(RNS) – If you were to think people from varied religions and beliefs ought to be treated equally found in the U.S., the oral arguments in the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Privileges Commission case that came before the Supreme Courtroom on Tuesday (Dec. 5) should cause you to nervous.
Why? Because Justice Anthony M. Kennedy – although he made it very clear that he considers the sort of discrimination against a same-sex couple that we see in this case as “an affront to the gay community” – also threw the petitioners (Jack Phillips and his bakery) a bone.
Disturbingly, Kennedy suggested that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had been “neither tolerant nor respectful” of Phillips’ religious beliefs in its handling of the case.
In fact, the commission ruled against Phillips and his claim that baking a cake for a same-sex couple’s marriage ceremony would violate his spiritual beliefs and his expression of these. But I believe their dedication was correct. It must be upheld.
It may appear counterintuitive for my firm, which dedicates itself to spiritual flexibility, to actively oppose Phillips, the Colorado baker who declined as a result of his deeply held Christian beliefs to create a custom marriage ceremony cake for a same-sex couple.
But that is accurately what the Tanenbaum Middle for Interreligious Understanding does. We possibly filed an amicus quick supporting Charlie Craig and David Mullins, the couple denied services.
How is it that the nonprofit We lead determined never to area with Phillips, when flexibility of belief is at the center of our work? We cautiously deliberated, and the reply became crystal clear.
As genuine simply because Phillips’ beliefs are – and as sympathetic as We am to his problem – if he wins, spiritual freedom and the First Amendment as we realize it’ll start down the path to extinction. It may seem to be implausible, but bear with me.
This case pits Phillips’ to religious freedom and freedom of speech against Craig and Mullins’ to freely enter a bakery and order a marriage cake, without encountering the humiliation of unlawful discrimination. Both parties are arguing for important rights. And that’s the key reason why this case is critical.
For Phillips, spiritual beliefs underlie all his arguments. So, any decision in his favor will get made to protect how he wants to exercise those beliefs. As a devout Christian, Phillips wants to practice his faith at his bakery. But whether he wins or loses this case, he can do this. If he loses, he can continue his different policy of not really baking tailor made cakes for anybody. That approach, he can adhere to his beliefs and handle all his customers equally.
Though he may lose revenue, this might be a balanced solution.
On the other hand, if he wins, he’ll be absolve to deny services to same-sex couples, and many others who are otherwise guarded by Colorado’s law, including people from other religions.
The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, like similar laws in 45 states, the District of Columbia and the government, protects people across a variety of identities from daily discrimination predicated on their race, gender, religion and, in many statutes, their sexual orientation.
So, what could happen to our nation if Phillips wins?
As our amicus brief warns, religion-based discrimination will be permissible. A Christian banquet hall owner could refuse to host situations for Jewish people. Or a van program owned by an Orthodox Jewish relatives could refuse to transport a Christian couple to their wedding. Alike possibilities are endless.
Such a decision would also undermine long-standing precedents that protect people from discrimination predicated on, among other activities, the spiritual beliefs of business proprietors serving the general public. Consider the 1960s ruling that prohibited who owns Piggie Park, a South Carolina cafe chain, from refusing program to black patrons predicated on the owner’s spiritual beliefs.
Ultimately, a win by Phillips would commence the unraveling of our anti-discrimination laws, leaving people of all faiths – including Christians – at risk. What we happen to be talking about is the creation of a court-sanctioned to pick and choose whether to serve differing people, including those holding different religious beliefs. In fact, Phillips concedes this. He admits that he’d never bake a tailor made cake celebrating atheism.
The constitutional protections of religious freedom and the nondiscrimination regulations are complementary: Both protect the proper to believe as we choose. Anti-discrimination laws add tooth to the Primary Amendment, so that it is clear that people, no matter their beliefs, have entitlement to be offered in places open to the public.
At its essence, Masterpiece Cakeshop pits the proper of a shopkeeper to pursue his beliefs over the rights of the general public to be treated equally. Such competing interests require thoughtfulness and empathy but usually do not warrant undermining the regulations that protect equal treatment.
Following Tuesday’s arguments, it’ll be the Supreme Court’s responsibility to choose just how these competing perspectives can coexist in a manner that serves the higher good. If the courtroom breaks with the rulings of the Colorado Civil Privileges Commission and the Colorado Courtroom of Appeals, both which within favor of Craig and Mullins, your choice will be rendering a roadmap for obliterating hard-won legal protections.
Authorization to discriminate against people of different beliefs will become the law. And what’s that, if not really the precise opposite of religious flexibility?
(Joyce S. Dubensky is the CEO of Tanenbaum, a secular nonprofit that works to combat religious bigotry. The sights expressed in this opinion piece do not always reflect those of Religious beliefs News Service.)