Culture Friday: Round 2 for Masterpiece Cakeshop

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Up next on The World and Everything in It: Culture Friday.

AUDIO: Masterpiece Cakeshop. This is Lisa.

NICK EICHER, HOST: That was the day Masterpiece won its case at the Supreme Court back in June. The issue involved cakes, conscience, and free speech versus an expanded definition of gay-marriage rights. Masterpiece owner Jack Phillips.

AUDIO: This is a great day for our family, for our shop, and for people of all faiths, who should not fear government hostility or unjust punishment.

EICHER: The high court said Phillips did not have to make a cake celebrating the marriage of a man to another man.

Flashback one year earlier: the day the court agreed to take the case.

That day the phone rang at Masterpiece.

On the line was an attorney who is transgender. The attorney requested a custom cake: pink on the inside to represent the female sex, blue on the outside to represent the male sex.

The attorney on the phone said he was female on the inside and male on the outside and he intended to transition.

Would Jack Phillips make that cake?

The answer was no.

So the attorney said, please refuse once more so a witness could hear the refusal over the speakerphone.

Again, the answer was no.

The attorney took the matter to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

And one month after the Supreme Court of the United States rebuked the commission 7-to-2, the commission found probable cause to believe that Colorado law requires him to create the gender-transition cake.

So now, just this week, Wednesday night, Phillips sued the commission. And now a battle of many years he thought was over may very well be back on.

It’s Culture Friday and time now to welcome John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

John, good morning.


EICHER: Well. Can you believe this?

STONESTREET: Oh, it’s frustrating. This was a setup. There were questions about whether the original Masterpiece Cakeshop case was a setup; this one clearly was. Autumn Sardinia has been after — the attorney in Denver who call — has been after Jack Phillips for a long time. 

This is really insane and I’m glad that ADF now has the clarified ground from the 7-2 decision authored by Justice Kennedy in the original Masterpiece decision to not only defend themselves but also to go on the offensive here against the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and to, also, seek damages because this is unbelievable.

I think that, of course, one of the questions in the original case had to do with whether speech can be compelled. And, of course, whether custom designed cakes count as a compelled speech. And to me this is even more clearly a case of compelled speech because the colors directly,

represent a statement about gender. A statement about gender that is against the deeply held convictions of Jack Phillips, not to mention is against observable, biological realities. So, this is what we’re dealing with. The Civil Rights Commission in Colorado is hostile to people of faith. This is now proven.

And what’s really disappointing is that in the last session of the Colorado state legislature, the GOP-led Senate had an opportunity to defund the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and were on the verge of doing so based on kind of the verbal smackdown that Justice Kennedy and even Justice Sotomayor gave the Colorado Civil Rights — or the Solicitor General of Colorado during the oral arguments for the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. And it was one particular GOP senator, Colorado senator, who broke ranks, and that’s why we still have this Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which has proven itself not only a waste of taxpayer funding, but either incompetent or just vitriolic towards religion.

So, I’m grateful that they’re bringing this suit right back on them. I’m also just mindful of my friend Jack Phillips. This has gone on for a really, really long time and he continues to carry himself with grace and truth.

And right now what we’re seeing, too—and this is the responsibility of Christians—the Washington Post article on this story this week was just flat-out not true. It just flat-out ignored the obvious facts of the case that the Civil Rights Commission basically rewarded a troll, someone who had been trolling and harassing Jack Phillips for years. That’s not what a civil rights commission is supposed to do, and so we’re dealing not only with a government agency that’s hostile to religion, but we’re dealing with a press that refuses to tell the real story.

EICHER: John, I want to talk about the Supreme Court of Canada for a moment. We’d reported this story pretty extensively, a religious-freedom issue involving our northern neighbors.

The case involved Trinity Western University, in particular its law school. In a nutshell, it had been denied accreditation because of a mandatory community covenant.

Essentially and unsurprisingly, it took a historically Christian point of view on sexual morality.

The Canadians politely—and they are unfailingly polite—said this mandatory covenant discriminated against LGBT students. So therefore, there would be no accreditation. Which, of course, makes an expensive law-school education rather pointless.

This year, when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in the case, Trinity Western responded. Here is Trinity’s spokesperson.

AUDIO: We are going to continue as a Christian university as we have. Obviously, we need some time to process this very long and complex judgment.

EICHER: So, Trinity processed the judgment and the school decided last week to make the mandatory covenant voluntary.

I’ve got to believe this will help Trinity obtain accreditation from the law societies of British Columbia and Ontario, and put everything back on track.

What do you think, John? Acceptable compromise, or do you think that is this a cave-in?

STONESTREET: Without knowing kind of the full scope of the other things that they’re putting in place to protect their Christian identity, the thing that makes a university Christian is not just their Christian lifestyle standards, there’s also other things: what they teach, what they say, whether it’s a covenant community that you have to identify and agree to be a Christian to be there, or whether you’re just recognizing that you’re bringing Christian truth to bear on individuals who may or may not agree with you. All of that has to do with the philosophy of ministry and the philosophy of existence for Christian institutions.

But this would be the very definition of what we might call a slippery slope. And here’s why: If Trinity Western, for example, thinks that compromise is the way to save your existence, the real problem there is that pretty soon you’ll have to compromise the teaching.

In most situations that we’re seeing, it’s the penalties against the teaching come before the penalties against the lifestyle standards. It’s just in this case it happened to be the other way around. This then becomes a very vulnerable place for Christian identity. What if, then, the university is demanded of that they no longer teach that. Well, then, they’re no longer fulfilling the mission. The mission is to train lawyers who are committed to Christianity, but how do you not just train lawyers, if you wanted to do an institution that just trained lawyers, then a Christian school is not the place to do it. It ceases to be Christian in any definitive aspect. I think that’s the real kind of squishy ground that you walk on when you start saying well, I’ll compromise here, but not over here. I’ll compromise here, but not over here. It’s just not the way the new LGBT totalitarians work. There’s a demand of total allegiance.

I don’t know if this move signifies that, but it’s certainly something that has to be asked. What does one mean when they say a lawyer who is a Christian, what does that mean? That’s what the school exists to do. And now, of course, the compromise in order to get a law school started means a change in lifestyle standards across the board. So, if the standard is to not participate in sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage, well, compromising on that solves the problem for the LGBT activists, but what do you do if you have a student who is married and cheats on his wife? What do you do if you have students who are clearly engaged in ongoing sexual activity of one way or another. This is an issue that colleges have always had to face and have always been able to face because their standards were clear.

And let me just add one more thing: We’re in a new day and age. This is the day and age that is the reason that, for example, Rod Dreher has proposed what he calls the Benedict Option of strengthening our own institutions and disentangling from institutions of government power and so on. I don’t agree with everything that Rod writes, but where he’s exactly right is that we have to be very clear on our own institutions and what they are and what they’re not. And we also need to be really clear of what success is in an increasingly hostile culture. And last year I spoke at a Christian university and told the students—it’s an excellent Christian university, especially in areas of medicine and engineering—I said you guys are going to get a great education here, but it might be that the most important thing you do in your life to follow Jesus even though you have these skills is to get fired. We don’t have a theology of getting fired in our kind of Christian vocabulary, but it’s probably time to figure one out.

EICHER: John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. It’s Culture Friday, John, thanks so much, and we’ll talk again real soon.

STONESTREET: Thanks, Nick.

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

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