A License to Discriminate? Masterpiece Cakeshop, the First Amendment, and Antidiscrimination Law

An America’s Founding and Future Lecture

May 9, 2018
Masterpiece Cakeshop lecture poster

Ryan T. Anderson ‘04, William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow in American Principles & Public Policy, Heritage Foundation; John Corvino, Professor of Philosophy, Wayne State University; Sherif Girgis ’08, Doctoral Candidate in Philosophy, Princeton University; J.D., Yale Law School, responses from Christopher Tollefsen, College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, University of South Carolina, Kevin Vallier, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Bowling Green State University; Moderated by Robert P. GeorgeMcCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program, Princeton University

Virtually everyone supports religious liberty and opposes discrimination. But how do we handle the hard questions that arise when exercises of religious liberty seem to discriminate unjustly? How do we promote the common good while respecting conscience in a diverse society? Using the pending Supreme Court case Masterpiece Cakeshop as a case study, Ryan T. Anderson, John Corvino, and Sherif Girgis will explore these questions, followed by responses from Christopher Tollefsen and Kevin Vallier. 

Ryan T. Anderson ’04 is the William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow at The Heritage Foundation and the founder and editor of Public Discourse, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute. He is the author of When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment and Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom; he is the co-author of What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense (with Sherif Girgis and Robert P. George, 2012) and Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination (with John Corvino and Sherif Girgis, 2017). His research has been cited by two U.S. Supreme Court justices, Justice Samuel Alito and Justice Clarence Thomas, and his work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, the Harvard Health Policy Review, the Georgetown Journal of Law and Public Policy, the Weekly Standard, and National Review. He received his B.A. from Princeton University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude, and he received his Ph.D. in political philosophy from the University of Notre Dame. 

John Corvino is Professor of Philosophy and incoming Dean of the Irvin D. Reid Honors College at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. He is the author or co-author of several books, including Debating Same-Sex Marriage (with Maggie Gallagher, 2012), What’s Wrong with Homosexuality? (2013), and, most recently, Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination (with Ryan T. Anderson and Sherif Girgis, 2017)—all from Oxford University Press. In addition to his academic writing, he has contributed to the New York Times, the Detroit Free PressSlate, and various other popular venues. An award-winning teacher, he has lectured at over 250 campuses on ethics, sexuality, and marriage. Professor Corvino received his B.A. from St. John’s University and his Ph.D. from the University of Texas. His full biography is available at johncorvino.com.

Sherif Girgis ‘08, Research Scholar at the Witherspoon Institute, is completing his Ph.D. in philosophy at Princeton, having just finished his J.D. at Yale Law School, where he edited the Yale Law Journal. He is co-author of the book, What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense, cited by Justice Alito in United States v. Windsor. His latest book, co-authored with Ryan Anderson and John Corvino, is Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination (Oxford University Press, 2017). He has spoken on moral, political, and legal issues at more than 100 lectures, conferences, and debates, and has published in academic and popular outlets including the New York Times, the Yale Law Journal, the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, the Wall Street JournalNational Review, and Commonweal. He is a 2008 Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude graduate of Princeton University, from which he went on to earn a master's degree in moral, political, and legal philosophy from the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.  

Christopher Tollefsen is College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina; he has twice been a Visiting Fellow in the James Madison Program at Princeton University. He is the author, co-author, or editor of six books, including most recently Lying and Christian Ethics (Cambridge University Press, 2014).  His book Embryo: A Defense of Human Life, co-authored with Robert P. George, was reviewed positively in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and elsewhere. Professor Tollefsen is a member of the editorial boards of The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, and Christian Bioethics, and is a regular contributor to Public Discourse. He received his B.A. from Saint Anselm College and his Ph.D. from Emory University.

Kevin Vallier is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Bowling Green State University and Director of BGSU's program in Philosophy, Politics, Economics, and Law (PPEL). Professor Vallier is the author of Liberal Politics and Public Faith: Beyond Separation (Routledge, 2014) and Must Politics Be War? Restoring Our Trust in the Open Society (Oxford, 2018), as well as thirty peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. Professor Vallier received his B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis and his Ph.D. from the University of Arizona. 


A License to Discriminate? Masterpiece Cakeshop, the First Amendment, and Antidiscrimination Law


Lewis Library 120

Photo Album:

  • "A License" Debate Photo
  • "A License" Debate Photo
  • "A License" Debate Photo