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Religious Tolerance logo

U.S. Supreme Court lawsuit: A baker
refuses to make a gay wedding cake.
Conflict over Attorney General's meeting
with the Alliance Defending Freedom.
Justice Department opposes Colorado's
human rights law.

Part 2 of two parts.

 

marriage

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This topic is continued here from the previous essay

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The potential impact of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling:

The eventual ruling by the High Court could have a profound affect on potential customers' freedom from discrimination by public accommodations throughout the U.S. and most all of the six U.S. territories on the basis of the customer's disability status, race, creed, color, sex, marital status, national origin, ancestry and perhaps other grounds, including sexual orientation and gender identity. Public accommodations could refuse to sell goods and services to Catholics, women, divorced people, unmarried people, blacks, etc.

The core question to be answered by the U.S. Supreme Court is whether the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

  • Only protects religious beliefs, religious assembly, religious speech, and proselytizing, or

  • Whether it also protects the rights of an owner of a public accommodation to apply her or his religious beliefs by discriminating against potential customers.

Adam Liptak, writing for the New York Times, said:

"The Supreme Court’s decision, expected next year (2018-JUN), will again take the justices into a heated battle in the culture wars. On one side are gay and lesbian couples who say they are entitled to equal treatment from businesses that choose to serve the general public. On the other are religious people and companies who say the government should not force them to choose between the requirements of their faiths and their livelihoods." 8

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SPLC, ABC News, and NBC News articles generate controversy:

The Southern Poverty Law Center [SPLC] monitors anti-semitic, anti-LGBT, white supremacist, terrorist, and similar groups throughout the U.S. They have an article on their web site that describes the Alliance Defending Freedom -- the legal defense group representing the defendants in the Colorado bakery case. They refer to it as an "extremist group," with an "Anti-LGBT ideology," and state:

"Founded by some 30 leaders of the Christian Right, the Alliance Defending Freedom is a legal advocacy and training group that specializes in supporting the recriminalization of homosexuality abroad, ending same-sex marriage, and generally making life as difficult as possible for LGBT communities in the U.S. and internationally. ... Using its international platforms, the ADF works with policymakers and other organizations to outlaw abortion, deny equality and marriage to LGBT people worldwide, and continue to push for a hard-right Christian theocratic world view that is reflected in legislation and policies." 11

During 2017-APR, Heidi Beirich, speaking for the SPLC, told NBC News that her group had good reason when it classified ADF as a hate group. She said:

"We don’t put a group on the hate list because they are against gay marriage. Where the rubber hits the road is when ADF attorneys engage in model legislation and litigation that attacks the LGBT community." 12

Pete Madden & Erin Galloway wrote an article on the ABC News web site that was titled:

"[Attorney General] Jeff Sessions addresses 'anti-LGBT hate group but DOJ won't release his remarks." 11

They said:

"Sessions addressed members of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which was designated an 'anti-LGBT hate group' by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2016, at the Summit on Religious Liberty at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, in Dana Point, California. ..."

"In a recent blog post on its website titled 'Hate-group labelers are the ones spreading hate,' the Alliance Defending Freedom called the Southern Poverty Law Center’s 'hate group' designation a:

'... lie. We at ADF condemn all such manifestations of true hate. ... They have no place in our society.'

According to David Dinielli -- the deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s LGBT Rights Project -- the label for the ADF is 'rightfully earned,' and the speech raises questions about whether Sessions will uphold laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination.

"How can we trust that the nation’s top law enforcement officer will protect all Americans when he’s willing to meet behind closed doors with a group that supports criminalizing homosexuality and marginalizing LGBT people around the world?'

If Attorney General Jeff Sessions doesn’t condone such beliefs, he should immediately make his remarks to the group public and be prepared to defend them. The LGBT community — as well as all [other] Americans — needs to know if he is capable of upholding our country’s fundamental promise of equal protection under the law' ..."

The speech also prompted a statement from Democratic National Committee spokesman Joel Kasnetz condemning the Alliance Defending Freedom and Sessions’ choice to address it.

