Tolerance once referred to mutual respect among parties who disagreed; but today it’s a one-way street that permits movement in a direction Christians cannot travel without violating their deeply held beliefs.
If the government can shut down a family farmer just because of the religious views he expresses on Facebook—by denying him a license to do business and serve fresh produce to all people—then no American is free.
—ADF Legal Counsel Kate Anderson (pictured above), referring to her client, Steve Tennes—
Key point: Do you believe marriage is between one man and one woman? Do you seek to run your business according to biblical principles? If so, you shouldn’t be surprised when leftists threaten your business and livelihood. They will try to use government force against you—to coerce you or to exclude you from doing business altogether.
Last time we pointed out that the “progressive” left holds positions that, when fairly and objectively examined, don’t pass muster. Consider: leftist’s versions of tolerance and equality essentially are one-way streets; they actually are intolerant and unequal. In a society like ours that cherishes individual freedom, moral restraints are essential to true liberty. Leftists will have none of this. In fact, they want to coerce everyone, not just to allow moral license, but also to celebrate it. We see this clearly in many places, including two legal battles in which Alliance Defending Freedom is directly involved.
Jack Phillips Is a Cake Artist
We’ll first consider Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Jack Phillips is the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado. Jack celebrated a landmark anniversary in 2014—40 years in business.
Two years earlier—on July 19, 2012—Charlie Craig and David Mullins, a same-sex couple who claimed they already had been married in Massachusetts, wanted to celebrate the occasion with a reception in Colorado. They visited Jack’s bakery and asked him to bake them a wedding cake. Jack politely turned them down. “Sorry, guys,” he said, “I don’t make cakes for same-sex weddings.” He also sought to assure them, “I’ll make you a birthday cake, shower cake, I’ll sell you cookies and brownies. I just don’t do cakes for same-sex weddings.” Keep in mind that at the time, same-sex marriage was not recognized in the state of Colorado.
Writing for Breitbart News, legal expert Ken Klukowski observed, “Phillips is an Evangelical Christian who holds to the belief that marriage is between a man and woman. When Phillips bakes a wedding cake, he interprets it as participating in the wedding celebration.…”
In other words, Jack is a “cake artist.” He lends his artistic talent to enhance and affirm the wedding. Since he believes marriage is between a man and a woman, it makes sense, therefore, that his conscience would not allow him to participate in an event celebrating a same-sex union.
Mullins complained on social media about having been turned down by Jack, and soon he and his partner were filing charges against Phillips with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Colorado law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, but Phillips argues that this is a religious liberty case involving his right to free speech, which is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution, the “supreme law of the land.”
Of the threats, Jack has said,
They cannot do anything to me that [God] doesn’t allow. So I just get up in the morning. I’ve been doing this for 40 years and there’s not one day that I’ve gotten up and thought, ‘Oh, man, I don’t want to go to work today.’ I love going to work. Always have. That doesn’t change it.
I’ve been doing this for 40 years and there’s not one day that I’ve gotten up and thought, ‘Oh, man, I don’t want to go to work today.’ I love going to work. Always have.
In December of 2013, May of 2014, and August of 2015, a judge, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and the Colorado Court of Appeals, respectively, all ruled against Phillips. Eight months later, in April of 2016, The Colorado Supreme Court turned down Phillips’s request for an appeal. In July, Phillips’s attorneys asked the US Supreme Court hear the case, and on Monday, June 26, 2017, the Court agreed. Here is a timeline of events in Jack’s case.
Significantly, a summary of the relevant facts in the case by Alliance Defending Freedom notes,
In contrast to the ruling against Phillips, the commission found in 2015 that three other Denver cake artists were not guilty of creed discrimination when they declined a Christian customer’s request for a cake that reflected his religious opposition to same-sex marriage.
Steve Tennes Is an Apple Grower and Owner of Country Mill Farms
One of the attractions in the small town of Charlotte, Michigan, is Country Mill Farms. The house where its owner, Steve Tennes, grew up now is 150 years old—and in that same house today, Steve and his wife, Bridget, are bringing up five children of their own.
Steve and his family used to book weddings on their property. They would host about 45 annually, but in 2016 they stepped away completely from booking weddings. A same-sex couple asked Tennes to host their wedding, but because of his and his family’s deeply held beliefs about marriage, he declined. One of the women, Caitlin Ortis, took to Facebook to complain about having been turned down. She first shared her frustrations on social media in October of 2014 and subsequently published two additional posts carrying the same message. Her August, 2016 statements were heavily shared and gained a great deal of traction, prompting Steve and his family to change their policy. Steve did not hesitate to explain on Facebook his reason for the policy change.
Another income-producing venture in which the Tennes family has been involved is the East Lansing Farmers Market. Country Mill Farms made its first appearance there in 2010. After posting his convictions about marriage on Facebook, however, Tennes found himself and his business under pressure to back out of the farmers market. Writing for The Daily Signal, Fred Lucas reports that last year, Steve’s Facebook post on marriage drew a warning from an official more than 20 miles away in East Lansing, Michigan. If Tennes tried to sell his fruit at the city’s farmers market, he was told, it could incite protests.
No one showed up to protest that August day last summer, though, and Tennes continued selling organic apples, peaches, cherries, and pumpkins at the seasonal market until October, as he had done the six previous years.
That wasn’t the end of it, however. “Ultimately,” Steve explains, “The city developed a new policy to target and block our farm from further participation in their city-run farmers market.”
In March, Steve received a letter from East Lansing officials that stated,
It was brought to our attention that the Country Mill’s general business practices do not comply with East Lansing’s civil rights ordinances and public policy against discrimination as set forth in Chapter 22 of the City Code and outlined in the 2017 market vendor guidelines.
The letter went on to say, “As such, Country Mill’s presence as a vendor is prohibited.”
Again, Charlotte is approximately 22 miles away from East Lansing; it is “well outside the city’s boundaries and beyond its jurisdiction.” Steve rightly asserts, “Our faith and beliefs on marriage and hosting weddings at our home and in our backyard of our farm have nothing to do with the city of East Lansing.”
Our faith and beliefs on marriage and hosting weddings at our home and in our backyard of our farm have nothing to do with the city of East Lansing.
—Steve Tennes, owner of Country Mill Farms in Charlotte, Michigan—
Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Tennes in court, challenging East Lansing’s policy that excluded him from doing business at the farmers market, simply because of his beliefs about marriage. Hear him in his own words, from an interview Alliance Defending Freedom conducted with Steve and his wife on the July 20 edition of ADF’s weekly podcast, “Freedom Matters.” The following is a 3-minute, 40-second clip, but you can hear the entire program on this page. The first voice you’ll hear in the clip is that of podcast host Bob Trent.
What can we learn from these legal and cultural battles? Next time, we’ll draw some important conclusions from these cases and the events surrounding them.
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Part 3 is available here.
Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.