Jack Phillips and his Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado had never had problems before with homosexual customers. That changed when the Christian owner refused to create a cake to celebrate a same-sex marriage, the business landed in deep legal trouble with the state.
Now the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take up Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
It pits Phillips' religious rights against the rights of a gay couple to receive the same and equal treatment under the law as heterosexual couples.
"This ruling could have a significant impact throughout the country regarding businesses being forced to go against the owner's sincerely held religious beliefs," Lawyer and Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver said of the high court weighing in next session.
"People's livelihoods should not be put in jeopardy in order to advance the LGBT agenda," Staver added. "Artists speak through their art, and when Jack Phillips creates custom wedding cakes, he is promoting and celebrating the couple's wedding. He should not be forced to promote a message that conflicts with his religious beliefs."
Colorado's Supreme Court refused to take up Phillips' cause after the state's Civil Rights Commission in 2014 ordered the baker and his workers to make cakes for same-sex ceremonies and file "compliance reports" to prove they were.
The cakeshop owner and employees were even ordered to undergo "re-education" to change their thinking.
This all came about after David Mullins and Charlie Craig asked Philips in July 2012 to bake a cake celebrating their marriage. Reportedly, Phillips politely turned them down for that specific request telling them his faith wouldn't allow him to celebrate a same-sex ceremony.
He offered to bake them anything else they might want. But they left the shop and complained to Colorado's Civil Rights Commission. Now they're represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Worries and Hopes for Phillips' Cakeshop
Carrie Severino, chief counsel at the Judicial Crisis Network, weighed in on the upcoming case and others where Christian businesses have been punished for not doing business with those holding or celebrating same-sex marriages.
"This has been an issue that has been coming up increasingly in the last couple of years. And we've seen individuals losing their very livelihoods as a result of states not respecting the freedom of conscience and the freedom of religion," she told CBN News.
Legal experts warn the cake shop and other businesses facing the same legal threat have to worry that the Court has definitely leaned towards same-sex marriage and gay rights in recent years. But Severino pointed out the Supreme Court siding 7-2 with Columbia, Missouri's Trinity Lutheran Church in its playground case shows most of these justices recognize and respect freedom of religion.
Religious Freedom on the Line
Alliance Defending Freedom attorney David Cortman argued Trinity Lutheran's case before the high court.
"Every American should be free to choose which art they will create and which art they won't create without fear of being unjustly punished by the government," Cortman said after hearing of the court's decision to hear the case.
"That's why the bad decision in this case needs to be reversed. It imperils everyone's freedom by crushing dissent instead of tolerating a diversity of views. We are all at risk when government is able to punish citizens like Jack just because it doesn't like how he exercises his artistic freedom. America must have room for people who disagree to coexist," Cortman added.
Severino also mentioned another glimmer of hope was the Matal v. Tam case where the Court recently ruled the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office had been wrong to deny an Asian-American rock group a trademark to their name 'The Slants' because it found that name offensive.
"That was a free speech case, but the Supreme Court was very clear that the government under the First Amendment cannot be picking and choosing which speech it likes based on the viewpoint of the speech," she stated.
Bringing that back to Masterpiece Cakeshop, Severino explained, "It seems to be a Court that still is very committed to First Amendment principles. And I hope that they will continue to be so in this case."
"That is Tyranny"
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins explained, "The First Amendment has long protected Americans from being compelled by the government to advocate a message to which one objects. As Americans, our consensus on religious freedom has historically recognized the God-given right of Americans to live all aspects of their lives according to their faith. This is no different today. Attempting to restrict religious conviction to the four walls of a church is not freedom. That is tyranny."
Also weighing in was American Principles Project executive director Terry Schilling.
"This landmark case is likely to determine the future of religious freedom in America as we know it," Schilling said. "Will it be permissible to run a Christian bakery? Will the rights of free citizens to live out their faith in the public square be respected? Or will Christian schools, charities, businesses, and families be forced to acquiesce to the hyper-sexual LGBT agenda or face government persecution?