The Bottom Line Chronicles | Where Do You Draw a Line Between Artistic Expression and Discrimination?

wedding cake

How would you balance freedom of religion and discrimination? Is there a line between freedom of artistic expression and discrimination?

Recently, the Supreme Court of the United States decided in favor of Jack Phillips, the baker who refused to create a custom-made wedding cake for Charlie Craig and David Mullen, a gay couple, in 2012. Phillips said that creating a cake for a same-sex marriage would be in conflict with his religious beliefs. This incident sparked a controversy when Craig and Mullen sued Phillips for discrimination in a Colorado court.

There are state laws that uphold equal rights among people including the LGBTQ community across the United States. But Phillips firmly stood his ground and appealed his case until it reached the Supreme Court.

The decision was 7-2 in favor of Phillips saying that although this decision upholds equal rights, it cannot denigrate the religious beliefs of others. This could be a precedent, some say a narrow ruling in terms of scope. It leaves the public divided again.

Any business can decline service to its customers for numerous reasons like lack of supply or staff. But Phillip’s refusal has bordered the line between freedom of religion/artistic expression and discrimination. In an interview, Phillips said that he also doesn’t create cakes for Halloween and for adult-theme parties, things that he’s not comfortable with due to his religious beliefs. In fact, he stopped creating wedding cakes.

There is a limiting principle being applied here. It’s like saying that you cannot force an artist (the baker) to create an art (the custom-made cake). On the other hand, refusing a gay couple is viewed as discrimination. It’s like you’re being discriminated due to your race, color, and gender. At this point, you could see that both sides have their own merits.

If you apply that principle in other situations like in a restaurant, or in a flower shop, or any other place, would that still be viewed as freedom of religion/artistic expression and not discrimination? This created a slippery slope wherein the court has allowed some type of freedom based on distinctions. And this distinction could be relative, meaning it could be interpreted differently. That’s the reason why it’s still being discussed today, which bring us to the question: “Where and when do we stop?”

It seems like a damn if I do, damn if I don’t situation. Don’t you think so?