Liberties Reporting on First Amendment freedoms

The nondiscrimination paradox

First Amendment | American attitudes about religious liberty are shifting
by Bonnie Pritchett
Posted 8/14/18, 04:01 pm

An increasing number of Americans—almost 50 percent—agree business owners should be allowed to refuse to service same-sex weddings if doing so violates their religious convictions. But respondents also overwhelmingly support LGBT nondiscrimination laws—the very laws that put Christian business owners on the defense.

The numbers don’t surprise two religious liberty advocates who, earlier this year, championed legislation in their respective states that would protect religious-affiliated foster and adoption care agencies from anti-discrimination lawsuits.

Three weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Colorado baker Jack Phillips, who was sued for refusing to create a cake for a same-sex wedding because of his Biblical beliefs about marriage, the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) polled about 2,000 Americans on their views about LGBT public accommodation laws. The Aug. 2 release of “Wedding Cakes, Same-sex Marriage, and the Future of LGBT Rights in America” revealed Americans have softened toward religious business owners and the predicament they face in the wake of legalized gay marriage.

“The law is a teacher,” said Paul Weber, president of the Family Policy Alliance in Colorado. “The public is naturally becoming more aware of the problems that business owners, ministries, and others face when LGBT groups push for special protections under the law.”

Still, Colorado lawmakers refused legislation that would protect the religious liberty of foster care and adoption agencies that only place children with heterosexual couples. Lawmakers used the state’s nondiscrimination law that LGBT activists said required Phillips to create a cake for a same-sex wedding to reject the legislation.

Legislators in Kansas and Oklahoma succeeded in passing protective measures. The PRRI survey may shed some light as to why.

When asked whether a wedding service provider should be allowed to refuse service to a same-sex wedding based on religious convictions, 46 percent of respondents said yes while 48 percent said no. In 2017, only 41 percent said yes.

The most significant swing in opinion came from African-Americans. Forty-five percent said business owners should not have to provide services for a same-sex wedding, up 9 percentage points from last year. Hispanic Americans had a similar change of heart from 26 percent to 34 percent.

“Honoring the conscience rights of people of faith is common sense,” Eric Teetsel, president of the Family Policy Alliance of Kansas, told me. “As the stories of Christians in business working faithfully become known, Americans are persuaded to preserve a place for them in our society.”

Yet 71 percent of survey respondents favor protecting LGBT Americans from discrimination in employment, housing, or public accommodation, down only slightly from the 2015 rate of 75 percent.

Americans seem to want it both ways: Allow business owners to operate according to their religious convictions and demand business owners not discriminate against LGBT persons. That reveals most Americans are “eager for peace in this particular culture war” Teetsel said. Passage of the Adoption Protections Act in Kansas proves “respectful disagreement” can benefit everyone, he said, but nondiscrimination laws serve only to stamp out faith: “This is becoming more and more clear as activists reject even the most reasonable protections, like those for ministries that exist to help orphans find a home.”

Facebook Facebook Ragamuffins Coffee House

Exiled church can sue city

A federal judge last week ruled a Laurel, Md., congregation kicked out of its building by ever-changing city zoning regulations can move forward with its lawsuit against the city. The suit claims city administrators violated federal law when they intentionally changed zoning codes to prohibit Redemption Community Church from worshipping in its newly renovated downtown building.

In 2015, the church purchased a narrow, three-story building with plans to operate a nonprofit coffee shop Monday through Saturday and host worship services on Sunday.

After renovating the building, Redemption Community Church and Ragamuffins Coffee House opened in April 2017. Nine months later, the city issued a cease-and-desist order claiming the worship services violated city code. Facing a $250 fine for each violation, the 20-member congregation complied. It now rents a space outside of town, “away from the people it feels called to minister to,” Christiana Holcomb, an Alliance Defending Freedom attorney representing the church, told me.

Holcomb contends the city violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act by requiring the church to obtain costly permits not required of secular businesses in the same zoning area. Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice launched a nationwide initiative to shine a light on cities’ discriminatory zoning codes.

City officials filed a motion to dismiss the suit earlier this year, but U.S. District Court Judge Peter Messitte rejected the motion last Wednesday, allowing the suit to proceed. —B.P.

Associated Press/Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais Associated Press/Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais Justice Clarence Thomas

Unrelated implications

Laws prohibiting so-called “conversion therapy” for persons seeking counsel for unwanted same-sex attraction or gender confusion could be in jeopardy thanks to a recent unrelated U.S. Supreme Court decision.

In June, the high court said in NIFLA v. Becerra that the government cannot compel a pro-life pregnancy center to post information about abortion options, a message contrary to its convictions. California’s Democratic-dominated state legislature and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had justified the law by arguing “professional speech” can be controlled by the government.

“This Court has never recognized ‘professional speech’ as a separate category of speech subject to different rules,” wrote Justice Clarence Thomas in his majority opinion. “Speech is not unprotected merely because it is uttered by professionals.”

