December 2017 Church & State - December 2017

AU Files Supreme Court Brief In Colo. Bakery Discrimination Case

  AU admin

Americans United on Oct. 30 filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court  to affirm that businesses such as Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado cannot use religious beliefs as justification to refuse to serve customers.

On Dec. 5, the high court will consider Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the case of a Lakewood baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for Charlie Craig and David Mullins, a same-sex couple.

A Colorado court held that the bakery’s refusal violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws, which prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Phillips appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, claiming that his religious views entitle him to violate the law.

“Religious freedom is about fairness: We don’t treat people differently because their beliefs are different from ours,” said Richard B. Katskee, legal director of Americans United. “The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly found that the Constitution does not allow businesses to use religious beliefs as an excuse to treat some people like second-class citizens. We urge the justices to once again stand on the right side of history and advance the court’s noble tradition of ensuring equality for all Americans.”

The case is one of several nationwide in which wedding-related businesses are trying to claim a religiously based objection to marriage equality as justification for refusing to serve LGBTQ people. Many of these businesses, including Masterpiece, are represented by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Religious Right legal group.

ADF has launched a media blitz trying to sway public opinion in favor of these discriminatory businesses. In addition to publicizing Masterpiece owner Phillips, ADF is also highlighting a few African-Americans who are backing his right to discriminate.

AU’s brief, which was joined by six civil-rights and religious organizations, notes that if the court accepts Masterpiece’s argument, it would open the door to discrimination not only against the LGBTQ community, but also against people due to their religious beliefs (or non-beliefs) or the way they live their lives.

“Allowing businesses to use religious beliefs as justification to refuse to serve customers would corrupt the principle of religious freedom and open a Pandora’s box of discrimination,” Katskee said.

Craig’s mother, Debbie Munn, accompanied the couple when they tried to buy their wedding cake from Masterpiece Cakeshop in 2012. She recently wrote a Time magazine column about their experience.

“We went into that store happy. We left broken. When we returned to our car, I noticed Charlie’s shoulders were shaking. I soon realized he was crying. All I could do was embrace him and tell him I loved him and that we would get through this,” Munn wrote. “[H]e was embarrassed that I had witnessed such a heartless response by a stranger in a public business.”

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