op-ed

Religious Freedom Hangs In The Balance: Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission

Over Thanksgiving, my family and I were blessed to tour the magnificent Museum of the Bible that just opened here in Washington, D.C. I was reminded of the great care taken by King James’ approximately 50 men in translating the Bible from the original Hebrew and Greek. It took them from 1604 to 1611. They did not rush, but instead, painstakingly worked, looking at the original and, when absolutely necessary, consulting with Tyndale’s and other earlier translations. The resulting product is regarded with little dissent as the most influential translation of the most important book in all of human history.

Although imperfect Christians often fall short of its teaching, centuries of good works have stemmed directly from the Bible’s precepts. Indeed, Biblical faith has been the catalyst for not only the healing of broken human hearts (no small thing!) but also outwardly focused good works.

Stemming from the view of the sanctity of human life as created in the image of God, an entire world has benefitted from Christians’ efforts to care for the sick and dying, abolish slavery, transform prisons, and reform mental health and orphan care, just to name a few. In fact, the very pillars of our nation reflect our Founders’ belief in Scripture. As John Adams noted, “The general Principles, on which the Fathers Achieved Independence, were … the general Principles of Christianity.”

The works of great men and women like Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton, George Washington Carver, and Susan B. Anthony were fueled by their understanding of Scripture.

Which brings us to now.

Today the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The question they will debate is whether we are still free to live guided by these same principles of Scripture.

Do men and women of faith have the right to abstain from an action, though it may inconvenience another, because of their understanding of what the Bible tells us to do? In this particular case, should Jack Phillips be forced to use his craft in celebration of a same-sex “wedding?”

Does the Constitution give government the power to force a baker to use his God-given talent in a way that violates his conscience? There is no question that Phillips is a sincere believer. He willingly serves homosexuals, hosts Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and cares for the poor. He has simply asked not to be forced to bake a cake for a “gay wedding.” He also will not make cakes for bachelor parties or Halloween based on his faith.

Not every Christian would make this choice. A makeup artist friend of mine says she sees the opportunity to do the makeup for a “gay wedding” as an opportunity to show the love of Christ and build a relationship with unbelievers. She sees it as ministry.

She is not wrong, nor is Jack Phillips. He has a right to “work out [his] own salvation with fear and trembling,” as Philippians 2:12 instructs us. We don’t get to do that for him. Neither does government.

I recently explained to a reporter friend that sincere, devout Christians are admittedly “cultural unicorns.” Much of society does not understand us. We abstain from sex outside of marriage, our children wear purity rings, and we condemn infidelity, divorce, and pornography. We even try to guard our thoughts, because in God’s eyes it may already signal sin (see Matthew 5:28).

So, of course, some misunderstand the great care Jack Phillips, the Green family, or the Little Sisters of the Poor exercise in living out their faith through the use of their time and money.

In a day in which we are constantly confronted by the resulting damage from licentious behavior, shouldn’t we have a modicum of respect for those who take seriously the Biblical teaching on morality and turn away much-needed income in order to be observant?

In a nation reeling from sexual predators in Hollywood, media, business, and Congress, shouldn’t we give a wide berth to those who seek to stand firm for their principles?

Yes, the Supreme Court can overreach again here and try to force its policy preferences on all Americans — and they have done so before. But for all our sakes, I hope they support religious freedom. In doing so, they will support freedom for all.

Americans of all persuasions should demand no less, based not only on the First Amendment, but also out of a common sense of mutual decency and respect for all seeking to be left alone to practice their faith in peace.

Penny Nance is CEO and president of Concerned Women for America.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.