'You can judge a person by the company they keep, and tonight Attorney General Jeff Sessions is choosing to spend his time speaking in front of one of the country’s leading anti-LGBTQ hate groups. The Alliance Defending Freedom actively helped draft discriminatory legislation, worked to preserve laws criminalizing same-sex relations and attacked the separation of church and state. ADF has been previously designated a hate group, and Sessions’ appearance at this event, as the top law enforcement official in the country, brings in to question whether the attorney general intends to protect [the freedom of] all Americans'." 10

Tré Goins-Phillips, writing for The Blaze," a conservative Christian media outlet, said:

"The Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian nonprofit dedicated to defending 'religious freedom, sanctity of life, and marriage and family,' is demanding an apology and a retraction from ABC News after the network labeled it a 'hate group'..."

"In response to the ABC News story, the ADF is calling out Madden and Golloway for 'journalistic malpractice,' slamming the reporters for using 'false charges against Alliance Defending Freedom by a radically partisan, violence-inciting organization like Southern Poverty Law Center' in their story'.

'Americans' trust in media is cratering, and the blatant bias and lack of professionalism that ABC attempted to pass off as news can only serve to confirm and intensify that distrust,' ADF spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement. 'Southern Poverty Law Center spends its time and money attacking veterans, nuns, Muslims who oppose terrorism, Catholics, Evangelicals, and anyone else who dares disagree with its fringe ideology'." 9

NBC News published a similar story and was also criticized. 12

Richard Cohen, the president of the Southern Poverty Law Center issued a statement on 2017-JUL-13, stating:

The Alliance Defending Freedom spreads demonizing lies about the LGBT community in this country and seeks to criminalize it abroad. If the ADF had its way, gay people would be back in the closet for fear of going to jail.  It was inappropriate for Attorney General Sessions to lend his credibility to the group by appearing before it, and it was ironic that he would suggest that the rights of ADF sympathizers are under attack when the ADF is doing everything in its power to deny the equal protection of the laws to the LGBT community." 14

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Few media outlets seem to discuss the Golden Rule when covering cases similar to the Masterpiece Cakeshop's refusal:

The Golden Rule -- formally called the Ethic of Reciprocity -- is a core belief of Christians as well as all other main religious groups. It basically says that a person should treat others as she or he would wish to be treated.

The Christian Scriptures (New Testament) contain two quotations by their founder, Jesus of Nazareth, that require obedience by Christians to this rule. In the King James Version:

  • Matthew 7:12 states: "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets."
  • Luke 6:31 states: "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise."

This website has quotations from more than 20 other world religions that promote the Golden Rule.

Nobody, who is planning a wedding, wants to be refused service when they try to purchase a custom wedding cake for their reception, or to rent a venue, or obtain the services of a professional photographer. The Golden Rule would seem to indicate that if the owner of a public accommodation belongs to the Jewish, Christian, Muslim or any other major faith, then they should try to accomodate the wishes of all of their customers and sell then the goods or services that they are requesting. Such a policy would also be helpful financially because it would tend to increase company sales and avoid fines.

Curiously, the Golden Rule does not seem to be a major factor in media accounts of this type of discrimination by public accomodations. A brief Google search turned up no references in at least the first pages of results.

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2017-SEP-07: The federal Department of Justice filed a brief supporting Colorado baker:

Entering the epic battle before the U.S. Supreme Court between individual human rights and the religious freedom to discriminate, the federal Department of Justice filed a brief before the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of the religious freedom to discriminate. The government agrees with the owner of the bakery, Jack Phillips, that his custom cakes are a form of expression, and that he cannot be compelled to use his talents to create someting that he opposes on religious grounds. In the brief, Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey B. Wall wrote:

"Forcing Phillips to create expression for and participate in a ceremony that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs invades his First Amendment rights." 15

A brief video by the Washington Post discusses the fundamental aspects of the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission lawsuit:

 15

Steven Petro of the Washington Post interviewed Jim Obergefell, the main plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court case, Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized gay marriages in mid-2015:

 15

Louise Melling, the deputy legal counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the couple, said that the Trump administration is trying to create a:

"... constitutional right to discriminate. This Justice Department has already made its hostility to the rights of LGBT people and so many others crystal clear. But this brief was shocking, even for this administration. We are confident that the Supreme Court will rule on the side of equal rights just as the lower courts have." 16

The article in the Washington Post from which the above quote was extracted, received 3,630 comments froom readers in the first three days!

