The Supreme Court conducted oral arguments in the case concerning the owner of a Colorado bakery who claims his Christian faith forbids him from using his business to celebrate same-sex weddings. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission fined the baker, Jack Phillips, and “ordered Jack and his staff to design cakes for same-sex wedding celebrations, go through a ‘re-education’ program, implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and file quarterly ‘compliance’ reports for two years to show that Jack has completely eliminated his religious beliefs from his business.” Jack Phillips should have a sympathetic hearing from President Trump's nominee, Neil Gorsuch. What justice Phillips can expect from Justice Anthony Kennedy is anyone's guess. While Kennedy has ruled in favor of religious institutions recently, he has voted against Christian principles concerning same-sex marriage. HT: BreakPoint Some conservatives were encouraged by Kennedy's questions during oral arguments. At least one conservative writer, Peter Sprigg, of the Family Research Council (FRC), was pleasantly surprised by a line of questioning by Justice Elena Kagin. Here are the four main points made by Jack Phillip's lawyers to the Justices of the Supreme Court. His lawyers are affiliated with Alliance Defending Freedom.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) successfully defended a client in a case similar to Jack Phillips'. Amy Lawson is a photographer living in Wisconsin, providing photographic and video services for individuals and organizations. Amy is a Christian. The stated purpose for her business is to “capture and convey beautiful, pure, and true moments in ways that help us stop, see, and savor the light God has given us.” Many of her projects celebrate the biblical view of marriage as well as the right to life for those yet to be born. Her website stated that she would not photograph same-sex marriages. She removed the statement for fear of being sued for violating the law. But it was too late. Someone brought suit against her based on laws forbidding discrimination in public accommodations, even though her business doesn't have a physical location. Had she lost, she would have faced severe penalties from both the city of Madison and the state. "If Amy violates the Madison law, she can be punished with an injunction, out of pocket expenses, economic and noneconomic damages, costs, attorney’s fees, and a civil fine up to $500 per day...If Amy violates the Wisconsin law, she can be punished with out-of-pocket expenses, costs, attorney fees, cease and desist orders, re-education training, revocation of her business license, and a fine up to $1000 for first time violators, and up to $10,000 for repeat violators. Also, if she violates the Wisconsin law, anyone can sue her and obtain injunctive relief, damages (including punitive damages), costs, and attorney’s fees." (ADF post) However, justice was done in her case. A state court sided with her. ADF's senior counsel commented on the decision: “The court’s announcement has important implications for everyone in Wisconsin who values artistic freedom. It means that government officials must allow creative professionals without storefronts anywhere in the city and state the freedom to make their own decisions about which ideas they will use their artistic expression to promote. The court found—and the city and state have now agreed—that such professionals cannot be punished under public accommodation laws for exercising their artistic freedom because those laws simply don’t apply to them. No one should be threatened with punishment for having views that the government doesn’t favor.” (ADF)
Let's pray that Barronelle Stutzman is as successful as Amy Lawson in defending her right to conduct her business according to her Christian beliefs. Barronelle is a floral designer in Washington state who informed a long time customer that she couldn't contribute her services to his same-sex wedding. The State Attorney General heard about it on social media and brought suit against her. The Attorney General admits that her services fall under the umbrella of free speech. Yet he claims that the state has the power to compel her to proclaim a message she doesn't believe in. Her case will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. If she loses there, her four year legal battle will claim everything she has since she is being sued not only in her professional capacity, but also in her personal capacity. ADF is defending her as well. Be sure to see the short video about her at the first link in this paragraph.
ADF is also defending a Wyoming judge who because of her Christian beliefs will not perform same-sex marriages. The judge is charged with violating the Wyoming Code of Judicial Conduct. (HT: Religion Clause blog)
Last October, the Trump administration issued a memo highlighting its policies on Church/State issues. Here is a Christianity Today article clarifying what these policies are. Christian conservatives can be optimistic about some Trump policies concerning religious freedom. But as this article demonstrates, not all the President's policies are in line with theirs. Here is another article from Peter Sprigg, this one on the administration's exemption of religious employers from the Obamacare mandate requiring employers to provide free birth control to their employees.