Tag: Religious Liberty

Recipe for a Wedding Cake

 

In his famous poem “Ozymandias,” Percy Bysshe Shelley describes the head of the tyrant’s statue lying in the desert sand:

Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

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Let Them Bake Cake

 

Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips.
In its 2015 decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Colorado Court of Appeals unanimously ruled in favor of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which sanctioned Jack Phillips, a devout Christian and the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, for violating the Colorado Antidiscrimination Laws (CADA). His offense: refusing for sincere religious reasons to prepare a custom-made wedding cake for Charlie Craig and David Mullins, a gay couple. His insistence that he enjoyed the First Amendment protections of freedom of religion and speech were roundly rebuffed—as were similar claims in the 2013 New Mexico decision in Elane Photography, LLC v. Willock and the 2017 Washington decision in State of Washington v. Arlene’s Florists, Inc. The Commission then ordered Phillips “to take remedial measures, including comprehensive staff training and alteration to the company’s policies to ensure compliance with CADA.”

So Phillips had to submit to the state’s regulations if he wished to remain in business. But why this compulsory re-education program? Phillips does not insist that Colorado limit marriage solely to unions between one man and one woman. He only resists providing them services that go against his religious conscience. He routinely supplies his gay and lesbian customers with off-the-rack items for use in same-sex marriages. And he has courteously directed his gay and lesbian customers to other establishments that supply services for same-sex weddings. Phillips thus tolerates and accommodates the practices of others with which he does not agree. But the Colorado Commission decidedly does neither.

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This Chaos Without Tradition

 

New “traditions” are entrenching themselves in America. Spontaneous one-man Civil Rights movements and the desecration of historical monuments have become authoritative expressions of the character and legacy of our society. Of course, these are not real “traditions.” They are the product of the fiery passion of democracy, the ardor of Jacobin fiends who have redefined what it means to be American. This is the chaos of a country without Tradition.

Tradition is a gift–an inheritance handed down over generations and not particular to any one person, family, or nation. It includes the mores of ancestors, and their heroes and holidays (as we had in this week’s Columbus Day) that express shared historical foundations. Tradition addresses the little things, like the proper attire at an evening party, even as it maintains great institutions, like the family, marriage, and religion. Though it cannot be explained by pure reason and logic, Tradition is in harmony with Nature, allowing us to better understand man’s origins and the world around us.

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The Supreme Court’s Playground Scrape

 

A recent Supreme Court decision sheds light on an important tension in the religious clauses of the First Amendment of the Constitution. In Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, a church’s application for a grant from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to resurface its playground with poured rubber made from recycled tires was turned down solely because of the church’s status as a religious institution. The Missouri DNR held that it was bound by this provision of the Missouri Constitution:

That no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, or denomination of religion, or in aid of any priest, preacher, minister or teacher thereof, as such; and that no preference shall be given to nor any discrimination made against any church, sect or creed of religion, or any form of religious faith or worship.

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David French of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America celebrate the Supreme Court decision that upheld a portion of President Trump’s travel ban, overturning lower court rulings. They also applaud the SCOTUS decision in favor of Trinity Lutheran Church against the State of Missouri in a religious liberty case. And they question Pride Month’s “inclusivity” as LGBT members of the Jewish community are ejected from a Chicago pride march for having the Star of David on a rainbow flag.

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Spiritual Success and Repealing the Johnson Amendment

 

President Trump declared his desire to do everything in his power to protect religious liberty in a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast. The beginning was rather brash, as he declared his desire to attend for “the next seven years,” which earned him some laughs. After being introduced by a friend from The Apprentice, the president asked for prayers for Arnold Schwarzenegger, his less-than-successful successor on the show. He then he turned serious. After explaining how his mother taught him from the family Bible, he spoke of the importance of “spiritual success” over material success.

