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St. Thomas More, whose feast we celebrated on Tuesday, was put to death because he would not affirm what he did not believe. His witness should be an inspiration to the many Christians who are today facing the same unreasonable demands: demands that they embrace a lie.
“Live not by lies,” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn exhorted us, in a powerful essay, released on the day that he was arrested in 1974. He knew the power of the lies that propped up the Soviet regime. And the leaders of that regime, in turn, recognized the power of the witness who rejected those lies — which is why they sent Solzhenitsyn into exile.
In our own society, powerful institutions are now promoting lies. We are asked — no, instructed — to believe that a man is a woman, that a partnership between two men or two women is a marriage, that any heretical deviation from this absurd new faith is evidence of hatred and dangerous to the common good. And as St. Thomas More learned, the promoters of the new faith are not satisfied with mere acquiescence; they demand that we not only accept their creed but endorse it, even proclaim it.
Why else would homosexual activists be pursuing their campaign against Jack Phillips, the Colorado baker who runs the Masterpiece Cakeshop? Phillips has already been to the Supreme Court once, successfully defending his right to decline to bake a cake celebrating a same-sex union. Now he faces another lawsuit, this time for refusing to celebrate a “gender transition.”
Before he found relief in the Supreme Court, Phillips faced the wrath of the Colorado Civil Rights Division, which found him guilty of illegal discrimination, and a state court confirmed that judgment. Now a local court has again ruled against him, faulting him for “his refusal to recognize [the plaintiff] as a woman.” So his legal troubles will continue, at least until he finds a sensible court willing to defend his right to the truth.
Surely it was no coincidence that a transgender activist ordered a cake from the same man who had resisted homosexual activists. He has been singled out; the champions of the new orthodoxy cannot accept his views. When Phillips declined to prepare cakes for their celebrations, the plaintiffs could have taken their orders elsewhere; there are plenty of bakers in Colorado. But the purpose of their lawsuits was not simply to ensure that they could have cakes baked for them; it was to punish him for his beliefs. The social revolutionaries demand that he either accept their version of reality or lose his livelihood.
Every authoritarian regime punishes dissidents for what they say. It takes a special type of intolerance to punish a man for what he does not say. And notice that, in the first test case, Phillips was not facing the activists alone; until he reached the Supreme Court, he found all the instruments of government and the judicial system arrayed against him.
This campaign against Phillips, as William McGurn argues in the Wall Street Journal, confirms that “the most egregious exercises of intolerance today are those done in the name of tolerance.”
It’s a sad case, a troubling case. But it’s an isolated case, involving a Colorado baker. What does it have to do with you and me? Only this: If we do not defend the rights of people like Jack Phillips, we may soon lose the same rights for ourselves. If we do not affirm the truth we strengthen the hands of the intolerant. If we do not challenge the lies, we will be living the lies ourselves. And even if we resist quietly — affirming the truth in our own hearts — sooner or later we will be required to deny that truth. Silence will not save us.
Published with permission from CatholicCulture.org