Supreme Court to hear case on artistic free speech
Recently, more and more Christians have found their businesses and financial stability threatened as the result of their decision to stand by their commitment to their faith-based values.
This trend is alarming, and more Christians need to be aware of what is happening and take a stand in order to defend their own rights.
Over the past several years, multiple Christian companies have been threatened with lawsuits for declining to participate in the creation of work that conflicts with their Christian values.
Later this year, Masterpiece Cakeshop, a bakery in Colorado owned by Jack Phillips, will be going before the Supreme Court to appeal the lawsuit filed against them for not making a cake for a gay wedding.
The court’s decision in this case will have a lasting impact on freedom of artistic expression and freedom of practicing and adhering to one’s religious beliefs.
The first amendment’s protection of free speech includes the freedom of artistic expression.
This means that the government cannot tell you what to cre expression and freedom from government interference and control is a core part of a successful democracy, as noted by the American Civil Liberties Union.
“A free society is based on the principle that each individual has the right to decide what art or entertainment he or she wants – or does not want – to receive or create,” states ACLU’s website in its definition of artistic expression.
“Once you allow the government to censor someone else, you cede to it the power to censor you, or something you like.”
This explanation is given by ACLU in its defense of “sexual speech” and sexually explicit content on TV and in film.
However, this right must not apply to artistic expression that aligns with religious beliefs, as the ACLU is representing the gay couple who is suing Masterpiece Cakeshop.
ACLU’s director of its LGBT & HIV Project James Esseks explains that allowing individuals like Phillips to decline custom jobs from gay patrons will constitutionalize discrimination.
He argues that it would open the door for discrimination based on race, sex, religion and gender identity.
But Phillips did not tell the gay couple who came into his shop that he could not sell them anything because of their lifestyle choice.
Instead, Phillips explicitly told them that he could not create a custom cake for them, but they were free to buy any of the pre-made cupcakes and brownies available in his shop.
On Thursday, Sept. 7, the Justice Department issued a brief to the Supreme Court in support of Masterpiece Cakeshop, asserting that its custom cakes are a form of expression and affirmed that artists cannot be compelled to use their abilities for something that they do not believe.
“When Phillips designs and creates a custom wedding cake for a specific couple and a specific wedding, he plays an active role in enabling that ritual, and he associates himself with the celebratory message conveyed,” Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey B. Wall said in the published brief.
“Forcing Phillips to create expression for and participate in a ceremony that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs invades his First Amendment rights.”
As Christians, this case will have a lasting impact on how we can express our faith in our chosen vocation regardless of the career field we enter.
For graphic designers and artists, in particular, a ruling against Masterpiece cakeshop could mean that you are forced to take on projects ranging from wedding invitations to posters and paintings that conflict with traditional Christian values.
It is imperative that Christians take note and get involved with these cases.
Right now, creative professionals have the opportunity to sign on to an Amicus Cure, friend of the court, brief being prepared by the Center for Religious Expression.
Let the Supreme Court know that you support Phillips’ right – and the right of all artists – to decline projects that conflict with his religious beliefs by visiting signyoursupport.com/creatives.
Lapp is the opinion editor.