberty as a valid concept, and claim that Christians with moral objections to same-sex "marriage" are no different than KKK segregationists in the 1950s or even Nazis in the 1940s (language that Kennedy condemned in his decision.) Before Trump’s election, when a Clinton presidency still appeared inevitable, Harvard law professor Mark Tushnet mused about “how to deal with the losers” of the Sexual Revolution, and concluded that a “hard line”—such as had been implemented against the Nazis following World War II—would be appropriate. This is the sort of fellow that hoped for a Clinton presidency, and Tushent is a good example of the type of people who lost on Monday.

Lest anyone should think I’m simply pulling one extreme example out of a hat to prove my point—he is a Harvard professor, after all—a quick scan of the reactions from LGBT activists to their loss at the Supreme Court tells you everything you need to know about how they view dissenters. George Takei approvingly posted a speech by lesbian country star Chely Wright at an event to celebrate the Stonewall Riots, where she exploded that, “today, the United States Supreme Court decision about a cake maker and his ‘religious freedom’ will serve as a roadmap and instruction manual for every bigot in America to discriminate.” Notice how she put “religious freedom” in scare quotes?

Wright followed that up by comparing America to A Handmaid’s Tale, where gay people get executed (that would be the Middle East, actually, but that’s a topic for another day), and then jumps right into the Nazi comparisons: “In 1938, an article published in the New York Times quoted well-known Yale Divinity Professor Halford E. Luccock as saying this: ‘When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled ‘made in Germany;’ it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, ‘Americanism.'”

In other words, a baker not being compelled by the state to create a piece of art that conflicts with his conscience symbolizes, in the minds of many LGBT activists, that de-facto Nazis are running the show. On the other hand, if the highest Court in the land had ordered Phillips to 'bake the cake, bigot!' they would have been thrilled at this victory for tolerance, even if Phillips and others were forced out of business and into poverty over their decision. Again, this is no exaggeration—a quick scan of the Twitter reactions of LGBT activists will tell you everything you need to know about how they view anyone who disagrees with them—and their firm belief that the state should intervene and force dissenters into line.

This victory was not only important, it was essential. Naysayers are correct in noting that it did not go as far as we would like. But they seem to be forgetting where we would be had Phillips lost his case on Monday—and who would have won.

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Jonathon van Maren

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Jonathon Van Maren is a public speaker, writer, and pro-life activist. His commentary has been translated into more than eight languages and published widely online as well as print newspapers such as the Jewish Independent, the National Post, the Hamilton Spectator and others. He has received an award for combating anti-Semitism in print from the Jewish organization B’nai Brith. His commentary has been featured on CTV Primetime, Global News, EWTN, and the CBC as well as dozens of radio stations and news outlets in Canada and the United States.

He speaks on a wide variety of cultural topics across North America at universities, high schools, churches, and other functions. Some of these topics include abortion, pornography, the Sexual Revolution, and euthanasia. Jonathon holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in history from Simon Fraser University, and is the communications director for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform.

Jonathon’s first book, The Culture War, was released in 2016.