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Religious Tolerance logo

An essay donated by Susan Humphreys

Do retail outlets have the religious
freedom to discriminate against customers?

"All are welcome" sign 1 2

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There is an interesting article in two parts on this website about an case that involves a retail outlet refusing to sell a product to a customer because of the owner's sincere religious beliefs. It will be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court in late 2017 or early 2018Jack Phillips is the co-owner of the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, CO. He refused to bake a custom cake for a wedding reception because the marriage involved a same-sex couple. He is a conservative Christian. His interpretation of the six "clobber passages" in the Bible that are often used to discriminate against the LGBT community prohibited him from using his artistic talents to provide a product associated with a same-sex wedding.

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At first glance, this event was like dozens of other conflicts between a potential customer(s) and a baker, wedding photographer or other public accommodation.

(A public accommodation is retail outlet that provides goods and/or services to the general public.)

But this case is different because it resulted in a complaint before a human rights tribunal, followed by a court case that was repeatedly appealed and made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court!

The petition to the high court, called Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, lingered for months at the Court. It was re-listed 14 times on the court’s private conference schedule, where the justices consider whether to accept a case. Four of the nine justices must vote to accept a case, and when a case is listed so many times, it usually means that requirement has not been met, and some justice is working on a dissent.

On 2017-JUN-26, the Court accepted the appeal.The hearing will probably be held in early 2018, and the High Court's ruling should be issued during 2018-JUN.

Author Sunnivie Brydum wrote an article on the Religion Dispatches website titled: "It’s Not About Cake: Anti-Gay Vendors Want A Constitutional Right To Discriminate." 3 She mentions that two other legal cases may be consolidated with Masterpiece and brought before the Supreme Court this fall. All three involve the right of business vendors to deny service to people based on the vendors' sincere religious beliefs.

Louise Melling deputy legal director and director for the Center for Liberty at the American Civil Liberties' Union (ACLU), represents the same-sex couples in two of the cases. She is quoted as saying,

"This ... is a significant case. The claims presented by this bakery are claims for a constitutional right, be it rooted in speech or religion, to discriminate. ... The claims advanced in the case have significant implications for public accommodations, as well as for claims to a right to invoke religion. It’s in no means about a cake. This (is) a question about whether you can use religion or speech to turn somebody away; whether you can use those principles as a way to discriminate and undermine anti-discrimination [state] laws [and city ordinances]."

My first thought was what would some Christians think if they started seeing signs in windows that said "Christians Not Welcomed Here"? Some Christians seem to have the need to be reminded of the Golden Rule, one variation of which states: "Do not do to others, what you would not like them to do to you."

My second thought was that having the right to do something doesn’t mean that it is the right thing to do!

My third thought was that maybe it is time that "good people", "people of good faith", who are business owners, should put up a sign on their front doors saying:

"We Don’t Discriminate, ALL are Welcome Here."

People who aren’t business owners can take signs around to the places where they do business and ask if they will post the sign on their front door.

Perhaps it is time for a boycott of those businesses that claim they have the right to discriminate.

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Some related essays and sections on this web site that may interest you:

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "All are welcome" sign downloaded from http://allarewelcomeposter.org
  2. "All are welcome here" sign downloaded from https://www.allarewelcomehereposter.com/
  3. , "It’s Not About Cake: Anti-Gay Vendors Want a Constitutional Right to Discriminate," Religion Dispatches, 2017-JUL-26, at: http://religiondispatches.org/

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Author: Susan Humphreys
Originally posted on: 2017-OCT-

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