“Three judges in an Arizona court, Lawrence Winthrop, Jennifer Campbell, and Paul McMurdie, have announced they are comfortable with the city of Phoenix forcing Christian artists to violate their faith and endorse same-sex marriage. The announcement came in their decision, from their Arizona Court of Appeals, affirming a Phoenix ordinance that mandates that Christian company owners must support and endorse same-sex marriage with their products and artistry.”
A similar issue was before the U.S. Supreme Court in the Jack Phillips Masterpiece Cakeshop. The court ruled in favor of Phillips who refused to lend his artistry to a cake for a homosexual wedding. But the court did that on the grounds that the state of Colorado exhibited bias against the baker. That means other fights over similar issues with photographers, florists, and others will continue.
The Phoenix case involves two Christian artists who run Brush & Nib, a custom calligraphy service, Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski. When Phoenix adopted an ordinance that would punish them for refusing to violate their faith and promote, with their artistry, a gay wedding, they sued.
“The decision at the appeals court said the ordinance was seriously flawed, and part had to be struck down for being too vague. But the ruling said the basic premise could be enforced. The ruling likely won’t be the final word on the fight.
“‘Artists shouldn’t be forced under threat of fines and jail time to create artwork contrary to their core convictions,’ said Jonathan Scruggs, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the two artists. ‘The court’s decision allows the government to compel two artists who happily serve everyone to convey a message about marriage they disagree with. This contradicts basic freedoms our nation has always cherished. In Monday’s Masterpiece Cakeshop decision, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that ‘religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression. Phoenix’s position contradicts this principle and violates our clients’ artistic and religious freedom. We intend to appeal the court’s decision.’
“Duka and Koski contend they could be and would be prosecuted under the ordinance for refusing to promote a gay or lesbian wedding. That would, they affirmed and the court agreed, violate their deeply held Christian beliefs.
“And it violates Arizona’s Free Speech Clause and Free Exercise of Religion Act, the lawyers explained. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed Jack Phillips’ decision not to do a same-sex wedding cake, and the Arizona court jumped on that as justification to allow the mandate against Christians.
“It quoted from the Supreme Court’s decision that society now recognizes that “gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts’ but that ‘religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression.’
“The Arizona judges said First Amendment issues didn’t matter. ‘They cannot discriminate,’ the court said of the artists, “against potential patrons based on sexual orientation. Key, however, was the court’s concession that there was no ‘specific message’ being challenged.
“The judges also lashed out at the artists, charging that they ‘are not the first to attempt to use their religious beliefs to justify practices others consider overtly discriminatory.’ The judges refused to admit that creating custom wedding invitations and artwork was ‘expressive conduct.’
“The judges claimed the ordinance was content and viewpoint neutral, even though on its face it specifically includes some viewpoints, and excludes others.
“The judges also quote Elena Kagan’s opinion in the Phillips case, that “a vendor can choose the product he sells, but not the customers he serves,’ but that, of course, ignores the fact that the ‘product’ being sold requires personal creation by an artist, and is not the same class as a pair of boots or a loaf of bread.
“The Phillips ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court appears not to have made any move toward resolving the fight that was sparked by the creation of same-sex marriage: the conflicting assertions whether the religious rights protected by the First Amendment are supreme, or whether the newly created LGBT rights are supreme…”
In the Phoenix case, one factor could end up being that the ordinance would punish a business owner with one set of beliefs, but not a business owner with different religious beliefs.
Ten years ago, the challenges to Religious Liberty would have been unthinkable. Imagine overthrowing more than 200 years of tradition and precedence in America to restrict religious freedoms of Christian people while approving of the same type of discrimination against Christians. But that is what is happening. The Supreme Court and liberal judges around the country are turning religious liberty on its head and shredding the first amendment thereby. The U.S. Supreme Court had the opportunity to resolve the matter and restore religious liberty, but they didn’t. And two of the nine judges didn’t even think it was wrong for the State to treat Christians with contempt. The time has arrived, when the crown jewel of rights and freedoms – religious liberty – has been repudiated. This suggests that since all other freedoms protect religious liberty, they have been repudiated also. See Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 5, page 451.