Torte Reform? CA Baker Wins First-Ever Case
Here are three words you don’t usually see in the same sentence: “religious liberty” and “California.” But thanks to Superior Court Judge David Lampe, that’s exactly what one Christian is celebrating in a battle over religious freedom and wedding cakes. For the first time ever, a court ruled in favor of the baker, Cathy Miller, for turning down an order for a same-sex wedding because her faith “will not allow me to participate in things that I feel are wrong.”
It’s a familiar story by now, the clash between conservative wedding vendors and same-sex couples — this time with a different ending. Like other bakers, Cathy was bracing for the day when the debate would end up at her front door. After reading the horror stories of families like Aaron and Melissa Klein, she knew it was only a matter of time before her shop, Tastries Bakery, would become a target of an intolerant minority set on eradicating religious freedom in the market place. That day came last August, when Mireya and Eileen Rodriguez-Del Rio wanted to contract Cathy for their ceremony. When she told them she’d happily sell them a pre-made cake, they refused, leaving the shop and heading straight for the California Department of Fair Housing. There, officials took on their case with a vengeance, launching a formal investigation into Miller and slapping her with a temporary restraining order that would force her to bake cakes, which, in days past, would be considered a form of indentured servanthood.
Facing the loss of her bakery, she and the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund fought back. Although the odds were stacked against her, the law was not. In a powerful rebuke of the status quo, Judge Lampe rejected the Left’s argument that personal offense trumps conscience. “The right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment outweighs the State’s interest in ensuring a freely accessible marketplace,” Lampe wrote. “The right of freedom of thought guaranteed by the First Amendment includes the right to speak, and the right to refrain from speaking. Sometimes the most profound protest is silence.”
Obviously, he explained, no one can refuse to sell something to a customer out of prejudice. But, he reminds everyone: “The difference here is that the cake in question is not yet baked. The State is not petitioning the court to order defendants to sell cake. The State asks this court to compel Miller to use her talents to design and create cake she has not yet conceived with the knowledge that her work will be displayed in celebration of marital union her religion forbids… Such an order would be the stuff of tyranny.”
What’s more, he points out, Cathy — like the Kleins, Jack Phillips, and Barronelle Stutzman — not only offered the women something from her display case but “provided for an alternative means for potential customers to receive the product they desire through the services of another talent” by recommending another bakery.
Would this court, Lampe asked, “force a baker who strongly favored GLBT rights to create and design wedding cake she had refused to Catholic couple, in her protest of the Catholic Church’s prescription against same-sex marriage? The answer is, ‘No.’ This court has an obligation to protect Free Speech, regardless of whose foot the shoe is on.” It was a refreshingly honest — and rare — defense of the Constitution in a debate that’s been as one-sided as the Left’s definition of tolerance.
“Both sides,” Judge Lampe admits, “advocate with strong and heartfelt beliefs, and this court has duty to ensure that all are given the freedom to speak them.” But, he explains, “The court cannot guarantee that no one will be harmed when the law is enforced. Quite the contrary, when the law is enforced, someone necessarily loses. Nevertheless, the court’s duty is to the law. Whenever anyone exercises the right of Free Speech, someone else may be angered or hurt. This is the nature of free society under our Constitution.”
FRC’s director of our Center for Religious Liberty, Travis Weber, hopes this paves the way for other judges to follow suit. “The ‘offense card’ cannot be used to dismiss or marginalize the good faith opinions of fellow Americans — many of which are currently being manifested in free speech and religious liberty cases — just because one does not agree with them. Indeed, tolerance of such differences is one of the hallmarks of our democracy.”
For Christians, who’ve been on the receiving end of some devastating decisions, this is the first of what we hope will be a successful string of religious freedom rulings — headlined, of course, by Colorado’s Jack Phillips. As the Supreme Court deliberates over Masterpiece Cakes, they couldn’t find a better primer than Judge Lampe’s.
Originally published here.
