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The Christian and the Cake


The Christian and the Cake

Christopher Brauchli

Jack is sure that when the “love thy neighbor as thyself” was announced, that did not mean that Jack had to love his neighbor as himself if the neighbor was gay.

Wedding Cake


Cute, but I wish you’d spent your energies and mine on what will be argued on Tuesday and what I presume you know more about. From what I’ve heard, the problem Phillips’s lawyers face is that he has sold numerous cakes and other goods to this couple — they are regular customers, which is the reason they thought of his bakery for their wedding cake. So you have the point, but unfortunately you couched it in ignorance of the Decalogue as presented in Exodus 20. “Love thy neighbor” is not one of the Ten, though indeed we are told it was cited by Jesus as “The Great Commandment.” You see, there are more than 600 mitzvot (we incompletely translate “commandments”) in the Hebrew canon. And that’s a canon that wasn’t assembled as such (though yes, the Torah was pretty stable) until more than 50 years after Jesus’ death.

Please don’t mock what you don’t know.


The heart of the issue, as a political issue, is indeed whether individuals can discriminate based on their religious beliefs. I doubt the supreme court as ever tested what an actual religion is. Perhaps Phillips’ minister could be brought to the stand and say, “no, this religion says nothing about being allowed to hate or discriminate against gay people,” and Phillips’ objection would be moot on his own grounds.


Mildly amusing, but I think this is a serious and important case. Jack Phillips the baker may not have had the right to refuse ordinary and routine baking skills, but Jack Phillips the artist should not be compelled to express sentiments he finds objectionable, whether they be for religious reasons, notions of decency, or simple standards of civility. If his artistry in wedding cakes for heterosexual Christian couples is more than just generic flowers and fancy ornamentation and actually conveys a message of God’s blessing upon this union, that should not mean he must use his artistry to craft and convey messages he disagrees with. There was a bake shop in Denver which declined a commission to make a Bible-shaped cake adorned with the words “Homosexuality is Detestable Sin” on the generic grounds that they do not do cakes with derogatory messages, and, in their view, that was a derogatory message. They would do a Bible cake and all the generic decorations and they would even sell the materials for writing any message on the cake, but they would not write the message themselves. That was not a case of discrimination against Christians who happen to endorse that message. That was a case of freedom of expression, which includes the freedom not to express views one disagrees with (and I think the courts agreed with the bakery, which I considered the correct judgement).

Jack is not a particularly good person for this case, because, as I understand it, on another occasion he refused to sell generic cupcakes to a lesbian couple for their commitment ceremony, and Jack the jerk could taint the case for Jack the artist, but I’m hoping the Supreme Court accepted this case because they had the gravitas to see the more important issue it encompasses. My hope is that freedom of expression wins here.


While you people were eating cake someone was outback screwing the donkey.


Really, we live in a country where “Johnny” has to wait for a Supreme Court decision to see if he is going to get a birthday cake because his dad is not a white Christian bigot. `Call that whatever you want, just don’t call it sane.


SCOTUS is strictly an appellate court; there is no “stand” where anyone testifies.


I believe the appeal is mostly on the issue of the bakery being a place of public accommodation, not an atelier. And as I noted earlier, Jack Phillips has sold to this couple before, including for parties they were hosting as a couple.


““When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles”
Paul Atreides (Mua’Dib), Dune


You are separating conjoined issues here.

“as I noted earlier, Jack Phillips has sold to this couple before, including for parties they were hosting as a couple.”

Exactly. And on this particular occasion, Jack offered to sell them any of the baked goods they had on hand in the shop, which included some already-decorated cakes. This couple was free to buy anything in inventory that was available for the general public to buy. The particular point of refusal was for a custom commission using Jack’s artistry to decorate a cake specific to their occasion.

There was no question that the bakery, as such, met the test of public accommodation here. The question is whether Jack’s artistry is also subject to the requirements of public accommodation. In more general terms, the question at issue is if an artist of any sort sells their art to the public on a custom basis, does the rule of public accommodation require them to accept commissions for art having specific content, meaning, implication, or expression which the artist finds objectionable?


You have to wonder why the Supreme Court would choose to waste their time on such nonsense.


I don’t think he was mocking the canons, he was poking at Jack, who claims to know them but whose self-righteousness is fake because it’s coated in the muck of hypocrisy and convenient interpretation. Jesus also said “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” a stricture that is generally forgotten by people who like to point fingers.


It will be interesting to see them squirm and worm their way around it and try to keep it within the framework of the Constitution. For those of us teaching government and civics, SCOTUS decisions provide a fertile ground for discussion.


So are you saying that he didn’t insert any of his artistry into the stuff he was willing to sell? In other words, if I provide something artistic to these folks but hadn’t planned it, by all means, give me the money. If I do it deliberately, it’s a violation of my ethics. Any which way you look at it, Jack comes off as a hypocrite. he should just post a sign saying he’s homophobic and show some courage. Yes, he would lose business, but he would be standing in the glory of self-righteousness sans the greed factor.


You’re the one who broke apart my two points and removed the conjoining “And.”

