Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission isn’t a Supreme Court case about cake, it’s about whether the rights of religious individuals to act on their beliefs and to own and control their property as they see fit is protected in the United States. The United States was founded on the truth that all people are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” and our government is “instituted to protect these rights.” Among our rights that government is to protect is our right to own and control our property, make voluntary contracts, and believe as we choose. These rights are enshrined in the Bill of Rights and incorporated by the 14th amendment.
James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, said “Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own.”
The cakes made, the labor used to make them, the business, and the beliefs of the baker are his own and he has exclusive right to ownership and control of them. It would be wrong for individuals to coerce this baker for his cake, labor, control of his business, or to prevent him from acting on his beliefs, and it is wrong for the government, a creation of individuals, to do so. For our government to be just and fulfill its role, it must not be swayed into partiality by the feelings of an aggrieved minority bent on acquiescence not merely tolerance, and secure to the baker what is his own. Does licensure somehow transfer ownership of a business from the individual to the government? Does the government own the business or does the baker own his business? When an individual enters the market and offers goods or services he does not forfeit his rights of ownership and right to transfer them on his terms. Would the government be justified in forcing a Muslim photographer to use his labor at a bar-mitzvah or a Jewish business owner to serve non-kosher food at his or her restaurant? And if a Christian business can be coerced to associate and run according to the dictates of the government, why not a church or club?
It may or may not be kind for the Christian baker to not bake the cake – that is debatable – but it certainly shouldn’t make him a criminal.
There is much at risk in this case, and we should all hope that the Supreme Court rules in favor of freedom and secures the rights of this Christian baker.