Trying to improperly broaden the Supreme Court’s narrow Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling, Religious Right legal groups are steering businesses to courts across the country, where business owners are seeking the right to slam their doors shut on customers who don’t live by the owners’ religious beliefs.
Americans United continues to fight back because whatever service the business is selling – icing, irises or ink – it’s still discrimination to refuse to serve customers because of their religion, sexuality or race.
Just yesterday, AU led a group of 18 religious-freedom organizations in urging the Arizona Supreme Court to affirm that religious freedom does not grant a Phoenix calligraphy shop the right to refuse service to same-sex couples.
Brush & Nib Studio has never been asked to provide their design services for an LGBTQ couple’s wedding. But the business preemptively sued Phoenix seeking a religious exemption to the city’s antidiscrimination law so that Brush & Nib can deny service to hypothetical same-sex couples in the future.
Our friend-of-the-court brief notes that to accept Brush & Nib’s argument would roil society, turning back the clock on decades of civil rights advances that ensure a Muslim can’t be refused a meal by a Protestant restaurateur, a Sikh cannot be evicted by a Baptist landlord and a Catholic cannot be fired by a Jewish supervisor simply because they are the ‘wrong’ faith.
“Under the legal regime that Brush & Nib advocates, same-sex couples would wake up each day knowing that, wherever they go, they may be turned away from public accommodations that deem them unfit to be served,” the brief explains. “Or, as Brush & Nib suggests, same-sex couples would have to consult a government-curated list – akin to the Green Books used by African Americans when traveling during the Jim Crow era – of establishments that will deign to serve them.”
“In 2018 in America, a business owner should not be able to slam the door shut on someone who doesn’t live by the owner’s religious beliefs,” said AU President and CEO Rachel Laser. “We will not move backward to the days when we had towns full of businesses that only served certain categories of people, forcing minorities to go door to door to find a shop owner who would serve them despite their religion, race or sexuality.”
Our brief also notes that the Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission affirmed that businesses open to the public should be open to all, and that “religious and philosophical objections” “do not allow business owners … to deny protected persons equal access to goods and services.” In fact, earlier this year the Arizona Court of Appeals cited the Masterpiece Cakeshop opinion when it ruled against Brush & Nib.
Brush & Nib won’t be the last business that wants to discriminate in the name of religion. At least a half-dozen of these cases are proceeding through courts across the country; and in two of them, petitions for review are pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Americans United will continue to stand up for church-state separation and our country’s fundamental principle that religious freedom should be used as shield of protection, not a sword wielded to harm others. We’d appreciate your support as we fight these battles on multiple fronts.