Free speech cases involving bakers in the US and UK will shape the direction of Western freedoms in the years ahead.
So writes Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International, in an article for Spiked magazine.
He believes that the cases like those of Jack Phillips, in the United States, and Ashers Baking Company, in Northern Ireland, represent a “fork in the road for freedom”.
‘Gay cake cases’
The US Supreme Court is deliberating on the case of Phillips, a Christian baker who was taken to court for refusing to design a cake for a same-sex wedding.
Phillips was forced to stop designing cakes, lost 40 per cent of his business, had to let go of most of his staff and received death threats.
Judges have heard arguments on his case and will make a decision by June next year. Their ruling will come just weeks after Ashers Baking Company makes arguments to the UK Supreme Court.
Both cases involve bakers who are happy to serve all customers but do not want to be forced to create all messages.
According to Coleman: “For every public or political issue there is now a ‘right’ and a ‘wrong’ view, and if you’re in the wrong, civil disagreement is impossible.
“You are a bigot, on the wrong side of history, and you must be punished. We see this play out in politics, in the media, on university campuses, in every facet of public life.”
Coleman concludes that in future, “Western society will either find a way to live peaceably with those who hold such differing views, or the coercive conformity will roll on to more and more areas of life.”
Daniel McArthur, General Manager of Ashers Baking Company, has also emphasised the importance of the Ashers case in combatting compelled speech.
After it was announced that the Supreme Court would hear the arguments, he said it was “very encouraging and reflects the importance of the issues and the high-profile nature of the case”.
Ashers Baking Company was sued by a gay rights activist after it declined to decorate a cake with a pro-gay marriage campaign slogan.
The UK Supreme Court will hear arguments on the Ashers case, beginning 30 April 2018.