The next broadside in the culture wars arrives on the Supreme Court’s doorstep Tuesday in the unlikely form of a Colorado bakery owner named Jack Phillips. Phillips is a devout Christian who closes his shop on Sundays and refuses to take business that he says violates his religious beliefs — including making cakes celebrating Halloween, atheism and “any form of marriage other than between a husband and a wife.” In doing so, he is defying his state’s anti-discrimination law, and the Supreme Court will now hear oral arguments on whether he has the right to do so.
The case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, represents a pivotal new legal strategy for the Christian conservative movement grounded in religious liberty claims rather than arguments that the law should reflect their values. But it’s also a sign that the Christian right — which once professed to speak for America’s “moral majority” — is tacitly conceding a loss in its long-standing battle over gay rights. While religious conservatives have consistently cast themselves as at odds with dominant liberal, secular forces, this case indicates that they are beginning to adapt to life as a true cultural minority.
“Christian conservatives used to try to promote traditional morality for everyone, but now there seems to be a recognition that they just aren’t going to win over the culture,” said Andrew R. Lewis, a political science professor at the University of Cincinnati. “So they’re going to the courts to argue that they’re vulnerable like other minorities and they need protections from the broader culture.”
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