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June 18, 2019

For Bakers, a Measured Response at SCOTUS

Aaron and Melissa Klein have spent the last six years praying for a positive ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Aaron and Melissa Klein have spent the last six years praying for a positive ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court. Yesterday, they got the next best thing — an order that throws out the devastating ruling against them. Thanks to SCOTUS, the parents of five, who’ve wrenched plenty of hearts with their emotional story, will have another chance at vindication — in front of the same court that tried to bankrupt the bakers in the first place.

“Try again,” the justices seemed to say in their short order to the Oregon Court of Appeals. It’s the second time in a year that SCOTUS has sent a wedding vendor case back to the states for another round of hearings. And the Kleins are hoping their verdict turns out better than Barronelle Stutzman’s. Like Aaron and Melissa, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers been fighting for years to live out her Christian beliefs at her flower shop — only to be told by the Washington Supreme Court this month that the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling didn’t change anything.

Of course, the activist judges trying to wipe out the Kleins’ lifesavings could also come back with the same result — but for now, the Supreme Court’s move puts the family’s $135,000 fine on hold. It also gives Oregon a chance to reconsider its vicious attack against freedom and spare state officials the ultimate embarrassment of being overturned by the Supreme Court in the next couple of years. At the very least, it’s a hopeful sign that the justices see the Masterpiece case as a guidepost for deciding these important suits.

Most court watchers think the timing of the announcement is interesting. As CNN points out, the justices took at least three months debating what to do about the case behind closed doors. “That it took the court this long to reach a result that, in retrospect, is a pretty straightforward compromise, suggests that there was detailed back-and-forth behind the scenes.” But, as Justice Clarence Thomas has hinted in his past few dissents, the court can’t bypass these hard questions forever. At some point, it will have to wade into the increasingly hostile battleground of LGBT “rights” and religious liberty. The sooner, Aaron and Melissa would tell you, the better.

For the Kleins, it’s been a long and difficult road since a same-sex couple sued their bakery in 2013. They were threatened, vandalized, publicly harassed, and forced to close their shop. All they want is the chance to return to their normal lives with their First Amendment freedoms intact. First Liberty Institute’s Kelly Shackelford is optimistic that day is coming. In a statement, he made it clear that this latest development isn’t just a victory for Aaron and Melissa — but for “religious liberty for all Americans.” “The Constitution protects speech — popular or not — from condemnation by the government. The message from the court is clear, government hostility toward religious Americans will not be tolerated.”

Join us in praying for Aaron and Melissa — and the millions of Christians they represent. Let’s hope their bold and uncompromising story is an example to others to keep standing.

Originally published here.

The Persecuted Find a Voice in USCIRF

Thanks to President Trump, America has spent the better part of the last three years finding its voice on behalf of the world’s persecuted. I’ve been proud to play a small part in that, serving as a member of the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). I’m pleased to announce that I’ve been elected chairman of the bipartisan commission for the 2019-2020 term — a responsibility that I can assure you I don’t take lightly.

As some of you know from things I’ve shared over the past year, the commission came about as part of the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act and is tasked with tracking religious freedom violations and making policy recommendations to the president, secretary of state, and Congress. Most people are familiar with USCIRF because of the annual “watch list” it puts together on countries that pose a particular threat to people of faith.

I’ve had the opportunity during my time on the commission of raising these concerns with foreign leaders, including King Abdullah II of Jordan, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the UAE’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and numerous foreign ambassadors. Then, of course, I had the true honor, after months of praying for his release, of escorting Pastor Andrew Brunson home from Turkey after years of being separated from his family. In my new role as chairman, which is a volunteer role, I’ll continue to advocate for prisoners like Pastor Brunson and the plight of religious minorities all across the world — while still serving as FRC’s president.

I want to thank my fellow commissioners for entrusting me with guiding the commission. It’s a privilege to work with this diverse group of dedicated professionals on such an important issue at such a historic moment when we have an administration so deeply committed to protecting and promoting religious freedom. I look forward to capitalizing on this moment and advance this fundamental human right for all people.

Originally published here.

This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.

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