If a Cake Maker Can Be Forced to Violate His Convictions – What About a Graphic Designer?

Posted on June 10, 2014 in Marriage, Religious Freedom by

Jack PhillipsI was immediately drawn to an article at The Gospel Coalition relating to graphic design. You might not know why it’s important, but in light of recent events in our culture it is critical. Let me explain.

The article centered on a church graphic designer and why she loves her job. Nothing earth shattering here. The writer said that as a graphic designer she has a purpose:

“Our church represents our God, and I want to do everything possible to represent him as the beautiful, intelligent, and creative one that he is.”

Still nothing to argue with or get too excited about. In fact, at face value there is nothing in this article to attract most people. But let me draw a very clear distinction that perhaps graphic designers and every day citizens have not considered; but need to.

Jack Phillips owns Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado. In 2012 he refused to bake a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding. He was sued for discrimination and ultimately was found guilty. Upon appeal the government made a very chilling proclamation. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission told Phillips that he must bake cakes in violation of his religious convictions and must prove that he has complied with the order.

Alliance Defending Freedom lead counsel Nicolle Martin commented on the ruling:

“The government should not force him to choose between his faith and his livelihood. In America, we don’t separate a person’s creative expression from what he believes. Jack simply exercised the long-cherished American freedom to decline to use his artistry to promote a message with which he disagrees.”

Did you notice the key word in that statement? Look at this comment by ADF senior legal counsel Jeremy Tedesco about the case:

“Every artist must be free to create work that expresses what he or she believes and not be forced to express contrary views. The First Amendment protects our freedom to speak or not speak on any issue without fear of punishment by the government.”

There it is again. The word I want you to see is creative. At the heart of this case is the right of every American to exercise – or refuse to exercise – his or her first amendment free speech rights. At the core of this case is the fact that the government is seeking to force an American citizen to violate his both his free speech and religious freedom rights. The government is telling Jack Phillips that he must use his creative abilities to create a cake a piece of art – a form of speech – that celebrates same-sex “marriage” and violates his religious convictions.

The reason this is critical and intricately linked to the article about the graphic designer is that if a cake maker can be forced to violate his religious convictions and use his creative talents to celebrate sin. And if a photographer can be forced to violate her religious convictions and use her creative talents to celebrate sin. How long before the government tells graphic designers that they must violate their religious convictions and use their creative talents to celebrate sin?

Many church graphic designers do side work. They often set up small LLC’s and become small business owners of their own graphic design company. The church will often let them do this in order to offset what is often a smaller compensation than an average graphic designer is able to earn in the public sector.

So whether through word of mouth or the use of advertising these graphic designers get their name and company out there and begin taking small graphic design jobs. Though I am not aware of it happening to this point, I can imagine it is only a matter of time before someone asks a Christian graphic designer to create a logo or graphic image celebrating homosexuality. When that graphic designer declines the job and cites his or her religious convictions as the reason for declining to create such an image, what will happen?

Previous to the last several years we would have all answered that the graphic designers’ free speech rights will protect him or her from any lawsuit. We might have even said that graphic design is a creative art, and all art is a form of speech and therefore protected as speech by the First Amendment. Therefore the graphic designer cannot even be sued.

After the last several years when we’ve watched both a cake maker and a photographer found guilty of discrimination and the Supreme Court unwilling (to this point) to intervene in the cases, are we still feeling sure about our answer?

If the government can compel a cake maker (artist) and a photographer (artist) to create works of art (speech) that violate their religious convictions, it seems a certainty that they will also force a graphic designer to do the same.

For that matter, if the government can force any artist to create works of art that violate their religious convictions, is there any person safe from being compelled to support something that violates his or her religious convictions? If the first amendment doesn’t apply to artists, as has been the gold standard for decades (especially as it applies to pornography), who is safe from government coercion?

A puzzling twist to this story is that the legal body that made the ruling demanding Jack Phillips violate his religious convictions and free speech rights also said Muslims and black cake makers would not be held to the same standard. An article at WND reports:

“But the ACLU, which is representing the duo, said the same standard should not be used in other circumstances, such as asking a Muslim baker to make a cake criticizing his faith or asking a black cake maker to make a cake for the KKK. Those bakers, because of their beliefs, would be allowed to refuse service.”

If sexual orientation is supposed to be analogous to race, as the ACLU and others have purported, then why would a black cake maker not be forced to back a cake for the KKK? If religious convictions are not a justifiable reason for refusing to bake a cake, why would a Muslim not be forced to adhere to the same standard?

These are troubling cases with disturbing outcomes. The red flags should be popping up in earnest for each person that believes free speech and religious freedom are foundational to our country.

ADF senior counsel Kristen Waggoner summed the matter up with this chilling statement:

“Every artist must be free to create work that expresses what he or she believes and not be forced to express contrary views. Forcing Americans to promote ideas against their will undermines our constitutionally protected freedom of expression and our right to live free. If the government can take away our First Amendment freedoms, there is nothing it can’t take away.”

If this trend of trampling our rights is not reversed, and soon, the question will be, what will the government take next?

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