A Superior Court judge in Arizona has adopted the position that “gay” rights outweigh the First Amendment’s protection for the “free exercise of religion” in a key case that could add printers and a wide range of other service providers to the cake bakers, photographers and venues already being ordered to provide homosexual wedding services even if it violates the owners’ faith.
The preliminary decision comes from Karen Mullins in a fight over a Phoenix ordinance that specifies that businesses cannot make decisions based on their Christian faith when it comes to homosexual wedding services.
WND has documented the multitude of similar cases involving those other businesses, Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado, Melissa’s Sweetcakes in Oregon and the like.
WND also reported just days ago that the Obama administration long has been forcing Christians and others of faith to violate their beliefs to accommodate “nondiscrimination” laws that give special privileges to homosexuals and transgendered persons, and now a federal commission has proposed codifying the practice.
It was in a new report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that said state and federal laws should be changed to provide that “gay” rights trump the religious rights protected in the Constitution.
It even pointed out that the Constitution was hindering what the government wants to impose on religious people.
The agency’s recent report, “Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties,” gets immediately to the point.
Religion ‘infringes’ on civil rights
On the first of 306 pages, the “letter of transmittal” to Barack Obama states, “Religious exemptions to the protections of civil rights based upon classifications such as race, color, national origin, sex, disability status, sexual orientation, and gender identity, when they are permissible, significantly infringe upon these civil rights.”
It says the fault lies with the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which “constricts the ability of government actors to curtail private citizens’ rights to the protections of nondiscrimination laws and policies.”
“Although the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act … limit the ability of government actors to impede individuals from practicing their religious beliefs, religious exemptions from nondiscrimination laws and policies must be weighed carefully and defined narrowly on a fact-specific basis,” states the letter.
The letter, based on hundreds of pages of arguments compiled for the past three years, says the commission believes “overly-broad religious exemptions unduly burden nondiscrimination laws and policies.”
“Federal and state courts, lawmakers, and policy-makers at every level must tailor religious exceptions to civil liberties and civil rights protections as narrowly as applicable law requires.”
Now in the Arizona case, in which two artists, at Brush & Nib Studio, are challenging a Phoenix ordinance mandating their participation artistically in “gay” weddings, the judge refused a preliminary injunction to halt enforcement of the ordinance, but also refused to dismiss the case.
Which leaves the decision preliminary, but still alarming.
Jonathan Scruggs, of the Alliance Defending Freedom, representing the artists, said, “Artists shouldn’t be threatened with jail time and other penalties simply for making art that is consistent with their beliefs. That’s why we asked the court to suspend enforcement of the Phoenix ordinance against our clients while their case goes forward. Because the city must allow artists the freedom to make personal decisions about what art they will and will not create, and because the ordinance’s additional requirement that artists stay quiet about their views is clearly unjust and unlawful, we intend to appeal the court’s decision.”
Mullins said of the artists’ concerns about being ordered to use their artistry to promote “gay” weddings, “The case here, however, does not involve religious activity as contemplated by the Free Exercise Clause. Thus the court need not examine whether the asserted state interest justifies the ‘burden’ imposed, because the plaintiffs in this case have failed to assert even an incidental burden on the exercise of their religion.”
The judge opined, “The requirement under the ordinance that plaintiffs transact business without regard to sexual orientation is not sufficient to create a Free Exercise Clause violation. … The sale of wedding invitations free of the names of same-sex couples clearly is not the exercise of religion, and certainly is not a burden on the free exercise of their religion.
“Nothing about the ordinance has prevented the plaintiffs from participating in the customs of their religious beliefs or has burdend the practice of their religion in any way.”
The nonprofit legal group Liberty Counsel earlier called the federal commission’s recommendations “a shocking example of the war against religious freedom in America.”
“The commission’s report is a shameful anti-American and anti-God document that trashes religious freedom,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel.
Liberty Counsel chief Mathew Staver charge the commission’s chairman, Democrat Martin Castro, is “out of touch with reality and with our Constitution.”
“He and the other members of the commission who agree with him want to throw out the First Amendment and trash religious freedom whenever faith and practice collides with an intolerant LGBT agenda,” Staver said. “The report is a declaration of war against religious freedom. George Washington said anyone who works against the twin pillars of religion and morality cannot be called a ‘Patriot.’ This report is un-American.”
Commissioner Kirsanow, the panel’s lone Republican, said the problem is that people are enamored with “gay rights” and “transgender rights” and are inserting their own desires into the Constitution.
“The tension between nondiscrimination and religious liberty is based on the assumption that the rights in conflict are of equal weight, or even that nondiscrimination is of greater weight,” he said. “This assumption is erroneous. Religious liberty is an undisputed constitutional right. With the exception of racial nondiscrimination principles embedded in the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenths Amendments, nondiscrimination principles are statutory or judicially created constructs.”
Kirsanow described the sharp differences on the commission as a “conflict between two worldviews.”
“The first, which is secularism, holds an individual’s unfettered sexual self-expression as a preeminent concern because it is an aspect of their self-creation,” he explained. “This interest in the individual is now construed as a positive responsibility to ensure that everyone has the ability to engage in sexual conduct without cost or consequence, whether in money, unwanted children, or hurt feelings.
“An individual’s sexual behavior is considered an act of self-creation and something that goes to the deepest level of their identity. Criticism of an individual’s behavior is considered an attack on the dignity of the person. Naturally, this worldview is at odds with many aspects of traditional morality grounded in sexual restraint.
“The second worldview holds that individuals are not their own judge, but rather are subject to divine law and divine judgment. The morality of a person’s conduct does not ultimately depend upon whether he thinks it is right, or whether it accords with his desires, but whether it conforms to divine law.”
