12 Religious Freedom Cases Highlighted In New 1st Amendment Report
A new report by the Family Research Council highlights 12 businesses run by Christians who are being forced to act against their conscience and against their religious faith. Each of the 12 cases highlighted by the Family Research Council report written by Travis Weber, Esq. and Adam Burton, titled Religious Liberty and the “Wedding Vendor” Cases involve a same sex wedding ceremony where the vendors declined the business, choosing not to participate in the celebration of something they believe is against their religious beliefs.
The report states in its introduction, "Public accommodation laws have long protected individuals from being denied service because of their status as a member of a protected class. These laws were necessary as part of the noble effort to put an end to widespread and state-sponsored racial discrimination."
The report takes the stance that these vendors are protected under their 1st Amendment rights to practice their religion even if it means turning away some customers whose celebratory events do not align with their religious beliefs. None of the vendors have nor had a problem serving people who identify as gay, lesbian or transgender but the problem arose when they were asked to participate in the wedding ceremony. The report states,
"Aside from the deep and obvious differences between race and sexual orientation, it is important to note the distinct difference between not serving people as a class, and not serving a particular event. Racial discrimination, such as the action of the Heart of Atlanta Motel in refusing service to African-Americans in 1964,2 is marked by the former, and the wedding vendor cases of today are marked by the latter. The objection for today’s wedding vendors is not the person, but the message of the particular event. Indeed, many of these business owners have longstanding and ongoing relationships and friendships with same-sex attracted 2 customers who have frequented their stops—they happily do business with them, but don’t want to be asked to help celebrate their same-sex marriages."
One of the business vendors in the report is Sweet Cakes by Melissa run by Aaron and Melissa Klein. Refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same sex wedding, they were prosecuted and fined $135,000. They were then forced to close their bakery in 2013 and believe their free speech and freedom of religion rights have been violated.
The report summarizes 11 other events and concludes that this is really an issue of serving an event and the communication of that event, not the people themselves.
"Requiring a cake-baker, wedding photographer, or other artisan to promote a message that contradicts sincerely-held, personal beliefs certainly violates the First Amendment, as explained by the Supreme Court in Hurley. Religiously-motivated business people communicating a message by serving weddings deserve the same constitutional protections as religiously motivated parade organizers communicating a message through their parade."