Religious discrimination or gender discrimination?
We have all read about the baker or photographer who refuses to serve gay boyfriends. In the clash of sincere beliefs of “right and wrong”, someone will be hurt. One such case will be decided in 2017-18 by the US Supreme Court.
A Colorado baker refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple based on his religious convictions that same-sex marriage is a sin, and he shouldn’t be forced to implicitly express his approval of marriage by preparing an article. [the cake, and quite likely, the message written on the cake] celebrating marriage. The Colorado court ruled in favor of the gay couple. The baker’s cake is now served on appeal to the Supreme Court.
Religious discrimination can depend on how you look at it.
Society’s views on the right of homosexuals to same-sex marriage has changed rapidly throughout the decade. This rate of cultural change is amazing. California, for example, went from a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to people of the opposite sex to being required by the Supreme Court of its state to allow such marriages. The United States Supreme Court later ruled that the due process clause and the 14th Amendment to the federal Constitution restricted states from denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Obergefell c. Hodges, 576 United States ___ (2015).
Is a wedding cake an expression of belief that, if forced, would be a violation of the baker’s religious freedom under the First Amendment? Judge William Brennan in Sherbert v. Verner (1963) stated: “The door to the Free Exercise Clause remains firmly closed against any government regulation of religious beliefs. The government cannot enforce the assertion of a disgusting belief, penalize or discriminate against individuals or groups for holding religious views abhorrent to the authorities, or use the power to impose taxes to inhibit the spread of a particular religious opinion.. “
The Baker [Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado] He claims that he sees the use of his cakes as messages and that some messages violate his religious beliefs. He has written: “And that rule applies to much more than just cakes celebrating same-sex marriages. Nor will I use my talents to celebrate Halloween, anti-American or anti-family issues, atheism, racism or indecency. ” The Denver Post .
The photography and wedding cake cases are distinguished from the blatant homophobic bias by the “expressive” message that the writing and / or images project. Entrepreneurs who refuse to create these expressions do so because the expression is the antithesis of their religious beliefs. Likewise, their religious belief is the antithesis of those who are denied the goods or services that companies provide.
Religious discrimination or religious freedom ?: Difficult questions for the court.
Rights collide in a democratic society. The right to freedom of expression collides with public safety when it is certain that speech will cause chaos and death to innocent people. The right to “bear arms” is limited by laws that require the registration of weapons after a background check. The current dispute over the “wedding cake” will require the court to balance two conflicting social values: the freedom to marry and the freedom of religion.
The Supreme Court has returned to the role of referee in a social battle that raises numerous questions:
- Is the icing on the cake a form of expression imposed by the government contrary to the religious freedom of the baker?
- Is the icing on the cake the baker’s expression of approval of gay marriage, or just a product specification that he provides for the buyer to express?
- Is the icing on the cake offensive to the baker insofar as it constitutes an attack on his religious convictions?
- Is the icing on the cake available from other bakers who don’t have the same religious convictions as Phillips?
- What religious beliefs deserve First Amendment protection, and which ones will be considered unconstitutional?
- What religious practices does a free democratic society decide as forms of illegal discrimination?
In addressing these questions, the United States Supreme Court will have to decide whether the icing on the cake is a form of speech that unduly restricts Phillips’ freedom of religion. Is Phillips correct that he is somehow forced to approve of gay marriage by preparing a wedding cake? Is the act of applying a message on a cake your adoption of the message as your own? Your baked participation in a ceremony that you find repugnant to your religious conviction? Disgust and loathing seem to be in full supply on both sides of the case. When the Court makes the call, there will be boos from one side or the other within the stadium of ideas.