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The future of religious liberty

| Thursday, December 7, 2017

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the controversial case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The case will determine whether a bakery owner has the right to refuse to provide a wedding cake to a gay couple. This case will result in one of the most important Supreme Court decisions in recent history. We will soon discover if the Supreme Court will uphold one of the most fundamental of all constitutional rights: the right to exercise one’s religion.

This case is not about the legality of discrimination against gay people, despite being posed as such by some. This case does not involve a baker refusing to sell a gay person a birthday cake or a blueberry muffin. In examples such as these, where a baker refuses service to an individual simply on the basis of the individual’s sexual orientation, it is rather apparent that the baker would be engaged in unjustifiable discrimination.

While it may seem that the case being brought to the Supreme Court is analogous to the above examples of discrimination, it is vital to highlight the core difference between such discriminatory cases and the case currently being litigated at the highest court in the land. This case does not involve a baker refusing service to gay individuals simply on the account of their sexual orientation. Rather, this case involves a baker refusing to offer his product to go towards a gay wedding. In this case, the baker is objecting to the gay wedding, not the gay individuals. The bakery owner, Jack Phillips, objects to a gay wedding because his Christian faith tells him that marriage is between one man and one woman.

Some people argue that making the aforementioned distinction between refusing service based on sexual orientation and refusing service based on religious objections to a gay wedding ceremony is splitting hairs. However, the distinction is not contrived or insignificant, but rather provably legitimate and substantial. In this case, the bakery owner offered to sell the gay couple any other baked good. He simply said he was unable to sell a gay wedding cake without violating the teachings of his religion on marriage and sexual activity. Thus, since the only deterrence to Phillips’ willingness to serve the couple was the fact that his product would go towards a gay wedding, it is obvious that the gay wedding itself is the very subject of his objection.

I do not expect the Supreme Court or the American populace at large to agree with the moral and religious beliefs of the bakery owner. It is undeniably true that selling a wedding cake to a gay couple would not violate the religious conscience of many people, even many Christians. However, the important reality is that there is a sect of the population, of which this bakery owner belongs to, whom hold fervent religious views that would lead to feelings of religious betrayal if they were to have their products included in a gay wedding ceremony.

One of the most frequent responses to the argument I have posited above is to suggest that utilizing the bakery owner’s first amendment right to abide by his Christian faith could be extended to defend atrocities such as the refusal to offer services to an interracial wedding. This response even appeared in Tuesday’s arguments in front of the Supreme Court. However, this argument has no validity because there is no reasonable religious objection to interracial marriage. One cannot claim an action to be an exercise of one’s religion if the action one is committing is entirely unreasonable and not legitimately tied to one’s religion. In other words, a Christian bakery owner would be unjustified in refusing service to an interracial wedding because there is no reasonable Christian objection to interracial marriage. The objection to provide services to an interracial wedding could only be explained as rooted in bigotry and racism, both of which should not be protected.

Interracial marriage and homosexual marriage are fundamentally different and hold fundamentally different footings in religion and society. Unlike interracial marriage, there are explicit and legitimate objections to homosexual marriage within Christianity, and nearly every other major religion for that matter.

The words “reasonable” and “legitimate” certainly possess a degree of subjectivity, but the very nature of judicial proceedings is grounded in dealing with rather subjective notions. With that said, I hope that the jurisprudence utilized in this Supreme Court case will correctly identify the bakery owner’s objection to making a gay wedding cake as reasonable and legitimate in the context of freedom of religion.

The Supreme Court should rule in favor of the Christian bakery owner. Every American should possess the right to reasonably abide by their legitimate religious convictions. Stripping Americans of this right is stripping individuals of the most fundamental of all constitutional rights and sets a dangerous path towards broad infringement on civil liberties.

Eddie is a junior majoring in economics and political science, with a minor in constitutional studies. He plans on attending law school after his time as an undergraduate at Notre Dame. He can be reached at edamstra@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Eddie Damstra

Eddie is a junior from Orland Park, Illinois. He is majoring in Economics and Political Science with a minor in Constitutional Studies and plans on pursuing law school after his time as an undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame.

Contact Eddie
  • Dogger807

    We need to stop having special privileges handed to the religious and actually expect them to follow the same laws as everyone else.

    • warmupthediesel

      Okay. Go ahead and start arresting second graders for drinking wine at Mass.

      Have fun watching all of the Christian schools/hospitals vanish from the country.

      • RandallPoopenmeyer

        I would love it if Christian schools and hospitals vanished from the country.

  • Annette Magjuka

    Does the baker sell wedding cakes? Yes? Then he must sell them to any customer who wants a wedding cake and who has the $ to pay for it. If he wants to bake wedding cakes only for couples who adhere to his religious preferences, he can sell the wedding cakes at church bake sales. Don’t forget, Mormons called black people “mud people” (see the Bible) and considered them inferior to whites, until 1978! Using religion to discriminate is not OK.

    • warmupthediesel

      You really have an issue with a Catholic doctor being uncomfortable with artificially inseminating your gay friend? The child would NOT have a father….which isn’t fair to the child in the slightest. It’s a tragedy when a child cannot be reared by a mother and a father.

      • Annette Magjuka

        No, my problem is that this doctor does artificial insemination (against church teaching) but not for all patients who request the procedure. He makes his own “line in the sand” for a gay patient. This doctor is not the Catholic Church, he is an individual Catholic. He doesn’t follow church teaching, except when he wants to. And laws that let individuals make these determinations are laws that invite all kinds of discrimination. By the way, studies clearly show no ill effects from being raised by two moms or two dads. Kids need love. In fact, our entire world could use some love right now. You, know, like Jesus taught us?

        • warmupthediesel

          So kids don’t need fathers after all?! Man….you ought to spread that message to the inner cities all over the nation!

          • Tom Z.

            You sound like a moron when you say things like this. Please stop

          • warmupthediesel

            What? Was just trying to clarify that fathers are in-fact replaceable.

          • Tom Z.

            I know you were and you sound like a completely uneducated moron when doing so. People like you only hurt their own cause because the rest of us see how stupid you sound when you try and hilariously fail to contribute anything of value to adult conversations.

          • warmupthediesel

            It takes a special type of somebody to result to ad hominem when you can’t even address the point I made in the first place!

          • Tom Z.

            Your points are so far below the threshold for actual debate, they are not worth responding, and if you don’t want to be called a buffoon who has no clue how to engage intellectually, don’t act like one. Take your idiotic comments elsewhere and consider joining the rest of society in regards to their level of intellect and discourse.

          • warmupthediesel

            Mind thine insolence and knavery.

            You’re the jerk who butted into this thread to throw insults at a stranger on the internet. Look in a mirror, see what you are, and have a nice day!

  • buster01

    Is the baker not in business to serve the public? A portion of he public may want a gay wedding. Freedom of religion is about being able to believe whatever you want to believe or to believe nothing. That religious freedom has nothing to do with the religious baker wanting to impose his morals or religious beliefs onto others by his refusal to serve the public. Business is strictly secular.

  • RandallPoopenmeyer

    If the baker sells basic wedding cakes, then he had to sell a wedding cake to everyone. If he does not sell wedding cakes with specific messages on them, then he does not have to provide cakes with messages on them for anyone.