He said the “rub” is that the first group does not recognize sin as sin, and the second group does.
Catholic Online and other media outlets reported what appeared to be a deliberate misdirection regarding what the Constitution requires.
Catholic Online noted that in President Obama’s June 2009 speech in Cairo, Egypt, he spoke of a Muslim America and the nation’s “freedom of religion,” but by the November 2009 memorial for the Fort Hood soldiers gunned down by a homicidal Muslim, he was terming it “freedom of worship.”
From that point, “freedom of worship” has become the term of choice, the report said.
Sarah Torre of the Heritage Foundation said the difference is significant. In practice, the “freedom to worship” seldom has been challenged or even questioned. But “freedom of religion” is under direct fire.
Just ask the New York landowners who were fined by the state for following their Christian faith regarding sponsorship of same-sex ceremonies, or the Oregon bakery owners fined $135,000 for the same thing, or the Colorado baker who is fighting for his economic future against state officials suggesting that he go out of business because his faith forbids supporting same-sex marriage.
Then there was the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, established in 1869, which houses one of the world’s 20 largest pipe organs. It’s been the site of traditional and contemporary worship programs featuring speakers such as Billy Graham, Billy Sunday, D. James Kennedy and Charles Stanley.
But it’s no longer is used for weddings, because a lesbian duo was denied permission to use it, and a state discrimination complaint was filed.
The Hitching Post Wedding Chapel is facing demands from the city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to perform “same-sex weddings” in violation of the owners’ Christian faith.
In Washington state, a state judge said the home, assets and savings of Arlene’s Flowers owner Barronelle Stutzman, 70, could be targeted in court by two homosexuals for whom she declined to provide wedding services.
Early in Obama’s administration, Catholic Online noted that Ashley Samelson of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty explained that to “anyone who closely follows prominent discussion of religious freedom in the diplomatic and political arena, this linguistic shift is troubling: The reason is simple. Any person of faith knows that religious exercise is about a lot more than freedom of worship.
“It’s about the right to dress according to one’s religious dictates, to preach openly, to evangelize, to engage in the public square. Everyone knows that religious Jews keep kosher, religious Quakers don’t go to war, and religious Muslim women wear headscarves – yet ‘freedom of worship’ would protect none of these acts of faith.”
Catholic Online said: “Let’s be clear … language matters when it comes to defining freedoms and limits. A shift from freedom of religion to freedom of worship moves the dialog from the world stage into the physical confines of a church, temple, synagogue or mosque. … It … could exclude our right to raise our children in our faith, the right to religious education, literature or media, the right to raise funds or organize charitable activities and the right to express religious beliefs in the normal discourse of life.”
WND earlier this year reported on two ominous court decisions regarding religious liberty.
The first was when the U.S. Supreme Court left standing a lower court decision that Washington state pharmacists who are Christian must violate their faith in order to practice their profession. The second decision came from a federal judge in Mississippi with a reputation for ruling against Christians who said county clerks in the state must violate their faith to hold office.
The Supreme Court’s move alarmed Justice Samuel Alito, who warned there was evidence that the “impetus for the adoption of the regulations was hostility to pharmacists whose religious beliefs regarding abortion and contraception are out of step with prevailing opinion in the state.”
In the Mississippi ruling from Judge Carlton Reeves, who once punished a school district for allowing a voluntary prayer at an optional awards ceremony, said clerks in the state cannot cite their religious beliefs to excuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses to homosexual duos.
It was the case involving the pharmacists that drew outrage from a minority on the Supreme Court. Washington state adopted rules forcing pharmacists to sell abortion pills to customers regardless of religious beliefs that consider abortion tantamount to murder.
The state provided no exception for religious beliefs and refused to allow an accommodation that would simply allow pharmacists with abortion objections to refer customers to another location.
After the Supreme Court refused to even review the case, Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom said all Americans “should be free to peacefully live and work consistent with their faith without fear of unjust punishment, and no one should be forced to participate in the taking of human life.”
“We had hoped that the U.S. Supreme Court would take this opportunity to reaffirm these long-held principles,” she said.
Waggoner noted the state of Washington “allows pharmacists to refer customers for just about any reason – except reasons of conscience.”
“Singling out people of faith and denying them the same freedom to refer is a violation of federal law. All 49 other states allow conscience-based referrals, which are fully supported by the American Pharmacists Association, the Washington Pharmacy Association, and 36 other pharmacy associations. Not one customer in Washington has been denied timely access to any drug due to a religious objection. As the trial court found, the government designed its law for the ‘primary – if not sole – purpose’ of targeting religious health care providers. We are disappointed that the high court didn’t take this case and uphold the trial court’s finding.”
Alito, whose concerns were endorsed by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas, said the case is “an ominous sign.”
“At issue are Washington State regulations that are likely to make a pharmacist unemployable if he or she objects on religious grounds to dispensing certain prescription medications,” the three agreed.
“There are strong reasons to doubt whether the regulations were adopted for – or that they actually serve – any legitimate purpose. And there is much evidence that the impetus for the adoption of the regulations was hostility to pharmacists whose religious beliefs regarding abortion and contraception are out of step with prevailing opinion in the state.
“Yet the Ninth Circuit held that the regulations do not violate the First Amendment, and this court does not deem the case worthy of our time,” Alito wrote.
“If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead, those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern…. Ralph’s [pharmacy] has raised more than ‘slight suspicion’ that the rules challenged here reflect antipathy toward religious beliefs that do not accord with the views of those holding the levers of government power. I would grant certiorari to ensure that Washington’s novel and concededly unnecessary burden on religious objectors does not trample on fundamental rights.”