There have been about a dozen cases similar to the "Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission" case. Most seem to have involved bakers and wedding cakes for gay marriages. But this is the first to be accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court. Their ruling will have a profound effect on the scope of religious freedom in the United States. It will decide whether companies can violate human rights laws and ordinances by discriminating against others on religious grounds. In other words, does the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantee only the freedom of religious belief, speech, assembly, and proselytizing, or does it also include the religious freedom to violate human rights laws and ordinances, and to discriminate against others.

In essence, their decision will determine which part of the U.S. Constitution rules in these cases: the First Amendment that generates religious freedom, or the 14th Amendment that guarantees equal treatment.

No matter how the High Court rules, their decision will have a major impact on U.S. culture, and the treatment of people of different races, genders, skin colors, national origin, marital statuses, sexual orientation, gender identities, etc..

We predict a 5 to 4 decision by the court -- the same as it once ruled for the legalization of same-gender consensual sexual behavior, and gay marriage. The ruling is expected to be announced during 2018-JUN. A lot hangs in the balance.

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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. Adam Liptak, "Justices to Hear Case on Religious Objections to Same-Sex Marriage," New York Times, 2017-JUN-26, at: https://www.nytimes.com/
  2. "24-34-601. Discrimination in places of public accommodation - definition," Colorado, at: http://www.lpdirect.net/
  3. Roger Parloff, "Christian Bakers, Gay Weddings, and a Question for the Supreme Court ," The New Yorker, 2017-MAR-06, at: http://www.newyorker.com/
  4. "Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission," Alliance Defending Freedom, 2017, at: https://www.adflegal.org/
  5. "Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission," SCOTUSblog, as on 2017-JUN-27, at: http://www.scotusblog.com/
  6. Image of a wedding cake for a lesbian couple unrelated to the Colorado case. Downloaded from Pixabay. Status: CC0 Public Domain.
  7. "Is virgin birth possible? Yes (unless you are a mammal)," The Conversation, 2015-DEC-17, at: http://theconversation.com/
  8. Adam Liptak, "Justices to Hear Case on Religious Objections to Same-Sex Marriage," New York Times, 2017-JUN-26, at: https://www.nytimes.com/
  9. Tré Goins-Phillips, "ABC News smears prominent Christian nonprofit as ‘hate group’ in recent article," The Blaze, 2017-JUL-14, at: http://www.theblaze.com/
  10. Pete Madden & Erin Galloway, "Jeff Sessions addresses 'anti-LGBT hate group,' but DOJ won't release his remarks," ABC News, 2017-JUN-12, at: http://abcnews.go.com/
  11. "Alliance Defending Freedom," Southern Poverty Law Center, undated, at: https://www.splcenter.org/
  12. "Attorney General Jeff Sessions Criticized for Speaking to ‘Hate Group’," NBC News, 2017-JUL-12, at: http://www.nbcnews.com/
  13. "Questions that Jack Phillips should have been asked," The Slowly Boiled Frog, 2017-JUL-11, at: http://www.slowlyboiledfrog.com/
  14. Richard Cohen, "Statement on Alliance Defending Freedom's attack on SPLC and ABC News." Southern Poverty Law Center, 2017-JUL-13, at: https://www.splcenter.org/
  15. Robert Barnes, "In major Supreme Court case, Justice Dept. sides with baker who refused to make wedding cake for gay couple," 2017-SEP-07, at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/
  16. David G. Savage, "Trump lawyers urge Supreme Court to rule for Colorado cake maker who turned away gay couple," Chicago Tribune, 2017-SEP-10, at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/
  17. Image by Zipnon. CC0 Creative Commons, downloaded from Pixabay.com

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Copyright © Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Author: B.A. Robinson
Latest update: 2017-SEP-10

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