Living in Postliterate America

I’m working with a dying medium. The written word has served humanity for thousands of years but it’s time, at least here in the United States, is coming to an end. Why do I think this? Because every time a piece of news involving even a tiny bit of minutia crops up, few seem able to read more than the headline.

The latest example of this involves a baker in Colorado by the name of Jack Phillips. A couple wanted him to make a cake for their wedding. He refused because the couple were both men and his Christian beliefs don’t jive with same-sex marriages. The couple decided that this was discriminatory and brought the wrath of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission upon him. Eventually the case reached the Supreme Court and yesterday the nine muumuu-clad judges announced that they sided with Phillips.

Obviously religious freedom just made a giant leap forward in the United States, right? Wrong. It turns out that everybody cheering this decision as win for religious freedom stopped reading after the headline:

In a case brought by a Colorado baker, the court ruled by a 7-2 vote that he did not get a fair hearing on his complaint because the Colorado Civil Rights Commission demonstrated a hostility to religion in its treatment of his case.

Writing for the case, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that while it is unexceptional that Colorado law “can protect gay persons in acquiring products and services on the same terms and conditions that are offered to other members of the public, the law must be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion.”

He said that in this case the Colorado baker, Jack Phillips, understandably had difficulty in knowing where to draw the line because the state law at the time afforded store keepers some latitude to decline creating specific messages they considered offensive. Kennedy pointed to the Colorado commission’s decision allowing a different baker to refuse to put an anti-gay message on a cake.

The Supreme Court ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed hostility towards Phillips and that that hostility prevented an unbiased hearing. Basically the government failed to act as a neutral third-party mediator and that invalidated its decision. At no point did the Supreme Court rule on the law in question. The law forcing Phillips to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding wasn’t invalidated.

Knowing this literally took only a few paragraphs worth of reading but I somehow saw tons of people claiming that this decision was in regards to religious freedom. No wonder people make video blogs today. If you’re using the written word, you’re apparently making your content unavailable to 99.99 percent (this is totally a scientifically backed percentage) of the American population.