[Jack Phillips is the owner of the Masterpiece Cake Shop in Lakewood, Colorado. Mr. Phillips is being sued by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. His case is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. Yesterday Mr. Phillips published an op-ed in The Washington Post to which this letter is a response.]
Dear Mr. Phillips:
Imagine your child was in a terrible car accident and rushed to the hospital. There the doctor tells you, "I'm terribly sorry, but she has lost a lot of blood. She needs a transfusion. Unfortunately, I can't give her one because I am a Jehovah's Witness and we believe that blood transfusions are against the will of God." (Don't like that example? OK, here's another: suppose the doctor was a Muslim and told you that he couldn't operate on your daughter because she is female, and unfortunately there are no female doctors available at the moment. I can do this all day long. There is an endless variety of sincerely held religious beliefs out there in the world.)
How would you feel? Would you fight as hard for the right of doctors to refuse their professional services on religious grounds as you are fighting for your own? Would you accept delayed medical care for your daughter as the price of religious freedom?
I suspect the answer to that question is "no", but either way you and I have a problem that goes far beyond cakes. If indeed you want the Supreme Court to uphold your religious freedom but not those of others then you are a hypocrite, and we're done. I have no respect for hypocrites. Hypocrisy is the ultimate evil because it justifies anything. If, on the other hand, your answer is "yes", that you would be able to accept these costs, then we still have a problem, but it's a very different problem, because not only are you willing to accept these costs on your own behalf, but you are insisting that I accept these costs as well. Because if my daughter ends up in the hospital and needs a transfusion, I want her to fucking get one. Got it?
I apologize for the crude language, but I really want to emphasize how strongly I feel about this. You see, my most deeply held belief, my religion if you will, is that decisions ought to be made according to evidence, experiment and reason, and not on faith. You have the right to believe what you want, but you most emphatically do not have the right to impose your beliefs on me in any way, shape, or form. That includes passing laws to allow doctors to deprive me and mine of medical care because of their own personal beliefs.
You see, in a professional setting, sometimes you have to check your personal beliefs at the door. As unintuitive as it might seem, that is part and parcel of living in a free country. Doctors don't get to pick and choose who they treat and how they treat them based on their religion. Judges don't get to pick and choose what laws they will enforce based on their religious beliefs. Restaurant proprietors don't get to pick and choose who can sit at the lunch counter based on their religious beliefs.
I know you think your case is different because making wedding cakes is an artistic endeavor, and I don't dispute that. I'm happy to concede that your cakes are works of art. But you are not actually arguing for your freedom of expression. You are not refusing to make cakes with particular content, you are refusing to make cakes for a particular kind of customer. If you refused to make a cake with, say, an obscene image on it, no one would dispute your right to turn that down. But what you are asking for is very different. You want to be able to refuse to make cakes for gay couples regardless of what the cake looks like. Your criterion for what you are and are not willing to do has nothing to do with the cake and everything to do with the customer. That is unacceptable.
You wonder "if there will be a place in the community for [you] when the dust settles." I'm sure there will. This country is, sadly, chock-full of people who want to discriminate against others because of their sexual orientation. Should you lose, I have no doubt that you will find friends among them. And although you will find it hard to believe, you will still be free. You will be free to believe what you want to believe. You will be free to shout your odious beliefs from the rooftops. You will even be free to make cakes for whomever you choose! The only thing you won't be able to do is to make cakes professionally, because, in this country, we hold professionals to a higher standard.
At least, for the sake of all the people who need blood transfusions, I hope we do.
Emerald Hills, California