Christian baker Jack Phillips must be feeling that it's Ground Hog Day.
Phillips, you'll remember, is the Colorado baker who, while gladly serving gay customers, refused to create a special wedding cake for a gay wedding. Phillips said that doing so would go against his religious beliefs.
In June the U.S. Supreme Court sided 7 to 2 with Phillips. End of story, right?
Unfortunately for Phillips, it is not the end of the story.
A transgender activist has insisted that Mr. Phillips create a cake for his coming out as a transgender.
Let's see: this is almost exactly the same case as the one that went before the Supreme Court, except that instead of a gay wedding, we have a transgender coming out.
You would not be wrong in supposing that Mr. Phillips has conscience objections to participating in a transgender coming out by creating a cake.
But the transgender person wants to compel Mr. Phillips to do so anyway, regardless of Phillips' religious beliefs or conscience.
We would be outraged if somebody tried to discriminate against a transgender citizen. But the issue here is not discrimination. It is coercion. More specifically, it is attempted coercion involving somebody's right to religious liberty.
In a must-read essay at NRO headlined "The Compulsory Society," Kevin Williamson explains what is going on here. It started with good intentions and way back in the Lyndon Johnson administration.
In the 1960s African Americans really were discriminated against. Public accommodations legislation was passed to make it illegal to discriminate against African Americans. The idea that some citizens could not go to certain restaurants or hotels is abhorrent.
Even Americans who had reservations about government getting involved in private businesses, saying whom one could serve, could accept the public accommodations legislation as necessary and a step in the right direction.
But does this public accommodations legislation mean that Jack Phillips can be compelled to violate his conscience? Remember, he is happy to serve all customers. He's not turning anybody away.
Noting that in the 1960s discrimination caused actual hardships among African Americans, Williamson writes:
The same cannot be said of Jack Phillips and his little bakery. No gay couple seeking a wedding cake is going to have to travel three states away to find one if Phillips declines their custom. No transgender person celebrating a coming out is going to want for baked goods if Phillips refuses service.
Everybody knows this. The activists targeting Phillips do not care. The point is not to see to it that gay and transgender people can live their lives as they wish to — the point is to coerce Jack Phillips into conformity.
The same impulse was at play when the Obama administration tried to force elderly nuns to pay for coverage of contraception and abortion-inducing drugs. It was the principle of the thing: the nuns, like Phillips, had to be compelled to violate their consciences.
Like Phillips, the nuns took the case all the way to the Supreme Court and won.
Since the underlying issues of the transgender cakeare almost identical to those involved in the same-sex wedding cake, it looks like the matter has been decided. Thus this looks an awful lot like persecution of a lowly baker.
The ruling in the Supreme Court case was somewhat wishy-washy. While siding with Phillips, it did not address the matter of religious liberty, guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.
The Court might get what amounts to a second shot at this case.
Incidentally, Phillips also recieved an order for an obscene cake with secifically anti-Christian imagery.