He declared his desire to overturn the 1954 Johnson Amendment, which effectively silenced minsters from speaking out on political matters through provisions in the tax code. This is not the first time Trump has called for its repeal. For example, he spoke about it in an interview with EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo last summer. And the Atlantic reported on it in August.

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The Darker Side of “Civility”: Or, After the Hangover of the Al Smith Dinner

 

Al-Smith-DinnerThe hangover from last week’s surreal edition of the Al Smith Dinner is finally wearing off, and things still look ugly. Host Timothy Cardinal Dolan says it was an “awkward” meeting between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, who shared a dais with Dolan at the old televised dinner raising money for New York Catholic charities. Yes, obviously awkward, Your Eminence, but wasn’t it a tad awkward for you to be there, too?

Wasn’t it especially awkward for Your Eminence when Hillary, opponent of all that is Catholic (except liberal Jesuit heresy) said, “We need to get better at finding ways to disagree on matters of policy while agreeing on questions of decency and civility?” Dolan instead would agree, as he responded to calls to permanently cancel the dinner by saying, “nothing can ruin the event” as it is “America and the Church at their best.” Dolan is gravely wrong.

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The Government’s Civil Rights Bullies

 

Microsoft Word - 20160908 Peaceful Coexistence 1pmEarlier this month, the US Commission on Civil Rights issued its report Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties. The report, which was occasioned in part by the same-sex marriage debate, tries to determine the correct relationship between antidiscrimination laws and the First Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion. Currently, persons of religious faith have been legally charged with discrimination under state antidiscrimination laws for refusing to provide their individualized services to same-sex couples because they sincerely believe that marriage is a relationship existing only between one man and one woman. The question is: should they be granted a religious exemption?

The report’s title, Peaceful Coexistence, conveys, perhaps unintentionally, a grim social reality in the United States. Historically, of course, it described the uneasy relationship between the US and the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. In that context, the phrase described how two nations, organized under radically different principles, could avoid the dangers of mutual annihilation through nuclear warfare.

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Arizona AG 7, Freedom from Religion Foundation 0

 

Packer-PopeThe head of an Arizona agency visited France a few months ago, and offered to take employees’ “special intentions” on his visit to the Catholic holy site of Lourdes. Department of Economic Security Director Tim Jeffries’ email noted that he is a member of the Order of Malta, which is focused on “global works for the poor and the sick” and asked employees to reply with their intentions if they were comfortable doing so.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation (headquarted in Madison, WI, because of course they are) was deeply offended by the director’s kind offer and declared it a violation of the First Amendment (PDF).

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Religious Liberty Under Siege in Mississippi

 

Religious LibertyLast month, Judge Carlton W. Reeves of the Northern District of Mississippi handed down an extraordinarily misguided decision in Barber v. Bryant by issuing a preliminary injunction against House Bill 1523, Mississippi’s newly passed religious liberty law, just minutes before it was to go into effect. The court found that House Bill 1523 likely denied the plaintiffs—a diverse group of supporters of same-sex marriage—their rights under Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, and, furthermore, established preferred religious beliefs, violating the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. Phil Bryant, the governor of Mississippi, has filed papers in the Court of Appeals to dissolve that temporary injunction. State Attorney General Jim Hood has declined to join in that defense of the Mississippi law. As someone who gave some brief advice and encouragement to Mississippi’s appellate lawyers, I think that their motion should be granted, given the major points of principle that it raises.

To put matters in context, HB 1523 was the latest effort to provide explicit protection of religious liberty and moral conscience for those individuals who are opposed to same-sex marriage. At no point does the legislation limit the right of any person to participate in a same-sex marriage, which would be an obvious nonstarter given Obergefell v. Hodges, a highly dubious Supreme Court decision, which held that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed that right to all persons. House Bill 1523 does not seek to dislodge or compromise that decision. Indeed, it would have been dead on arrival if it had attempted any such maneuver. But as is often the case, no one quite understands the scope of a particular constitutional right until its correlative duties are accurately specified.

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