To hear some liberals discuss the Colorado baker case last week, you would have thought it was “Cake-ageddon.” The effect of the Supreme Court’s ruling is Jack Phillips will not be forced, against his conscience, to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. Fox News contributor Pat Caddell noted many reacted to the decision with hysteria, until they learned it was a 7-to-2 ruling.
What I find fascinating about the court’s ruling is it aligned very well with the findings of a poll Caddell (formerly a pollster with the Carter Administration) conducted of the American people in August 2015, after the Supreme Court’s decision in favor of same-sex marriage.
I wish the poll’s results were better known. The gist of the survey dealt with the attitudes of the American people on religious liberty and gay rights on cases like the Colorado baker. Should the baker, the photographer, the florist be forced by law to participate in that which violates his or her conscience? The results of the findings were that most Americans want to see both.
In cases not involving sexuality, this issue would be obvious. As one colleague noted, “Should a black printer be forced against his will to print up fliers for the KKK? Should an orthodox Jewish deli owner be forced to serve ham sandwiches?” Yet the absolutists favoring same-sex rights allowed for no freedom of conscience in this area.
The findings of Caddell’s 2015 poll were written up in the Washington Examiner (Aug. 5, 2015) in an article by Paul Bedard (“Poll: Truce sought between LGBT, religion, but gays lose in ‘cultural war’ 4-1”).
Caddell asked this question, which has direct implications in the Christian baker case: “Suppose a Christian wedding photographer has deeply held religious beliefs opposing same sex marriage. If a same sex couple wanted to hire the photographer for their wedding, should the photographer have the right to say no?”
Based on the media and the cultural push for absolute hegemony of gay rights in this area, one might assume the answer would be “no” only for a relatively few benighted souls, clinging to their old-time religion. The answer, though, was actually 82 percent. Four out of five Americans would not like to see the photographer forced against her will to have to violate her conscience at the altar of political correctness.
Furthermore, Caddell wrote of his survey findings: “More than two-thirds (68 percent) disagreed that the federal and state government should be able to require by law a private citizen to provide a service or their property for an event that is contrary to their religious beliefs. Only 18 percent agreed. Indeed, 51 percent strongly disagreed with this.”
Some have argued that the Christian baker and candlestick maker were only hiding their innate anti-gay bigotry behind a religious facade. But a majority of the American people does not see it that way.
Caddell reports: “When asked whether it should be up to the federal government to determine what constitutes legitimate religious beliefs, only 11 percent agreed and a massive 79 percent disagreed. Indeed, even two thirds of those on the ‘left’ of the segmentation disagreed.”
This was indeed where the Supreme Court came down hardest on the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for attacking Jack Phillips’s religious beliefs as illegitimate.
Sometimes gay rights and religious liberty are viewed as a zero-sum game. One wins; the other loses. There is no middle ground. But what Caddell found is a majority of Americans favor a middle ground.
So, what if one had to choose between the two? “When asked which was more important, by a 4-to-1 ratio, voters said protecting religious liberty (31 percent) over protecting gay and lesbian rights (8 percent),” Caddell found.
After last Monday’s decision, I interviewed Caddell on my radio show. He told me, “The majority wanted both [religious liberty and gay rights], but if you forced a decision on this to an absolute choice, those who chose were overwhelmingly on the side of religious freedom.”
Again, while uncomfortable being forced to choose between the two polarities, Cadell notes, the American people view religious freedom as “the most fundamental of rights. This country exists for that reason. We have never had religious wars in this country. Even more than the freedom of speech, the right of religious freedom is bedrock in the American character and American history.”
Dr. Frank Wright, president of D. James Kennedy Ministries, wrote after last Monday’s decision: “Thus, the fight for religious liberty continues. Today’s decision is a victory, to be sure – but a very limited one. The fact that we must wait for future Supreme Court decisions to declare that the First Amendment is still in effect shows that our judicial system is out of control.”