I wholeheartedly agree with Judge David Lampe’s ruling in favor of Tastries Bakery owner Cathy Miller, which states, “For this court to force such compliance would do violence to the essentials of Free Speech guaranteed under the First Amendment.”
The fundamental principle of freedom of speech is not only constitutionally guaranteed, but historically significant in these changing times. We have free speech, but that doesn’t mean we are free from the consequences of that speech. As a believer, along with Cathy Miller, I believe that it incorporates our freedom of conscience as well. This means we are not to do anything which will conflict with our relationship with God as revealed in the Bible, his standards and principles. We can, in good conscience, civilly disobey.
Throughout history, we have seen good examples of this carried out. One of these was Martin Luther King Jr., when he exercised his freedom of speech by peacefully marching in Washington, D.C. He spoke freely in the public square about injustice and freedom and where this county needs to head.
I believe that Cathy Miller is a godly example of how a case for freedom of speech should be done. The stance she is taking comes down to the heart of the freedom of speech, as well as religion, with the need to stand firm on your convictions, which hits at the core of the free exercise clause of the constitution. Our forefathers understood the principle of freedom of speech and they were willing to sacrifice everything for it.
So, forcing a person to do something that violates their conscience would do violence to free speech according to the judge in this case. I, as a pastor, listen to many people across political, social, economic and racial lines, hearing all points of view. I must admit, some points of view are harder to listen to than others! But, listening to, agreeing with, and supporting are quite different things.
On the day of the prayer rally in front of the Liberty Bell, I listened to many people who voiced opposition. When I had the opportunity, I posed them a question: “Do you have a conscience? Are there things that you choose not to do?” The answers to both questions were always in the affirmative.
I am encouraged, not that we all agree, but that we can be civil with each other in tackling these difficult and complex issues. I am fully aware that the word “freedom” means something different to many people. In Galatians 5:1, the Word says: “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore, keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”
One key aspect of this freedom is that I can speak the truth in love. In the New Testament in Ephesians 4:25-26, it says,” Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.”
And in I Peter 2:13-17, Paul makes it clear: ”Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.”
So, this is why we stand for freedom of speech and conscience. My desire as a pastor is that all would come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” This is not by force, or violence or manipulation, but by love. That we would love one another, just as He has loved us. “Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32
“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” Abraham Lincoln
Rev. Angelo Frazier of Bakersfield is Pastor of Outreach Ministries and Care at RiverLakes Community Church. The views expressed are his own.