Masterpiece Cakeshop: Free Speech and Religious Freedom or a License to Discriminate?

On Tuesday, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which centers on the actions of baker Jack Phillips, who refused to bake a cake to celebrate a same-sex wedding. The commission claimed that this was discrimination, but Phillips argued he should have the free speech right to refuse giving artistic expression in support of same-sex marriage.

"We've never given the government the ability to force artists to create artistic expression that goes against what they believe," Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the organization supporting Phillips, told PJ Media in an interview Monday.

Tedesco explained that Masterpiece Cakeshop is a free speech and religious liberty case. He shot down the claims of the commission and the American Civil Liberty Union (ACLU) that Jack Phillips discriminated against Charles Craig and David Mullins on the basis of their sexual orientation.

"Jack serves all people, he just doesn't serve all messages or events," the ADF lawyer explained. "When Jack declined the opportunity to create this cake, he said, 'I'll sell anything else in my shop, I'll do other custom created pieces for you, but I can't do this because promoting the idea of same-sex marriage through my art is against my religious convictions.'"

Tedesco argued that if the Colorado Civil Rights Commission can force Jack Phillips to bake a cake, government could then force people to express ideas they disagree with. "Do we want Democratic speechwriters having to write speeches for Donald Trump or atheist artists having to paint 'God exists' on church murals?" he asked.

"We live in a pluralist society with differing viewpoints about things that really matter, like 'What is marriage?' Is one side of a particular debate going to be able to use government to silence their opponents?" the lawyer said.

"This case is about whether the government has the power to coerce an artist to create expression they don't want to create," Tedesco explained. "Coercing artistic expression is so contrary to the First Amendment that I think the Supreme Court should rule in our favor."

The ACLU and the commission have argued that if the Supreme Court defends Phillips' right to refuse to bake the cake, that would carve out an exemption in civil rights laws. The ADF lawyer countered that the ACLU and the commission are the real ones calling for an exemption in the law.

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