Editor’s note: Amid the heated debate over Arizona’s SB 1062 law, which aims to protect religious liberty, it’s worth looking back at some of the ways that religious beliefs have come under attack in the public square in recent years. The language in this post that is quoted originally appeared in a National Review Online article by Ryan T. Anderson and Leslie Ford. Kelsey Harris also contributed to this article.
1. Elane Photography
Elane Huguenin and her husband, Jon, run Elane Photography, a small business in Albuquerque, N.M.
Back in 2006, the couple declined a request to photograph a same-sex ceremony because of a difference in beliefs. Elane explained:
“The message a same-sex commitment ceremony communicates is not one I believe.”
Elane Photography never refused to take pictures of gay and lesbian individuals, but it did decline to photograph a same-sex ceremony. Meanwhile, other photographers in the Albuquerque area were more than happy to photograph the event — and Elane has no problem giving them that business.
But in 2008, the New Mexico Human Rights Commission ruled that the Huguenins had discriminated based on sexual orientation. The commission ordered them to pay $6,637.94 in attorneys’ fees.
At the end of 2013, the New Mexico Supreme Court upheld the Human Rights Commission. It concluded that under the state’s sexual-orientation and gender-identity law, “the First Amendment does not protect a photographer’s freedom to decline to take pictures of a same-sex commitment ceremony even when doing so would violate the photographer’s deeply held religious beliefs.”
Elane Photography has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review of its case.
2. Sweet Cakes by Melissa
When Rachel Cryer and Laurel Bowman asked the Oregon bakery Sweet Cakes by Melissa to bake a wedding cake for their same-sex commitment ceremony in 2013, Sweet Cakes declined the request.
The bakery owners consistently served all customers on a regular basis, but making a cake for the Cryer and Bowman would have required them to facilitate and celebrate a same-sex relationship — which would violate their religious belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.
It’s a value derived from their very-open Christian beliefs. Check out this picture the bakery shared on their Facebook wall.
P.S. — Oregon law defines marriage as being between one man and one woman, too.
But the lesbian couple filed a complaint under the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. In January, the agency issued a ruling that held that the Sweet Cakes by Melissa violated Oregon’s sexual-orientation law when by refusing to bake the cake.
As the story gained local media attention, the owners, Melissa and Aaron Klein, immediately faced threats, vicious protests, and boycotts.
Fearing for their safety, the Kleins closed Sweet Cakes by Melissa in September 2013.
3. Masterpiece Cakeshop
Meet Jack Phillips, who owns Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado.
He declined to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding reception for these guys:
In 2012, the couple received a marriage license in Massachusetts and asked Phillips to bake a cake for a reception back home in Denver. But because of his faith, Phillips declined to create a wedding cake:
“I don’t feel like I should participate in their wedding, and when I do a cake, I feel like I am participating in the ceremony or the event or the celebration that the cake is for.”
But the American Civil Liberties Union disagrees. They “filed a complaint against Masterpiece Cakeshop with the state, alleging violations of Colorado’s public-accommodation law. Administrative Law Judge Robert N. Spencer ruled against the bakery on December 6, 2013, concluding that Phillips violated the law by refusing service to the two men ‘because of their sexual orientation.'”
Phillips’ response: objection.
He said he’d happily sell the couple his baked goods for any number of occasions, but baking a wedding cake would force him to express something that he does not believe, violating his freedom to run his business in step with his faith.
“It’s just the wedding cake, not the people. Not the lifestyle. … We’d close down the bakery before we compromise our beliefs.”
4. Arlene’s Flowers
Barronelle Stutzman owns Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts in Washington State.
Her longtime customers Roger Ingersoll and Curt Freed requested she arrange the flowers for their same-sex wedding ceremony.
Stutzman responded that she “could not accept the job because of her ‘relationship with Jesus Christ’ and her belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.”
But the couple filed a complaint and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed suit “against Stutzman, contending that she had violated the state’s sexual-orientation law.”
Now Stutzman faces $2,000 fine, a court order, and outrage from local residents. Here’s a Facebook page with 626 supporters.
As these cases show, religious liberty and discrimination are almost certainly matters that both courts and citizens will tackle and struggle with in the upcoming years.