Why the First Amendment Protects the Right Not to Bake a Cake

Today the Supreme Court will hear the case of Jack Philips, the Colorado baker who declined to provide a cake for a gay couple’s wedding reception. While some have argued that, even if the state of Colorado overreached by charging Philips with unlawful discrimination, baking a cake is not considered speech for First Amendment purposes, Robert P. George and Sherif Gergis disagree:

Colorado’s order that [Philips] create same-sex wedding cakes (or quit making any cakes at all) would force him to create expressive products carrying a message he rejects. That’s unconstitutional.

Some fear a slippery slope, arguing that anything can be expressive. What if someone refused to rent out folding chairs for the reception? Or what about restaurant owners who exclude blacks because they think God wills segregation? If we exempt Mr. Phillips, won’t we have to exempt these people from anti-discrimination law? . . . [But] unlike folding chairs or restaurant service, custom wedding cakes are full-fledged speech under the First Amendment. Creating them cannot be conveniently classified as “conduct, not expression” to rationalize state coercion.

After all, the aesthetic purpose of wedding cakes—combined with the range and complexity of their possible designs—makes them just as capable of bearing expressive content as other artistic speech. Mr. Phillips’s cakes are admired precisely for their aesthetic qualities, which reflect his ideas and sensibilities. A plaster sculpture of the same size and look would without question be protected. That wedding cakes are edible is utterly beside the point. Their main purpose isn’t to sate hunger or even please the palate; it is aesthetic and expressive. They figure at receptions as a centerpiece and then part of the live program, much like a prop in a play. And no one denies that forcing artists to design props for plays promoting a state-imposed message would be unconstitutional. . . .

At some level, Colorado itself gets it. Three times the state has declined to force pro-gay bakers to provide a Christian patron with a cake they could not in conscience create given their own convictions on sexuality and marriage. Colorado was right to recognize their First Amendment right against compelled speech. It’s wrong to deny Jack Phillips that same right.

Read more at New York Times

More about: American law, Freedom of Speech, Gay marriage, Politics & Current Affairs, Supreme Court

 

How America Sowed the Seeds of the Current Middle East Crisis in 2015

Analyzing the recent direct Iranian attack on Israel, and Israel’s security situation more generally, Michael Oren looks to the 2015 agreement to restrain Iran’s nuclear program. That, and President Biden’s efforts to resurrect the deal after Donald Trump left it, are in his view the source of the current crisis:

Of the original motivations for the deal—blocking Iran’s path to the bomb and transforming Iran into a peaceful nation—neither remained. All Biden was left with was the ability to kick the can down the road and to uphold Barack Obama’s singular foreign-policy achievement.

In order to achieve that result, the administration has repeatedly refused to punish Iran for its malign actions:

Historians will survey this inexplicable record and wonder how the United States not only allowed Iran repeatedly to assault its citizens, soldiers, and allies but consistently rewarded it for doing so. They may well conclude that in a desperate effort to avoid getting dragged into a regional Middle Eastern war, the U.S. might well have precipitated one.

While America’s friends in the Middle East, especially Israel, have every reason to feel grateful for the vital assistance they received in intercepting Iran’s missile and drone onslaught, they might also ask what the U.S. can now do differently to deter Iran from further aggression. . . . Tehran will see this weekend’s direct attack on Israel as a victory—their own—for their ability to continue threatening Israel and destabilizing the Middle East with impunity.

Israel, of course, must respond differently. Our target cannot simply be the Iranian proxies that surround our country and that have waged war on us since October 7, but, as the Saudis call it, “the head of the snake.”

Read more at Free Press

More about: Barack Obama, Gaza War 2023, Iran, Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy