Article  Human Dignity  Life  Marriage and Family  Religious Liberty  Religious Liberty

Colorado court strikes another blow to religious freedom in America

In the continual battle pitting religious liberty against sexual freedom, an appeals court in Colorado issued a ruling yesterday against Jack Phillips, a Christian baker who objected to making a cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony on the grounds that such an action conflicts with his sincere Christian convictions on marriage. The court declared that Phillips’ religious liberty claim could not be used to deny baking a same-sex wedding cake.

The appeals court decided this case incorrectly and by doing so, continues to undermine religious liberty in America. Furthermore, the ruling bolsters the absolutist mindset of activist LBGT groups that rely on coercion and the denial of pluralism to advance their agenda of conformity-or-else. Requiring all citizens to support same-sex marriage and punishing those who do not comply—whether in private or public capacity—is not a move that allows for true diversity and freedom to flourish. According to a recent poll, 59 percent of Americans are opposed to denying religious freedom in instances in cases involving photographers and florists who object to using their services for same-sex ceremonies. And for good reason: Religious freedom is at the heart of all other freedoms. The ruling like the one issued in Colorado is the not the product of a country where personal freedom is given room to settle matters without recourse to litigation.

As David Harsanyi writes at The Federalist, it is worth observing what Jack Phillips didn’t do:

He didn’t query costumers about their sexual preferences. He didn’t bar same-sex couples from purchasing a cake at a place of public accommodation. He didn’t ask consumers traveling in same-sex pairs to leave his shop. He didn’t hang a ‘No Gays Allowed’ sign in his window.

Let’s be very clear: Phillips in no way engaged in any form of discrimination. Under politicized and highly subjective categories of “sexual orientation,” the full weight of the law is being used to punish Phillips for doing no wrong. He didn’t deny service on the grounds of the plaintiffs’ homosexuality. Refusing service has nothing to do with the status of the plaintiff’s relationship. Instead, refusing service because the complicity of what the plaintiffs asked of Phillips is entirely appropriate.

Additionally, as Harsanyi rightly observes, the appeals court played the part of mind reader and stepped into the arena of refereeing theological claims by deciding what is or isn’t a legitimate claim of religious conviction and concern. Sincere claims that bother the conscience is not for the authority of any court to decide, as Justice Alito noted in the 2014 Hobby Lobby decision.

Those praising the court’s ruling do so on the grounds that refusing service for a same-sex wedding ceremony is tantamount to a regime of systemic discrimination. This is resoundingly false. No laws deny gay individuals access to public goods. Had they allowed for diverse viewpoints, the plaintiffs in this situation could have taken the honorable route and taken their money to a bakery that has no religious or moral conflict in helping provide services for a same-sex wedding ceremony.

The principle of coercion that the court and liberals unwittingly adopt in arguments like these undermine the very notion of freedom. Where does it stop? Should a talented marketing agency owned by an LGBT individual be required to make marketing materials for a biblical marriage rally? Of course not. Should a Muslim web developer be required to his or her web developing skills to build a website for a pornographer? Absolutely not. But because same-sex marriage enjoys privileged political status, no court is willing to step in and make accurate truth claims about suspect legal categories, the nature of religious liberty, and personal freedom.

Tolerance has become a leftist synonym for coercion, and activists and employing these words in hopes that repeated use of it will cudgel citizens into compliance. What must be done at this point is simple: Refuse to comply with the newfound orthodoxy. Dare to tell the truth about marriage. Dare to assert the timeless truth that men and women are different. Defend Jack Phillips against an encroaching state that plays politics with constitutional protections. Insist upon the rights of religious freedom—especially in the face of bad court rulings.

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