Score one for the First Amendment.
The Supreme Court ruled Monday — in a 7-2 decision involving both conservative and liberal justices — that a Christian baker from Colorado named Jack Phillips was unconstitutionally sanctioned by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for choosing not to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in 2012.
The decision, which notably omitted legal guidelines for business owners who might want to claim religious exemptions to anti-discrimination laws in the future, confirmed, as Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “the First Amendment’s guarantee that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion.”
But while Monday was a good and necessary day for religious liberty, it did nothing to ease cultural tensions between conservative traditionalists and social progressives who perpetually seek new legal angles to promote their vision of Elysium on earth. And, constitutional guarantees aside, I’m not sure the controversy did much for Christianity’s 2,000-year-old, love-thy-neighbor branding campaign.
But this is where we find ourselves in American politics: It’s never about accommodation; it’s always about conflict — about making and winning a point wherever one can be found. In this instance, a gay couple, David Mullins and Charlie Craig, insisted on having a wedding cake made by the one area baker they could find, possibly, who didn’t want to make it. And the businessman who refused to bake the cake was the ostensible Christian who seemingly hasn’t read the Bible, at least not James 4:12: “ . . . who are you to judge your neighbor?”
Neither the baker nor the couple would back down, and third-party advocacy groups were only too happy to jump in, as they’re wont to do.
Were it not for those things — if basic human understanding were to have taken precedence over politics — things could have gone very differently.
Couple: “Do you make the tri-tiered in a lemon chiffon?”
Baker: “Yep, but I gotta tell you, my church doesn’t go in for gay marriages. Not sure I can make one.”
Couple: “Ouch! We’ll go to another bakery, but we’ve got to go tell, that really hurts.”
Baker: “Wait. Now I feel awful. Where are my manners, and how did I forget Jesus’ ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you?’ It’s 101. I’ll make the cake.”
Couple: “That’s so nice of you, but don’t even think about it — really — we don’t want you to go against your religion. We understand how important rights are, even if we disagree on things . . . ”
Baker: “No, truly, I insist. And just to be really Christian, I’ll throw in the pomegranate drizzle for free. How about that?”
Couple: “You’re the best. Just hold on the pomegranate drizzle, please . . . allergies and all.”
Couple: “Thanks for showing us respect. We’ll do the same for you by buying the cake elsewhere.”
Too much to ask? In 2018, it just may be.
William F. B. O’Reilly is a consultant to Republicans.