And you ignore the point that Jack had made custom cakes for this couple’s “family” occasions. Marriage is a civil matter, without religious distinction except as religious officiants may or may not choose or be allowed to participate. Cake bakery is only commercial.


I only ask that folks not talk about the Ten Commandments as if that’s all the mitzvot there are (and yes, I wish more understood the full meaning of mitzvah), and not base a whole article on a mitzvah that isn’t in the Decalogue and say that it is. Part of the reason these things get to be the basis for magical thinking is the magical mockery from ignorance.


I can’t argue with that. I have noticed that most Christians I have talked to are incredibly ignorant about the Bible and the foundations of their religion, and definitely do not have the background you are demonstrating.


That isn’t at all what I’m saying. The specific issue is whether the artistry of someone who accepts custom commissions thereby becomes a public accommodation. Artistry which is produced for general consumption clearly has to adhere to the rule of public accommodation. A recording artist can’t legally exclude some people from buying his CD’s, for example. But nobody thinks the fact that he sells his music to the public means he therefore has to accept custom commissions to put music to certain words or write songs with particular messages.

“In other words, if I provide something artistic to these folks but hadn’t planned it, by all means, give me the money.”

That would be art for general consumption–like the pre-decorated cakes Jack had in his shop. And he had no problem with this couple buying any of those.

“If I do it deliberately, it’s a violation of my ethics.”

This goes to content, meaning, implication and expression. Even recording artists have objected when their mass-market works have been played at events for politicians or ideologies which held positions they opposed, because it gave the impression that artist was supporting those positions, even if the music had nothing to do with them. For an artist working on a custom commission, the association and appearance of endorsement is even stronger, particularly when the art form itself is intended as a celebration of something.

The couple in this case would not accept any of Jack’s readymade cakes. They didn’t want his artistry that was meant for the broader public. They wanted a custom commission, and it had to be by him. Jack’s suggestion that someone else could do it was unacceptable, so presumably it would also have been unacceptable if Jack had taken their money and then subcontracted the job out to some other decorator with some other artistic style (which would be perfectly ordinary business practice in other circumstances). No, this couple felt that, because Jack routinely accepted custom commissions to make cakes themed for Christian heterosexual unions, they therefore had an equal-rights claim on his artistry to produce a cake themed specifically to celebrate their homosexual union. This would be like if Jill the baker accepts a custom commission to make a joyously decorated cake for a bris, she should therefore have to accept on the same terms a commission for a similar cake celebrating in like manner a female circumcision ceremony–even if Jill personally finds such a ceremony horrific.

“Any which way you look at it, Jack comes off as a hypocrite.”

A hypocrite is someone who does things contrary to what they preach or profess, and Jack isn’t doing that. I think what you mean is that Jack comes off looking inconsistent, but it’s not even that. One set of rules clearly applies to art produced for general consumption. But Jack feels that a different set of rules applies to custom commissions, and that his right of free expression trumps any requirements of public accommodation where his custom artwork is concerned. Within his own views, he is being consistent.

“he should just post a sign saying he’s homophobic and show some courage.”

As matters stand, custom commission artists routinely reserve an ultimate right of refusal based on theme, content, meaning, or expression. Some artists won’t do violent works. Some won’t do derogatory works. Some won’t do lewd or obscene works. Some won’t do works for religions which are not their own. Some won’t do politically controversial works. Some won’t even do works they consider in poor taste. For many artists, particularly those with a narrow specializations, the list of things they won’t do could be quite lengthy, particularly if they had to describe all the elements specifying which near-borderline cases would qualify. Reserving ultimate right of refusal is a far simpler system. What the Supreme Court may be deciding here is whether any artist who works on a custom commission basis can continue to retain that ultimate right, or even any fragment of it. If Jack loses here, custom artists of every kind will lose as well.


I’m talking about where you said the appeal is mostly on the issue of the bakery being a place of public accommodation, not an atelier. That’s a disjunction separating conjoined issues. Yes, the appeal concerns a question of public accommodation, but no, it isn’t about the bakery. It has to do with whether the rule of public accommodation applies specifically to his custom artistry. The bakery, as such, was in full compliance regarding public accommodation. The couple was free to buy anything in the shop that day which was for sale to the general public. But what they were trying to buy was a commission enlisting Jack’s artistry to help celebrate their union.

“And you ignore the point that Jack had made custom cakes for this couple’s “family” occasions.”

I knew he had sold them baked goods before. I did not know some of them were custom commissions, but that changes nothing. Having previously accepted custom commissions from them should not oblige him to accept any and all subsequent commissions from them, even if he finds them objectionable. I think as an artist, he should retain ultimate right of refusal on a case-by-case basis.

“Marriage is a civil matter,”

It is that, but for many people it is also much more than that.

“without religious distinction except as religious officiants may or may not choose or be allowed to participate.”

I think there is more religious distinction than that, but I’m not clear on how that relates to this case.

“Cake bakery is only commercial.”

And artistry for hire on a custom commission basis is also commercial. The question is whether custom artwork has to meet the requirements of public accommodation like a bakery, and whether the artist retains rights of free association and free expression (which includes the right to refuse to make certain expressions).


Maybe because for some people, fundamental issues of free association and free expression are not “nonsense”.