Many Americans are having a hard time grasping why Christian baker Jack Phillips declined to make a custom cake for a gay wedding. One would think the conflict is obvious, but there are many who seem to be appalled, if not downright enraged, by Mr. Phillips and his position. There's been very little attempt to view his position with care and understanding. Instead, there have been tweets, Facebook posts, thought pieces and political pundits seemingly committed to dragging the man through the mud. They say Mr. Phillips wasn't motivated by sincerely-held convictions to decline to make the cake. They say he was motivated by "bigotry"! They say he was motivated by "hate"!
I say that is malarkey.
I say, those who desire to malign Mr. Phillip’s convictions aren’t only being grossly disingenuous, they're being wholly hypocritical.
Cause Zac Posen did the same thing.
Back in March of this year, Zac Posen, Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs and a slew of other high-end designers refused to dress First Lady Melania Trump and/or members of the First Family. Why? Because they disagree with the Trump Administration. As stated by Mr. Posen:
“I have no current plans to dress members of the first family. Right now, I’m staying away from bringing my brand into politics. There are issues that are being questioned that are fundamentally upsetting to me—deeply: LGBT rights, immigration, funding for the arts, Planned Parenthood, and women’s rights. These are just issues that are very close to my heart, and I use my own private voice and funds to fight for them and in support of them. I think it’s important to use your voice. I think that every brand and person has a right to be vocal.”
Despite having dressed Melania and Ivanka in the past, Zac Posen now refuses to directly associate himself and his brand with the Trump Administration, of which Melania and Ivanka are now apart. Because he wholly disagrees with the Administration's policies, he does not feel compelled, in any way, to involve himself with the First Family - even if for strictly professional purposes. And, honestly, Mr. Posen has every right to do that. As he said, “it’s important to use your voice….every brand and person has a right to be vocal.”
But in the case of Mr. Phillips, who runs the family-owned Masterpiece Cakeshop based in Lakewood, Colorado, the same level of understanding doesn’t seem to apply.
Mr. Phillips, whose case was heard yesterday before the U.S. Supreme Court, declined to make a custom wedding cake for a gay wedding back in 2012. This was two years before same-sex marriage was even recognized in Colorado and three years before same-sex marriage was legal across the United States. Mr. Phillips declined to render these services based on his convictions, rooted in his Christian faith, which holds that homosexuality is a sin and defines marriage as being only between one man and one woman (Leviticus 18:22; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Matthew 19:4-6). Making a custom cake with a specific message for the purposes of a “wedding” that contradicts Christ's teachings understandably put Mr. Phillips in a precarious professional position. Yet, exercising his Constitutional rights to religious freedom and speech, he was resolute in declining the job.
Nevertheless, there are many who have sought to demonize Mr. Phillips (and other Christian bakers) for exercising these rights. The gay couple, David Mullins and Charlie Craig, would go on to file a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which ruled in their favor. The Commission found the cakeshop and, by extension Mr. Phillips, unlawfully discriminated against the couple on the basis of Mr. Mullins’ and Mr. Craig’s sexual orientation.
Needless to say, Mr. Phillips has since appealed to the Supreme Court, which brings me back to why I felt compelled to write this piece:
What about Zac Posen?
If Mr. Phillips declining the job constitutes discrimination against the gentlemen in his bakery, Mr. Posen discriminated against the First Family.
“But that’s not the same thing!” one might argue.
Yet, I'd humbly have to ask: Why not?
If it’s because the First Family doesn’t fall under a “protected class”, that’s also malarkey because that would mean it would require one to discriminate to call a matter discrimination. It would also mean the standard for what constitutes discrimination would be extremely unfair. Last I checked, those who would be inclined to support Mr. Mullins and Mr. Craig were about “equality” and “fairness”.
If discrimination is only noted if it affects a given group of people, does this mean one can only exercise his rights and live by his convictions if said rights and sincerely held convictions don’t in any way impact those people? How American is that? How Constitutional is THAT? Under this premise, if we're being fair, the first amendment is automatically null and void. Under this premise, if we're being fair, Colin Kaepernick SHOULD stand and salute the flag so as to not offend veterans (some of whom are women, African Americans and LGBT, by the way). To be clear, I happen to support Kaepernick’s right to kneel, stand or whatever he feels compelled to do to peacefully protest a matter that violates his convictions. It is possible, and sensible, to isolate his protest of a given issue from the notion that he’s protesting against veterans or the whole of America. Just delving into this topic alone would require a separate post for another day, but the sentiment I just conveyed is also applicable to Mr. Phillips’ case.
If a Christian baker exercises his rights to decline a single job that contradicts his personal convictions, it does not mean he hates or altogether refuses to serve gay people. He would have declined the service if a straight couple came in requesting the same custom cake for a gay wedding. This isn't about the customer making the order, but the order itself and what it represents. This is why he also "refuses to design custom cakes for Halloween, divorce celebrations, bachelor parties or other events that conflict with his religious views," shares Newsweek.
During oral arguments before the Court, the New York Times also gleaned this key point: “'Mr. Phillips has said that he does not discriminate against gay people and will sell them anything off his store’s shelves. That includes wedding cakes,' said Ms. Waggoner, his lawyer. 'In the context of a pre-made cake,' she said, 'that is not compelled speech.'”
So what about Zac Posen?
Zac Posen actually expressed the same sentiment regarding his refusal to dress the First Family. While he wouldn’t directly take part in dressing or designing a custom look for them, he admits that he can’t control who shops at his stores.
That’s an extremely reasonable position.
This case isn’t about a man refusing services to customers ‘because they are gay’, it’s about refusing to directly and knowingly involve himself with an activity that violates his convictions. This topic is not that hard. And it absolutely does not involve hate or discrimination. If it did, that would mean Mr. Phillips isn’t attempting at all to uphold his Christian faith, which would place him in a position to commit all manner of sin. After all, Mr. Phillips is also a businessman. If he and other Christian bakers in a similar situation were such hateful people, which would mean they would have no regard for the true tenets of the Christian faith anyway, what would stop them from cashing in on it? After all, hatred for another person and greed are cut from the same cloth - they're both of evil.
The LGBT community is an economic powerhouse. They have nearly $1 trillion in spending power and businesses know that the LGBT community supports businesses that support them. Moreover, everyone knows that in our current climate expressing any dissent towards the LGBT community is considered taboo. Even if your dissent is respectful and has legitimate grounds, you are automatically pegged a "bigot" or "hateful". It seems it would be so much easier for a business owner who is truly evil to just jump on the bandwagon, cash in, appear to be an ally, and just reserve his "disdain" for "the gays" behind closed doors.
Yet, Mr. Phillips is risking his family's business, his brand, and his livelihood that he might hold tight to his faith-based convictions. Again, this case is not about hatred for Mr. Mullins or Mr. Craig. It is about Mr. Phillips' love for Christ, and his right to express that love by freely exercising his faith and living by the convictions thereof.
So what about you?
What would you do if you were in Mr. Phillips' shoes? Surely you can grasp the dilemma posed when face with choosing business over your own moral convictions - faith-based or not. For example, if you owned a t-shirt company and two young white men came into your business requesting custom t-shirts for an upcoming “Unite the Right Rally" in Charlottesville, would you accept the business or nah? If you'd be inclined to decline, why?