Anthony Kennedy, the octogenarian senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and the Court’s swing vote, was widely expected to announce his retirement this past Monday. Unfortunately, Kennedy decided not to retire. His continued presence on the Court is likely to have huge negative ramifications for Christians in the United States, given a case that the Court decided to hear in its fall term, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, No. 16-111.
I believe that the reason why Justice Kennedy decided not to retire is precisely because he wants to rule in October against Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop Lakewood, Colorado, and a grandfather of three. Phillips is a “cake artist” who creates spectacular cake designs. He also is a committed Christian who refuses requests to create cakes to celebrate Halloween, or to bake with alcohol. When a homosexual couple asked him in 2012 to create a designer cake to celebrate their upcoming wedding, Phillips refused. He said he would be happy to sell the couple baked goods for sale in his shop; he just would not create a custom cake to celebrate their wedding. He said he does not discriminate against homosexuals, but he also does not use his artistic talents to promote messages which are contrary to his religious beliefs. While the homosexual couple could have bought a cake from another bakery—in fact, another bakery made them a cake with a rainbow design for free—they decided to sue Mr. Phillips in order to punish him and other people of faith like him. All of the lower courts have ruled against Masterpiece Cakeshop, which makes it likely that the five socially liberal justices on the Supreme Court will follow the same line of reasoning. Ever since the incident occurred, Phillips has faced serious harassment, loss of business, and even death threats against him and his family.
Justice Kennedy had been signaling for months that he would retire at the end of the court’s summer term; supposedly he decided at the last moment not to do so. I suspect that Kennedy tricked his conservative colleagues into thinking he would retire in order to get them to schedule the case against Masterpiece Cakeshop for the Court’s fall term. Kennedy is afraid that his homosexual (LGBTQ) rights agenda will be reversed by his replacement, and he wants to force everyone in the country to conform to this agenda before he retires by means of a very restrictive, precedent-setting ruling. That ruling will state explicitly that the court-ordered prohibition on “discrimination” against homosexuals (really, an objection to their lifestyle) supersedes First Amendment freedom of religion. Then a row of dominoes will start to fall, as homosexuals demand admission into Christian colleges and seminaries, Christian non-profit groups, church membership, and even church pastorates. Pastors could be punished for refusing to perform weddings for homosexuals. Homosexuals will also have the power to close Christian businesses by requesting services which they know will be refused, and then having the courts fine these businesses until they are bankrupted. In addition, biblical preaching and teaching against homosexuality could be considered criminal hate speech, and Christian counselors could be punished for telling their clients that homosexual acts are sinful. After all, Mr. Phillips is being punished not for actively opposing homosexuality, but merely for refusing to support it.
It should be noted that the Courts have never interpreted anti-discrimination ordinances as broadly as they are now interpreting them with reference to homosexuals. Many churches have never allowed women to be pastors, elders, or deacons, and some Christian seminaries still do not admit female students or accept female faculty members. The courts have never ruled that women must be admitted to these positions because of laws (or court rulings) against gender discrimination. Nor have the courts ruled that a baker in Michigan would be discriminating against Ohioans if he refused to create a cake to celebrate Ohio State’s victory over the University of Michigan. Even on the issue of racial discrimination, a baker who does not refuse service to people because of race but declines to create a custom cake with a “Black Lives Matter” message would not be punished by the courts, since we have a right to free speech and are not compelled to promote controversial political messages. There is a different agenda in play on the issue of homosexual rights which makes different reasoning and standards apply to that single issue than to any other issue. This is because the appropriateness of homosexuality, unlike the existence of the female sex, the existence of different races, or the suitability of a sports team, is at its root a religious/spiritual issue. The goal of homosexual advocates is not merely to gain legal and social acceptance, as their agenda was once presented. Homosexual advocates are really seeking conversions—first, an ideological conversion (requiring a change in religion for some), but also a conversion of lifestyle. The ultimate goal of the homosexual movement is to create homosexual feelings in everyone by (1) teaching that homosexual desires and acts are a good thing which should be accepted and celebrated; (2) presenting images of homosexuals and homosexual romance throughout the media and in public settings (which those who have been indoctrinated will view with admiration); and (3) teaching children from about the supposed goodness of homosexuality from their earliest ages, and encouraging or forcing them to experiment with homosexuality (in order to change their natural desires). In other words, homosexuals are promoting their lifestyle as the superior one, with the aim of making everyone “LGBTQ” and not having any straight people around. Perhaps few advocates would say this outright, but it is clear from their activism that this is what they are doing.
Biblical Christianity is the main obstacle to the acceptance and propagation of homosexuality in Western society; therefore, it has become the primary target. Islam is sometimes condemned by homosexual advocates for its intolerance of homosexuals, although it is more often celebrated because of its intolerance of Christianity. With regard to the legal issues, judges have become theologians, taking sides in this spiritual battle which, at its very core, pits biblical Christianity against its opponents. Liberal judges and activists are seeking to force conversions to their side, not just in ideology but also in practice. They show no tolerance for what they view as despicable heresy, and they seek to censor and suppress it. If the desired laws are not passed by Congress or ratified by the states, then it is up to the courts to “protect” the homosexual agenda by prohibiting opposition to it. Homosexual “rights” are seen as a person’s most basic and fundamental legal rights, which means that all of one’s other rights may be taken away for refusal to support the homosexual agenda.
Given what is happening today, with the prospect of the loss of legal status for Christians in the United States, the significant question for Christians is how we ought to respond. This will be the subject of my next post.