Amazon Politics a Package Deal for New HQ
There isn’t a neighborhood in America that doesn’t see Amazon packages on porches every single day. In some cities, though, locals are hoping to see more of that trademark smile — in the form of a new, multibillion-dollar headquarters. Politicians and mayors across the country have been desperately vying for the bid, which could send local employment and revenues soaring. But at what cost?
We’ve already seen the effect on states like Georgia, where Gov. Nathan Deal (R) was furiously trying to silence Republicans who care about religious liberty. Desperate to keep their hat in the ring for the new Amazon facility, Deal tried to shush conservatives from bringing up a topic they think will hurt their chances. People like Brant Frost, chairman of the state’s Coweta County GOP, don’t care if “simply floating a religious liberty proposal” could hurt Atlanta’s chances. “I’d rather have the First Amendment than Amazon,” said Brant Frost V, the chairman of the Coweta County GOP. “I won’t barter away my children’s birthright of religious freedom for 30 pieces of economic development silver.”
But other cities may be more than eager to. And that’s exactly what LGBT groups are counting on. The far Left is fiercely fighting to keep Amazon out of conservative states like North Carolina. Now that the company’s whittled the list of cities down to 20 finalists, liberals are turning up the heat. “Given [Amazon’s] size, given their import in the current business climate, they have an incredible opportunity to send a signal that states that discriminate,” argued the National Center for Lesbian Rights, part of a coalition of extremist groups trying to influence Amazon’s decision. Its “No Gay, No Way” campaign is heaping the pressure on the company, which is hardly a stranger to its causes. Founder Jeff Bezos gave the largest-ever gift to the same-sex marriage movement in Washington state, writing a $2.5 million check to the effort in 2012.
In the end, it’s a battle between the company’s beliefs and its bottom line. If Amazon makes the decision with its head, the choice is simple. As financial experts have pointed out repeatedly, the states with religious liberty protections also happen to have the best business climates. Economies are booming in states that refuse to pass the Left’s radical “Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity” laws. In fact, of the top 10 states for doing business last year, according to Forbes, seven of the 10 didn’t have the policies that LGBT activists say should be a prerequisite of Amazon’s contract. Ironically, North Carolina, #2 on Forbes list — and a frontrunner for the headquarters — is not only one of the fiercest opponents of the Left’s bathroom laws but also one of the most outspoken defenders of religious liberty.
The elected leaders willing to barter away the freedoms of their citizens to drive up quarterly employment numbers should consider not only the long-term costs but the type of jobs that Amazon will bring to their states. Amazon’s alleged poor treatment of its employees and harsh work environment has been the subject of several scathing reports.
Here’s the reality that elected officials need to understand: Amazon isn’t offering 30 pieces of economic development silver; it’s offering a pile of silver-plated coins that will soon lose their shine.
Originally published here.
The Young and the Faithless?
It seems there’s good news and bad news when it comes to the latest survey data on young people — the devil (or angel) is in the details. The Barna Group, which does surveys both of the general population and of Christians, recently issued a major report on “Generation Z” — the post-Millennial generation that includes today’s teenagers aged 13 to 18. Barna reports that they rate a number of factors — professional or educational achievement, hobbies and pastimes, gender and sexuality, and friends — as more important to their “sense of self” than family background or religion. They are also “de-prioritizing family” in their goals for the near future — nearly two-thirds say they want to finish their education, start a career, and be financially independent before they are 30, but only one in five say they want to be married by that point.
That’s a survey of the whole population, though — only 42 percent of whom attend church and only nine percent of whom are what Barna calls “engaged Christians.” The good news, though, comes from another survey showing that students who graduate from evangelical Protestant high schools have a very different trajectory in life. A survey of U.S. and Canadian young adults by Cardus, a Canadian think tank, shows that such graduates “are more likely to be married and to have children” as well as to be active in a range of religious activities. Once again, the social sciences reinforce the biblical truth that if we “train up a child” according to God’s way (Proverbs 22:6), it makes a difference.
Originally published here.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.