Originally published August 23 2015
Colorado court declares business owners have no First Amendment rights and must support gay marriage
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution both recognizes and establishes some of the most basic of our rights, including the right to speak freely, to assemble in protest, to maintain a free and open press and to worship any deity we choose (or none at all).
But in modern times, it has become clear that some rights are being elevated over others – that some rights are being considered more important, more weighty, when it comes to interpretations by judges who seem more interested in adhering to a political ideology rather than our founding principles.
That is the only way one can interpret a recent decision by the Colorado Court of Appeals, which recently sided with a gay couple over the Christian religious and free speech rights of a store owner.
As reported by CBS Denver, the couple, Charlie Craig and David Mullins, had sued Jack Phillips of Lakewood – owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop – for refusing to bake them a wedding cake. In his 2012 refusal, Phillips cited his religious beliefs, noting that the Christian religion does not sanction homosexuality, let alone same-sex marriage. He therefore chose not to craft a cake with a message in support of gay marriage, in accordance with his religious beliefs and his right to free speech.
Mullins and Craig, who had actually married in Massachusetts, planned to celebrate their wedding in Colorado.
Courts choose 14th Amendment over 1st Amendment
A previous CBS Denver report from July noted that both parties made compelling arguments in court:
Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips says he's not opposed to making cakes for gay couples such as birthday cakes, holiday cakes and graduation cakes. It's cakes for gay marriages he says he can't do based on his religious beliefs.
But the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado says if he's going to open a business to the public he has to make all services available to everyone in the public.
"We still have rights as American citizens to our faith and free speech rights," Phillips had argued.
Nevertheless, a lower state court ruled in favor of the couple after they decided to sue based on a state statute that prevents businesses from discriminating based on sexual orientation (even though he would not have crafted such a cake for persons of other sexual orientations either). And in August, so, too, did the appeals court.
"We feel like the court today affirmed the argument that we have been making that the treatment we received at Masterpiece Cakeshop was both illegal and wrong," Mullins said after the ruling, as quoted by CBS Denver.
"The court basically validated what we've been fighting this whole time," Craig added.
Phillips had said he was not opposed to making cakes for gay couples for other occasions such as birthdays, holiday and graduations – but that because of his religious faith he had to draw a line at same-sex wedding cakes.
The Colorado ACLU disagreed.
"When a business opens its doors to the public it can't discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, on the basis of race," Mark Silverstein with the ACLU said after the ruling. "It can't pick and choose customers based on who they are."
"I think that the ruling is wrong ... the constitution guarantees me the right to practice my faith, my religion, anywhere, anytime; there are no restrictions on it," Phillips said. "It also gives me the right to free speech, anytime, anywhere. I don't surrender those rights when I open my doors."
So, when do religious freedoms matter?
Now, the baker will face fines if he refuses to make wedding cakes for gay couples. However, after the state ordered him to do so, he stopped making wedding cakes for anyone – a decision, he says, that has cost him some 40 percent of his business.
"Ton of support, most people are in agreement with us that a business and an American citizen should have the right to what they want to make and what they don't want to make," Phillips said.
But that's not how courts are seeing it. Instead, judges on the state and federal level, and a majority of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, are increasingly putting more stock in state anti-discrimination statutes and the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause than they are to the First Amendment's religious freedom provision.
[N.B.: The Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause reads, "No state shall... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." How this can be misconstrued as requiring business owners to support same-sex marriage is anyone's guess.]
In a way, then, the courts are discriminating against Christians when they say their religious objections to same-sex marriage have no merit – the same way the state of California did recently when lawmakers passed a measure banning religious objections as a reason for parents to opt their children out of being vaccinated.
Certainly, fighting discrimination is a worthy pursuit, but is it the most important thing? When do religious rights, if not the right to free speech, have merit? This chasm will only widen with time.
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