We have frequently pointed out that the teachings of Jesus Christ make it clear that we must love and respect those with whom we disagree. Matthew 5:39-48 is hard to misunderstand. We must not attempt to harm anyone, including those who might be teaching things that oppose what the Bible says. There is no excuse for those who claim to be Christians to physically attack anyone because they are a part of the LGBT movement. At the same time, we have to be concerned and vocally oppose those who promote immoral behavior, especially when it involves presenting alternative lifestyles to young children.
Recently the popular children’s show “Arthur” on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) ran an episode entitled “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone.” It featured a wedding ceremony between Mr. Ratburn and a character named Patrick. This program is funded by tax dollars and is aimed at preschool children. Disney has placed LGBT characters in the 2017 remake of Beauty and the Beast and its television cartoon series Doc McStuffins. Drag Queen events have been held in Austin, Texas, and Portland, Oregon, in programs aimed at preschool children.
LGBT leaders claim that these promotions of their lifestyles are no different than a PBS program on Christmas music, or Christmas events held in public venues. It would seem that presenting material to preschoolers about drag queens and gay marriage is far more complicated than historical stories. Since tax dollars fund PBS, and religious programming is constantly refused by the same media, it seems that promotion of the LGBT lifestyle should also be prohibited.
We have previously mentioned Christian business owners who have been sued for refusing to do something that violated their Christian faith. One of the individuals we mentioned before is Jack Phillips who owns a business called “Masterpiece Cakeshop” in Colorado. Because some people didn’t respect his religious beliefs, they set up a plan so he would be entrapped for his faith.
The big issue here is whether a business owner has the right to refuse goods or services that violate that owners religious convictions. That battle is going on in the courts in various cases. When Mr. Phillps declined to design a cake for a same-sex wedding, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission prosecuted him, and the case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Mr. Phillips won against the Colorado Civil Rights Commission in the Supreme Court. Then someone set up a plan for Phillips to be entrapped for his faith. An attorney called Masterpiece Cakeshop and requested a cake that would be blue on the outside and pink on the inside to celebrate a gender transition. Mr. Phillips believes that God created us male and female and that humans have no right to change the way God created us. He declined to make the cake. The attorney then filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and the Colorado government began to prosecute Mr. Phillips again.
It turns out that the attorney was not celebrating a gender transition. The request was an attempt to set Mr. Phillips up to be entrapped for his faith and dragged into court again. The question is whether individual freedom still exists in the United States. Can a person freely follow their faith and allow it to influence what they do professionally?
We have mentioned before the threats to religious freedom in the United States to people who just want to live out their faith. One of those cases concerns a Christian cake artist in Colorado by the name of Jack Phillips.
Phillips designs artistic cakes for special occasions. He will design cakes for anyone; however, he does not use his artistic talents to decorate cakes for events that go against his Christian convictions. That would include cakes to celebrate a divorce or Halloween or—and this is the sticky part—a same-sex wedding. When he chose to practice his faith, he was severely punished by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for refusing to create a cake for a same-sex wedding. He had no problem with making cakes for the men who were getting married, but he could not be involved in an event that violated his strongly-held faith.
On Monday, June 4, 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States by a vote of 7-2 agreed that the state of Colorado had wrongly treated him. Justice Anthony Kennedy who wrote the majority opinion said, “[t]he neutral and respectful consideration to which Phillips was entitled was compromised here …. The Civil Rights Commission’s treatment of his case has some elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs that motivated his objection.”
This decision is a victory for a Christian who wants to live out his faith in the United States of America where the First Amendment to the Constitution grants freedom of religion. However, it is not a clear and final victory because we don’t know how the court would have ruled if the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had not been so over-the-top in their judgment against Jack Phillips. One of the commissioners had said that Phillips’ request for religious freedom was, “one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use.”
We have recently posted about some believers who have had their religious freedom threatened merely because they want to live out their faith. Government agencies at various levels are attacking believers with fines, jail time, or bankruptcy because they will not participate in something which is against their Christian convictions. Wedding photographers, cake artists, and owners of flower shops and wedding venues have been charged with discrimination. Their only crime is not wanting to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies because they believe it violates God’s plan and design for marriage.
Now government punishment is being carried out against Christian farmers because they expressed their belief in the God’s design and sanctity of marriage. Steve and Bridget Tennes and their five children live on a farm 22 miles from East Lansing, Michigan. For the past seven years they have been selling their produce at the East Lansing Farmer’s Market. The city has adopted a policy that bars those who believe in traditional marriage from selling produce in the market. Steve Tennes posted his Christian view of marriage on Facebook. When the administration of the East Lansing Farmer’s Market learned about that, they said the Tennes farm, known as Country Mill, would no longer be allowed to sell.
Country Mill was selling the only organic apples available in the East Lansing Farmer’s Market, and those sales are a significant part of the income for the Tennes family. Steve Tennes filed a federal lawsuit against the city, and a federal district judge ordered that he should be allowed to return to the farmer’s market until the case is settled. Tennes does not want to see Americans’ religious freedom threatened. He said, “This isn’t just about our ability to sell at the farmer’s market. It’s really about every American’s right to make a living and not have to worry about being punished by the government.”
In the meantime, the U.S. Justice Department has filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in one of the cases we reported on earlier. That is the case of Jack Phillips, a Christian cake artist who will not participate in a same-sex marriage ceremony by designing a cake for it. The Justice Department is siding with Phillips in this case. It will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court will decide. (See update.) There are Christians who just want to live out their faith and not be forced to participate in something they believe is in violation of God’s commands. The Jack Phillips case could have repercussions for many others.