Denver, Colo., Jun 12, 2018 / 12:39 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Hundreds of people attended at a rally outside Masterpiece Cakeshop last week, showing support for a U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld the religious freedom of the shop’s owner.
“This is a really good, solid ruling. They overturned everything the Civil Rights Commission accused us of, and it’s a good ruling for religious liberty,” shop owner Jack Phillips told CNA.
A devout Christian, Phillips declined to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding in 2012. He said that while he is happy to serve gay customers, he cannot support gay marriage, due to his faith. Phillips has also declined to create cakes for other themes he finds objectionable – including bachelor parties, divorce celebrations, and Halloween.
The Colorado Civil Rights Commission ordered Phillips to change his company policies and undergo anti-discrimination training.
On June 4, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of Phillips. The court determined that the Civil Rights Commission had shown “elements of a clear and impermissible hostility” toward Phillips’ religious beliefs.
A line of people wrapped around the block of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Littleton, Colorado on June 8 to show their support for Phillips. They purchased cookies and cakes, and a rally was held in parking lot, where a few speakers gave a short address.
“I serve all who walk through my doors, people from all walks of life. I’ve spent many years honing my craft as a cake artist, combining baking with my love of sculpting, painting, and sketching. And I love my work because a cake is a canvas on which I express ideas, celebrate events, and bring joy to people’s lives,” said Phillips at the rally.
“The Court’s decision makes clear that tolerance is a two-way street. If we want to have freedom for ourselves, we have to extend it to others with whom we disagree about important issues like the meaning of marriage.”
Carrying signs bearing slogans such as “Stand up for religious freedom” and “Love free speech,” supporters drove from all over the state to show their support for religious liberty. A small group of counter protesters also showed up on Friday, but both parties were respectful.
One supporter, Wendy Smith, told CNA that she and her husband drove up from Colorado Springs for the rally, because they were “very thankful for Jack and we do want to stand behind him because he has been an example for all of us.”
She also expressed hope for more opportunities to “sit down and talk to [the opposition] and find common ground, and just be respectful, even in the midst of disagreeing.”
Justin Wright of Loveland, Colo., said he came to endorse the court’s decision as well.
“I pretty much came to support him because, as a gay person, I feel like for a large portion of us the left speaks for us, which isn’t the truth. Honestly, religious freedom is just as important to everybody in this country…Just because [the gay community has] rights doesn’t mean they trump [Phillips’] rights at the end of the day.”
Phillips said he has received an outpouring of positive support since the case began. People have sent encouraging emails and have stopped by the shop offering their prayers.
However, Phillips and his family have also received threats and cruel messages throughout the judicial process, he said, noting there was a time when his wife had been nervous about coming to the shop.
“We started getting hate mail, emails that were really vicious and vulgar, and phone calls, death threats,” he said. “We are still getting phone calls and emails that are blatantly violent and they are awful, but then you can look around and you can see that we have received a lot of support.”
Despite the negative response, Phillips stressed that the two men whose inquiry about the cake had led to the court case would be welcome in his shop any day.
“I serve everybody who comes into my shop… but we don’t create every cake for every message people ask me for,” he said.
When asked further about this distinction, Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented Phillips, said it is a question of the cake’s message rather than the customer.
“It’s the difference of the what vs the who. For Jack, it is only the what that matters – what are you asking me to create? I think our society will benefit if we accept that distinction.”
Tedesco noted that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had told other bakeries that they have the right to refuse to craft a cake with an anti-gay marriage message. These same rights should be extended to Phillips, he said.
“We just have to extend that same tolerance and respect to people like Jack,” he said. “I think the most important thing is this decision underscores the need for tolerance and respect, and the fact that people who believe – like Jack does – that marriage is between a man and a woman are good and decent and honorable people who belong in our society.”
Tedesco voiced hope that this ruling will lead to a positive outcome in other similar cases and restore a sense of respectful dialogue in the public sphere.
He noted that the Supreme Court, in its ruling, emphasized “that we need to extend tolerance and respect to people who disagree with us, especially those we disagree with most vehemently.”
“It is just an essential aspect to what makes our society great, and I don’t want to see us lose it,” he said.