A "No Gays Allowed" sign that was placed in the window of a Tennessee hardware store in 2015 reignited debate online in light of the Supreme Court's Monday ruling in favor of a Colorado baker's religious liberty claims.
Jeff Amyx, owner of Amyx Hardware & Roofing Supplies in Grainger County, Tennessee posted a "No Gays Allowed" sign in the front window of his store during the summer of 2015 following the Supreme Court's ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, but then took it down amid public outcry, as was reported by USA Today at the time.
The story was recirculated in order to further the false claim that acknowledging the religious freedom of Christians will yield homosexuals being banned from public accommodations, which the decision in Masterpiece Cake Shop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission did not do. The plaintiff in the case, Jack Phillips, always served gay customers but had declined in 2012 to do a custom cake for a same-sex ceremony, citing his religious objections.
Associate Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy, who authored the majority opinion, noted in the ruling that the state of Colorado had treated Phillips with gratuitous hostility and had disparaged his faith. Kennedy dismissed the idea that Phillips had essentially placed a "No Gays Allowed" sign in his store window; the justice explained that Colorado had other options as to how they could have responded given the circumstances and that any decision in favor of Phillips "would have to be sufficiently constrained, lest all purveyors of goods and services who object to gay marriages for moral and religious reasons in effect be allowed to put up signs saying 'no goods or services will be sold if they will be used for gay marriages,' something that would impose a serious stigma on gay persons."
USA Today noted last week that claims suggesting that the 2015 story was a reaction to last week's ruling was inaccurate.
Nevertheless, many prominent Christians were quick to distance themselves from the Tennessee hardware shop owner's antics from three years ago.
Eric Metaxas, author and host of the Eric Metaxas Show, was incredulous, tweeting that "[e]very Jesus follower I know utterly condemns the unChristian behavior of this foolish man."
"Don't be fooled, folks. Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakes wants NOTHING to do with this genuine bigotry and we must all know the difference between this and the free exercise of our faith."
Conservative commentator Erick Erickson weighed in on an similar note, writing that "[s]aying 'no gays allowed' in a business should be as offensive to Christians as telling Christians they must provide goods and services to religious ceremonies they view as an affront to God."
Pastor Greg Locke, who leads Global Vision Bible Church in Tennessee, tweeted: "The 'No Gays Allowed' story is really disheartening. I may strongly disagree with the #PrideMonth and #LGBTQ lifestyle but I'll go on record as saying that when it comes to the church I Pastor 'ALL GAYS ALLOWED'. Acceptance & approval are different."
The 2015 story was recirculated on social media with many not realizing that it was nearly three years old. Some seemed to think it was the first time the sign appeared and that it portended a return to a lunch counter era of blatant discrimination.
Mike Adams, a columnist and professor at University of North Carolina Wilmington, was irked by the comparison of the Tennessee hardware store owner and Colorado baker.
"Jack [Phillips] did not deny service to gays. He regularly served them. He simply said he would not use his artistic talents to convey a specific message contrary to his religious beliefs. If you do not know the facts of the case, do not comment on the case."
Interestingly, even Dictionary.com weighed in on the matter Thursday, noting in a tweet that the word "Homophobia" is "defined as unreasoning fear of or antipathy toward homosexuals and homosexuality.
"E.g. A 'no gays allowed' sign may be construed as homophobia."
Editor of the Daily Wire Ben Shapiro, an Orthodox Jew, commented Thursday that nothing Amyx did should have garnered national news coverage.
"The guy was a nut then, and he's a nut now. He is not indicative of a broad swath of Christians who are suddenly barring gay people from their establishments," he said.