In light of the recent narrow Supreme-Court decision in favor of Masterpiece Cake Shop, I thought it might be helpful to share my thoughts about religious liberty and free speech. (I categorize religious liberty and free speech together, because I consider them to be almost the same thing in practical implementation.)
When it comes to any constitutional issue, I always support following what the constitution explicitly says, until at the very least, a constitutional amendment is passed. That being said, I do not wish for our whole constitution to be amended away over time. The document is not flawless, but the literature is a guardian of Life, Liberty and Property. It would seriously be difficult to find a constitution that protects free speech, religious liberty, legal rights, and rights against police brutality better then the U.S. The document is law, but it is really only a piece of paper with some great words unless the United States follows it. Yes, it is really our choice whether we want to defend the constitution, but the farther we stray from it… the farther we stray from free speech and religious liberty.
So long as religious liberty does not harm another person’s Self, or Property… then there is no compelling reason to hinder free practice of religion. Historically, I believe that people have as a whole been inconsistent with religious liberty. I have noticed this in Evangelical circles that I have been in, but it also dates back at least to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. As many of us have heard the pilgrims/puritans came to the new world in hopes of escaping religious oppression. What some people may not know is that the puritans came not for religious freedom, but rather for religious privilege. They exemplified this by the way they treated those who disagreed, and the exile of Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson. Religious liberty is extremely important, but it has to be applied to everybody, all across the wide spectrum.
This also applies to free speech. In the case of Masterpiece Cake Shop, the decision should be clear… “No artist should ever be forced to create a specific message that they disagree with.” (I quote myself here). An artist’s work is an extension of their speech, and as such should be an extension of their free speech. I tend to think that the cake case, is really more about free exchange then about free speech. Unfortunately, nowhere in the constitution is free exchange explicitly protected. It’s worth a whole other post, but free exchange is a very important right. From a belief in free exchange, derives a belief that people should be able to deny business to others for any reason (legally speaking). As a consumer is free to shop at any shop, a business owner really should be free to sell at any business. At this point in U.S. history, market forces and social media will protect against wide-scale, private sector segregation.
The cake shop decision was decided narrowly, but I have faith that in the end religious liberty and free speech will prevail. As Professor Jordan Peterson said, “You don’t have a right to be comfortable.” Peoples freedom to speak boldly or to refuse your business, may cause uncomfortability, but this is the cost you pay for freedom. Freedom is the price for freedom, but trust me- it is well worth it.