Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Another Christian Goes to Court Over Beliefs

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Yesterday, Lorie Smith, a graphic artist and website designer in Colorado, stood before the US Supreme Court to defend her deeply held beliefs about marriage---and her right under the Constitution to freedom to practice her faith.

She wants to begin offering wedding websites. 

However, Smith says, her Christian faith prevents her from creating websites celebrating homosexual "marriages." 

The Justices are being asked to settle a First Amendment question they left open only a few years ago.

The Court discussion was revealing.

Be informed, not misled.

Yesterday afternoon the New York Times concluded, "Supreme Court Seems Ready to Back Web Designer Opposed to Same-Sex Marriage." 

The Times continued: 

A web designer in Colorado wants to limit her wedding-related services to celebrations of heterosexual unions because of her religious beliefs, but state law prohibits discrimination against gay people by businesses open to the public.

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority seemed prepared on Monday to rule that a graphic designer in Colorado has a First Amendment right to refuse to create websites celebrating same-sex weddings based on her Christian faith despite a state law that forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation.

But several justices leaning in that direction appeared to be searching for limiting principles so as not to upend all sorts of anti-discrimination laws.

The New York Times also gave their readers a background of how America has evolved from opposition to so-called "same-sex marriage" to a more accepting attitude today:

For decades, opposition to same-sex marriage was a marquee issue for the religious right in the United States. Activists like Anita Bryant, Jerry Falwell, and James Dobson characterized homosexuality as a threat to traditional family life.

When the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, the head of the Family Research Council, Tony Perkins, initially warned that the case would be “the downfall of America.” The evangelist Franklin Graham told Christianity Today in 2015 that the country had “taken a nosedive off of the moral diving board into the cesspool of humanity.”

In making their case that same-sex "marriage" is now "widely accepted by Americans," including evangelicals, they celebrated the fact that "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced its support last month for the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that would provide federal protections for same-sex marriage. The bill passed the Senate last week, though many other conservative groups opposed it."

The court will probably not issue a decision until June.

About the Christian

Lorie Smith and her supporters say that ruling against her would force artists — from painters and photographers to writers and musicians — to do work that is against their faith. Her opponents, meanwhile, say that if she wins, a range of businesses will be able to discriminate, refusing to serve black customers, Jewish or Muslim people, interracial or interfaith couples, or immigrants, among others.

Smith's lawyer, Kristen Waggoner---from Seattle--- told the justices that “Ms. Smith believes opposite-sex marriage honors scripture and same-sex marriage contradicts it.”

Five years ago, the Supreme Court heard a different challenge involving Colorado's law and a baker, Jack Phillips, who objected to designing a wedding cake for a gay couple. That case ended with a limited decision, however, and set up a return of the issue to the high court. Waggoner, president, and CEO of the Alliance Defending Freedom, also represented Phillips.

Like Phillips, Smith says her objection is not to working with gay people. She says she'd work with a gay client who needed help with graphics for an animal rescue shelter, for example, or to promote an organization serving children with disabilities. But she objects to creating messages supporting same-sex marriage, just as she wouldn't create a website for a couple who met while they both were married to other people and then divorced, Waggoner said.

Smith says Colorado’s law violates her free speech rights. Her opponents, including the Biden Administration and groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, and the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, disagree.

The Court's response

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch asked Monday whether Colorado baker Jack Phillips was forced to undergo “reeducation” after refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding.

The Lorie Smith case is similar to that of a 2018 case involving baker Jack Phillips, also from Colorado, who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. The Supreme Court ruled that Phillips was not given a fair hearing before the state Civil Rights Commission due to anti-religious bias. The court did not, however, overturn Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws or answer the question of whether Phillips had the right to discriminate against LGBT couples.

Gorsuch invoked the case Monday while questioning Colorado Solicitor General Eric Olson.

“Mr. Phillips did go through a reeducation program pursuant to Colorado law, did he not?” Gorsuch asked.

“He went through a process that ensured he was familiar with—” Olson began to say before Gorsuch interjected.

“It was a reeducation program, right?” the justice said.

“It was not a reeducation program,” Olson responded.

“What do you call it?” Gorsuch asked.

“It was a process to make sure he was familiar with Colorado law,” Olson said.

“Some might be excused for calling that a reeducation program,” Gorsuch quipped.

Prior to Phillips’ case heading to the Supreme Court, Phillips was ordered to ensure his staff had comprehensive training on Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws after the Civil Rights Commission ruled that Phillips violated the law by refusing to bake the cake.

Phillips has been through a true culture war. He was once again sued after he refused to make a cake celebrating a gender transition. A court ruled against Phillips in June 2021, prompting Phillips to appeal. The Colorado Supreme Court heard arguments in Scardina v. Masterpiece Cakeshop in October but has not yet announced a decision.


The New York Times concluded that "In recent years, conservative Christians concerned about same-sex marriage have found themselves protecting a narrower piece of legal turf. They have defended multiple small business owners like Lorie Smith, who work in creative industries and resist taking jobs associated with same-sex weddings specifically."

That's about what I expected from the Times.

The Times concluded with this:

“People see the handwriting on the wall, to use an Old Testament term,” Jim Daily said, "the president of the influential conservative group Focus on the Family, which is based in Colorado. Conservative Christians realize we cannot control the culture,” he said.

The Conservative Christians I have known and worked with, including the founder of Focus on the Family, Jerry Falwell, Sr., Tim LaHaye, and others have never been trying to "control the culture." We have been trying to stabilize it by infusing eternal biblical values into the culture and into our institutions much like our Founding Fathers did. 

I personally see a different "handwriting on the wall." No matter how corrupt and decayed our culture becomes there is always hope because the gospel of Christ changes lives and changes cultures.

Be Informed. Be Discerning. Be Vigilant. Be Engaged. Be Faithful. Be Prayerful.