For decades the debate of the creative vs. rule purists has held court in kindergarten classrooms everywhere. “Allow the child free expression” expounds one effusive teacher, while another orders, “color only between the lines”. The more effervescent child is either enthralled with the liberty to purely express his art or is bored with the demands of the border lines. The grown-up debate takes us to the courts of America. Where artistic liberty is being challenged. Does the business of creating art for hire necessitate government regulation of the content? Does a “customer demand” trump “moral freedom” by the artist?
In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins requested a cake be designed by Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, CO. The cake would celebrate their upcoming same-sex wedding. The owner of the cakeshop, Jack Phillips, declined to accept the job based on his religious beliefs. A complaint filed with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was ruled in favor of Craig and Mullins. The U. S. Supreme Court reversed that ruling, in a 7-2 decision, after evaluating the unique disfavor the Colorado Civil Rights Commission demonstrated against Jack Phillips in their ruling.[i]
The US Supreme Court is now considering a similar issue of free speech with the case of Lorie Smith. Lorie is a Christian graphic designer who creates wedding websites for clients. She believes that marriage is the union of one man and one woman and “each and every one of my designs is a reflection of me.”[ii] She is concerned that she will be forced to create same-sex wedding websites or lose her business. She could be required to only color “in the lines” while her free speech and artistry were held prisoner by laws.
The Britannica Dictionary defines art as “something that is created with imagination and skill, and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings”.[iii] Is then, a business owner who sells their artistry, not be allowed to only sell their personal expressions behind their art? If not, then every painting, every sculpture, and every other form of art may end up being regulated under the scrutiny of government censors. Where there is no freedom in personal expression, there is no art. Once free speech is bound to such severe government mandated restrictions, creativity is stunted, in violation of the First Amendment.
Christians have the right to express their deepest emotions and beliefs within their art. The First Amendment protects citizens’ right to free speech, so long as the practice does not run afoul of a “compelling” governmental interest. Lorie Smith and Jack Phillips refuse to allow their art to be adulterated. Jack Phillips does not refuse customers with different beliefs; Jack and Amy both refuse to allow their art to reflect the belief of others not in parallel with his own.
Romans 12:2 compels us to “not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is his good, pleasing, and perfect will. The “coloring” is your choice as you follow God’s will.
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