This week marks the 50th anniversary of Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises, a landmark case in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that a restaurant owner did not have a religious right to turn away black customers.
The BBQ chain’s white owner argued that his religion compelled him to “oppose any integration of the races.” The Supreme Court found that argument “patently frivolous” and said the chain had to follow the federal law, which bars discrimination based on race in restaurants and other places open to the public.
Even though Piggie Park was decided way back in 1968, some people are still arguing about this issue. The Supreme Court is set to decide a similar case this term, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Charlie Craig and David Mullins were planning their wedding reception and went to Masterpiece Cakeshop near Denver, Colo., to order their wedding cake. The bakery turned them away, using religion as an excuse to refuse to serve the couple. We hope the Supreme Court makes it abundantly clear that no business open to the public can use religion to discriminate or violate civil rights laws.
American United filed a friend-of-the-court-brief in Masterpiece arguing that religion is no license to discriminate. And just this Tuesday, we filed a friend-of-the-court brief saying the same in Telescope Media Group v. Lindsey, a case in the 8th U.S. Court of Appeals in which a media-production company is refusing to record wedding videos for same-sex couples on religious grounds.
Fifty years ago, the Supreme Court held that religious freedom is about fairness. That was right back then, and it’s still right today. Here’s hoping the high court gets it right this term, too.