Some legal experts believe another kind of professional speech should be protected. Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, said the decision and a concurring opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy repudiate a 2012 California law banning conversion therapy for minors and could pose a legal challenge to a bill working its way through the California legislature that would ban the teaching of a Biblical view of sexual orientation. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have passed laws to revoke the license of any counselor who helps clients with unwanted same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria embrace heterosexuality or their biological sex. —B.P. A billboard promoting the SoCal Harvest outreach event

Billboard down, Bibles up

Officials at a popular Southern California mall recently removed billboards promoting an outreach event hosted by Christian evangelist Greg Laurie. Managers of the Fashion Island Mall said they took down the large posters advertising the 29th annual SoCal Harvest at Anaheim’s Angel Stadium due to complaints about the religious nature of the billboards.

The ad included a black and white image of Laurie holding a book overhead with text announcing the event dates and participating musicians. The book had no label but is presumed to be a Bible.

SoCal Harvest revamped the ad by removing the book but it still did not meet mall approval, Laurie said in an interview on Fox and Friends. The mall’s parent entity, the Irvine Company, apologized, canceled the ad campaign, and refunded the church’s money.

But word about the August 17-19 event is still getting out. Instead of using billboards, event organizers from Harvest Christian Fellowship took to Twitter and asked people to take a photo of themselves with their Bible and post it with the hashtag #StandWithTheBible. —B.P.

Bonnie Pritchett

Bonnie reports on First Amendment freedoms for WORLD Digital.

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  •  phillipW's picture
    Posted: Wed, 08/15/2018 11:05 am

    I just get angry in reading all of these reports.  Just extremely angry at the hatred and hostility of mankind against God.

    Why are we subjected to this lifetime of senseless violence, crime, death, despair, hostility, battery, rape, murder, incest, pedophilia, homosexuality, adultery, abortion, lying, stealing, cheating, thieving, selfishness, corruption, bribery, extortion.

    Why do I have to be forced to tolerate a world full of sin, and now especially a world that not only endorses sin, but is attempting to outlaw that which labels such as sin?

    Where am I to turn to escape this madness, and senseless life?

    Your articles are deeply disturbing to me, and wounding my already manic depressed state to levels I can't even fathom at this point.

  • RC
    Posted: Wed, 08/15/2018 01:38 pm

    Let me get this right, someone complained about the “religious nature” of a private advertising bill board on private property and the owner took it down?   So, if I complained about the senseless violence, crime, death, despair, hostility, battery, rape, murder, incest, pedophilia, homosexuality, adultery, abortion, lying, stealing, cheating, thieving, selfishness, corruption, bribery, extortion in Holly Wood’s films, would they stop production on about 90% of what they are putting out?   

    (PS. thankyou phillipW for the list)

  • Buddy's picture
    Posted: Fri, 08/17/2018 06:31 pm

    The Statistical Abstract of the United States records that over 80% of babies aborted in the U.S. are to unwed women. This says fornication is the true cause of our abortions. The Bible states in more than one place that Christian gentiles are to flee fornication so why is this not being addressed in our churches and other conservative organizations? Fornication is not in your list but is mentioned three times in the New Testament. Its like the elephant in the Church that no one wants to acknowledge.

  •  Peter Allen's picture
    Peter Allen
    Posted: Mon, 08/20/2018 09:34 am

    Why the suffering, sin, violence, abortion, etc, etc.  Best answer I have heard:   "ask me why children suffer, the only thing I can say is: 'Look at the child of God on a cross.' I don't know what other answer to give you. But let's talk about why God allows it, which is the core of the question. Quite simply, because he created us as persons, and as such: free! God is respectful of freedom. He allowed his son to be killed on the cross. The game of human freedom: God risked a lot here! It would more dishonor man, if God could take away his freedom, than if man, with his freedom, committed a crime."  Pope Francis.  I am not a Catholic.  But I will give credit where due as that was understanding.  It is the Muslim teaching that God's people should control free will here and now even if it means blowing themselves up to stop what they consider sin.  Our God allows us, and the ungodly to be tested to prove if there is gold inside.  Yet why it does not stop with abortion (in my mind the worst) I do not know.  Scripture says my tears will be wiped away by the Lord himself.  I take that to mean at that time I will also understanding our empty womb while so many little ones are dismembered that we could have held in our arms.  Striving for a better attitude in all things: "the same violence of affliction proves, purges, clarifies the good, but damns, ruins, exterminates the wicked. And thus it is that in the same affliction the wicked detest God and blaspheme, while the good pray and praise. So material a difference does it make, not what ills are suffered, but what kind of person suffers them. For, stirred up with the same movement, mud exhales a horrible stench, and ointment emits a fragrant smell." Augustine, The City of God. In regard to the fall of Rome.

  • Laura W
    Posted: Tue, 08/21/2018 04:08 pm

    Why do the nations conspire
        and the peoples plot in vain?
    The kings of the earth rise up
        and the rulers band together
        against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
    “Let us break their chains
        and throw off their shackles.”

    The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
        the Lord scoffs at them.
    He rebukes them in his anger
        and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
    “I have installed my king
        on Zion, my holy mountain.”

    Psalm 2:1-6