They’ve targeted bakers for refusing to promote same-sex weddings – one incendiary member of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission even compared a cake artist to ****s and slave owners.
They’ve attacked county clerks for the same reason. And photographers. And videographers. And calligraphers. And venue owners. And many more people.
But now there’s indication that the Supreme Court may be drawing a line.
The high court has refused to intervene in a case regarding a Mississippi state law that protects from retaliation or punishment of people who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman, that gender is determined at birth and that sex is reserved for married couples.
The court’s decision not to intervene left standing a ruling from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that said the complainants didn’t have standing, meaning they didn’t suffer a specific injury.
The complaint was brought against the state’s Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, signed into law in April 2016.
A federal district court blocked the law’s implementation, but the 5th Circuit allowed it to take effect, and now the Supreme Court’s decision not to intervene leaves the law in place.
The law “protects citizens, public servants, businesses, and religious institutions from government reprisal for operating publicly according to their belief that marriage is reserved for one man and one woman, that sexual activity is intended only for married couples, and that one’s biological sex cannot change.”
It overrules municipal “fairness” ordinances that demand religious business owners promote homosexuality in violation of their faith.
Had such a law been enacted in Oregon, state officials would have been unable to fine the bakery Sweet Cakes by Melissa $135,000 for refusing to promote same-sex marriage.
The fine effectively was a death penalty for the bakery, forcing it to go out of business.
The Supreme Court’s decision not to intervene in the Mississippi case could signal how it will rule in the case brought by Jack Phillips’ Masterpiece Cakeshop, which was fined by Colorado for declining to provide a same-sex wedding cake.
“Good laws like Mississippi’s protect freedom and harm no one,” said Kevin Theriot, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom.
The group was part of the team defending Mississippi’s law.
“The 5th Circuit was right to find that those opposing this law haven’t been harmed and, therefore, can’t try to take it down. Because of that, we are pleased that the Supreme Court declined to take up these baseless challenges, which misrepresented the law’s sole purpose of ensuring that Mississippians don’t live in fear of losing their careers or their businesses simply for affirming marriage as a husband-wife union,” he said.
for others by ensuring dissenters are left open to the government discrimination that has already occurred in states without protective laws like this one,” Theriot explained.
The 5th Circuit opinion explained that the state law protects people “who act in accordance with” their religious beliefs.
It also permits the law to be used “as a defense in private suits over conduct covered by the statute.”
While providing protections for religious organizations, parents, doctors and mental health counselors, it also protects businesses “that offer wedding-related services … if they decline to provide them on a basis of a … belief.”
Sex-specific facilities such as locker rooms are addressed, and county clerks and judges cannot be “compelled to license or celebrate marriages that are inconsistent with a sincerely held … belief.'”
The ruling, however, said standing is required, and because “the challengers have failed to provide sufficient evidence of an injury-in-fact … they have not made a clear showing of standing.”
The Colorado Civil Rights Commission took Phillips to task after two homosexuals demanded he use his artistry to create a wedding cake for them, even though same-sex marriage was not legal in the state at the time.
While the homosexuals argued that the state can force businesses to create a product with any message a customer desires, ADF pointed out the same commission that is punishing Phillips exonerating three other “cake artists who refused to express religious messages” with which they disagreed. The rejected messages were all Christian messages.
“Had the commission applied the same rationale to those artists that it applied to Phillips, it would have punished them too. After all, [the law] forbids refusing service because of religious beliefs, and those cake artists admitted that they declined the requests because of the religious beliefs expressed on the cakes,” the organization said in its brief.
The state of Colorado even claimed that Bible verses to which the discriminatory but unpunished bakers objected are not “closely associated” with religion.
The state commission’s antagonism to Christian beliefs became evident at the outset of the case, when one member, Diann Rice, publicly exhibited bias against Phillips during a hearing, comparing him to a ****.
“I would also like to reiterate what we said in the hearing or the last meeting,” Rice said during consideration of Phillips’ case. “Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the Holocaust, whether it be – I mean, we – we can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use to – to use their religion to hurt others.”
Hear a recording of Rice’s statement: