LDS Church Files Brief in Support of Colorado Baker in Supreme Court Case

Image result for jack phillips masterpiece cakeshopEarlier this year, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints placed its name on amicus friend-of-the court brief in a large transgender case, citing The Family: A Proclamation to the World as a core doctrinal statement, as well as noting the unchangeable and eternal gender of men and women. Now, this week the Church joined with other religious organizations, 86 senators and representatives, legal groups and creative professionals to show support for the Colorado baker who, due to religious convictions, chose not use his professional skills to support a same-sex wedding. This case arose when Masterpiece Cakeshops’ owner, Jack Phillips, was sued after respectfully declining to decorate a wedding cake celebrating a same-sex ceremony for two men.

In a news release, ADF Legal stated that:

The Colorado Supreme Court declined to take the case after the state’s Court of Appeals affirmed a Colorado Civil Rights Commission decision from May 2014. That decision ordered Phillips and his employees to design custom wedding cakes that celebrate same-sex marriages if the shop designs wedding cakes for opposite-sex marriages. It also required Phillips to re-educate his staff, most of whom are his family members—essentially telling them that he was wrong to operate his business according to his faith. He must also report to the government for two years, describing all cakes that he declines to create and the reasons why. As a result of the ruling, Phillips has lost an estimated 40 percent of his business. (Link)

In the Colorado amicus brief, the groups argue:

  • “Forcing (Phillips) to choose between his business and his conscience is a historic means of religious persecution.”
  • “Constitution broadly guarantees liberty of religion and conscience to citizens who participate in public life according to their moral, ethical, and religious convictions.”
  • “Colorado refuses to tolerate citizens who disagree with the state-sanctioned view of marriage” and “as the state uses its anti-discrimination laws to impose crippling penalties on entrepreneurs who refuse to set aside conscience and create visual artwork that violates the owners’ faith and conscience.”
  • “By demanding uniformity of thought, belief, speech, and action concerning the nature of marriage” and “by silencing one side of a hotly contested issue,” the state of Colorado “promotes intolerance, uniformity, exclusion, and inequality… The result is an unconscionable inequality were people who hold traditional marriage beliefs are excluded from owning a public business. All of this is anathema to the First Amendment.”
  • “But some deeply religious Americans, including some of amici’s members, cannot in good conscience assist with same-sex weddings. Now that the court has protected the liberty of same-sex couples, it is equally important to protect the religious liberty of these conscientious objectors.”
  • In an appendix to the brief, the LDS Church notes its “fairness to all” approach to resolving standoffs between religious freedom and LGBT rights: “Believing in basic fairness for all, the church has openly encouraged and participated in legislative efforts to secure essential rights for LGBT citizens while protecting religious freedom.”
  • As well, in the appendix, the LDS Church affirms that its doctrine holds that “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God” and that “it does not change church doctrine, teachings, practices or policies regarding marriage.”

Image result for lds marriageAlong with the LDS Church, other religious organizations that signed on to the brief are the Christian Legal Society, the Center for Public Justice, the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, National Association of Evangelicals, Queens Federation of Churches, Rabbinical Council of America and Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.

According to the Deseret News, “Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, also signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief last week backing Phillips, saying it is not a public accommodations case. He called it a “compelled speech” case because the couple asked Phillips to use his talents to make a specialty cake to carry a message with which he disagrees.

“This isn’t a case in which someone refused to sell a pre-made good to someone else based on their sexuality or orientation,” the senator said. “The government cannot force you to speak where you choose to remain silent. It cannot make you make a statement with which you firmly, fundamentally disagree.” (link)

Of this case, Travis Weber, Esq., Director of the Center for Religious Liberty, said:

To understand the issue at the center of this case people first need to know that Jack Phillips, for over twenty years, happily served thousands without regard to their sexual orientation. Phillips gladly offered to make any other type of baked item for the customers in this case, but explained that he could not in good conscience make a cake promoting a same-sex ceremony.

The Court should take this opportunity to settle the question of whether states can coerce people of faith into wedding-related practices with which they disagree. The answer to that question should be an obvious ‘no’ and we hope the Court makes this clear by strongly affirming that all Americans’ First Amendment free speech and free exercise rights are protected against such state coercion. (link)

Image result for supreme courtFriend-of-the-court briefs filed with U.S. Supreme Court on this case:

Jack’s story (a 3:27 minute clip)

 

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Angela Fallentine

Angela Fallentine is the Co-Founder of Mormon Women Stand. She is a native of Alberta, Canada and has loved living in New Zealand and briefly in Europe. She is a researcher and analyst for a think tank in New York which focuses on social issues, religious freedom and international policy affecting the family at the United Nations.

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