“Government Every Citizen Should Fear” Supreme Court Ruling Strikes Blow to Religious Freedom
Christians now have every reason to fear their government.
That is the general sentiment after the Supreme Court refused to hear the case of Elane Photography after the disastrous ruling by the New Mexico Supreme Court. Here’s what you need to know and where the case currently stands.
Elaine Huguenin refused to render services to a homosexual couple that asked her to photograph their same-sex ceremony. She cited her religious convictions and said she simply could not in accordance with her faith photograph their ceremony. The couple sued Elane Photography for discrimination based on sexual orientation. After years in the court system the New Mexico Supreme Court finally ruled against Elane Photography for discrimination and fined her.
In that disastrous ruling one justice even went so far as to say that such convictions and fines were the “price of citizenship” in America.
The case was appealed to the United States Supreme Court where religious liberty advocates hoped the court would not only hear the case, but reverse the ruling, thereby preserving religious freedom and liberty. The Supreme Court has declined to hear the case. By declining to hear the case the Supreme Court has effectively upheld the New Mexico State Supreme Court ruling which punishes Elaine Huguenin for trying to live according to her religious convictions.
What is at stake in this case and others like it is more than merely photographs at a wedding.
First we need to understand that the First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees our freedom of speech. This means that not only do we have the right to say what we want, we also have the right NOT to say anything at all. In a more practical context this means that a photographer has the right to refuse to take pictures (an expression of speech) for an event in which she has a fundamental disagreement.
Before you get riled up and start barking about discrimination let’s put this same scenario into another perspective. In this case the government has essentially told Elane Photography that she has no right to decline to serve anyone, ever, for any reason. Before you agree with that position ask yourself if the government has the right to force a black person to photograph a Klu Klux Klan rally? Does the government have the right to force a Jewish person to photograph a Nazi/Communist rally? Can the government force a homosexual person to photograph a traditional, evangelical one man one woman marriage rally?
Once the situation is put into those other contexts the idea that “discrimination” is bad, or that business owners should be compelled by the government to violate their convictions seems absurd. And yet what is apparent is that many other groups of people have the right to refuse service based on deeply held convictions but Christians must be forced to comply. Why?
Christians are often accused of being intolerant as they are attacked for their religious convictions. But who really are the intolerant ones?
When Alliance Defending Freedom president Alan Sears was refused service by a photographer that disagree with ADF’s policy positions he simply found someone else. He didn’t yell, scream, call Al Sharpton or the ACLU and sue the photographer, he showed incredible tolerance and walked away. When New Mexico governor Susana Martinez was refused service by a hairstylist for her marriage views she found someone else. No press conferences or interviews, she just went somewhere else.
Those yelling the loudest for tolerance seem to have the most trouble showing it. As they demand equality they want to be elevated to a higher status with special rights that don’t apply to others. Is that really equality?
For those that might think business owners should be forced to serve anyone, even if it violates their religious convictions, take a look at a 2013 Rasmussen poll. The poll shows that 85% of people think Elane Photography should be allowed to refuse service in order to live by her religious convictions. And surprisingly the editorial boards of both The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Times agreed that people should be allowed to refuse service.
Why are even liberal organizations starting to show concern for the trends taking place in courts and state houses across the country? The answer is easy. If the government can compel one group of people to violate their most deeply held core beliefs it will find a way to compel all groups to do the same. If the free speech and religious convictions of Christians are not protected, the rights of every citizen are in jeopardy.
ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman summed this ruling up with a chilling statement:
“Elaine and numerous others like her around the country have been more than willing to serve any and all customers, but they are not willing to promote any and all messages. A government that forces any American to create a message contrary to her own convictions is a government every American should fear.”
There is a very real danger in the wake of this case and its ruling. The government now has precedence to force any person to violate his or her core convictions with threats of government reprisal for failing to do so. So what if you don’t agree with abortion, you still have to print those Planned Parenthood rally fliers. You don’t like racism, too bad, cater the Klan meeting in silence. You think marriage should be open to anyone, too bad, provide IT service for the one man one woman marriage rally and get over it.
While we attempt to laugh off such scenarios, the reality is that these will become more common place stories now that the government has the ability to force people to support what they find objectionable.
Cortman was right, we should fear the government.
Just in case you think this is an isolated incident, take a look at the other cases that may reach the Supreme Court:
- Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers: A long-time customer and friend of florist Baronelle Stutzman sued her because she could not in good conscience use her creative skills to beautify his same-sex ceremony. Both he, through his ACLU attorneys, and the Washington state attorney general have filed lawsuits against her in both her professional and personal capacities for unlawful “discrimination,” even though she has served and employed people who identify as homosexual and numerous other florists are willing to do the work.
- Craig v. Masterpiece Cakeshop: Two men filed a legal complaint against Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips after he declined to use his artistic talents to create and decorate a cake for a same-sex ceremony. Although many other cake artists are willing to do the work, and Phillips told the men that he would be willing to make them any other type of baked good, the men nonetheless filed “discrimination” complaints against him through their ACLU attorneys.
- Baker v. Hands On Originals: The Gay and Lesbian Services Organization filed a legal complaint against a Kentucky T-shirt printer for declining to produce shirts that promote its “pride festival.” Managing owner Blaine Adamson of Hands On Originals told the GLSO he would gladly refer them to another shop that would do the work for the same price, and in fact, the GLSO easily found someone to produce the shirts for free. In addition, Hands On Originals both serves and employs people who identify as homosexual. Nonetheless, the complaint alleges that the printer is guilty of “discrimination.”