Month Archives: June 2018

Imitating My Father

by Daniel Hart

June 15, 2018

Courtesy of State Library of Queensland

My one-and-a-half-year-old son imitates everything I do these days. “Hey, babes,” I said as I greeted my wife a number of weeks ago. “Hey babes,” he garbled from his high chair a few seconds later. When I left a garbage bag next to the front door one day, he toddled over to it and began attempting to tie the drawstrings together, just as he had seen me do minutes before. Now, to my amazement, he is feeding himself with a spoon. It brings me great joy to watch him carefully position the spoon in his fingers so that he can angle it correctly into his bowl and scoop up food, which he then brings to his mouth with remarkable control and efficiency. It’s as if he saw someone else doing the same thing.

To see my son constantly imitate me is thrilling, humbling, and a bit frightening all at once. It’s exhilarating to know that another human sees me as such an influential presence and role model—I’m excited by the prospect of passing on the passion I have for reading, music, sports, and the knowledge and love of our Father up above. At the same time, I’m realizing more and more the extent to which my words and actions can influence his behavior, which means I really do need to watch what I say and do.

As Father’s Day approaches, I’m reminded of all the ways I imitated my own father when I was growing up. I’ll never forget the Saturday he brought me along with him to the local rec center to play pickup basketball when I was around 10. I watched in awe and a little trepidation at how quickly the much larger men moved and passed the ball. I was soon thrown into the mix, and found myself panicking as I tried to keep up. “Stay between your man and the basket,” my dad said. I could tell by the way he played that he took pride in playing good defense. Something clicked for me after that, and I’ve loved playing basketball ever since.

Then there was the beautiful sunny day my dad first showed me how to swing a golf club in our front yard. He explained the proper grip to take, how far away to stand from the ball, how to bring the club back, and the appropriate motion to take on the downswing. As I imitated his golf swing for the first time, I remember a feeling of comfort come over me. Playing golf has been a natural fit and a great source of fulfilment for me from that day on. 

What I am most grateful to my father for is his determination to keep his Catholic faith central in his life. He always wore a dress shirt and tie on Sundays while a large percentage of other men wore jeans and t-shirts. During Mass, he would always sing out the hymns with passion, while many other men in neighboring pews would stand silently with seeming indifference. The reverence he showed during Mass always struck me—his head was often bowed forward, his eyes closed, and his hands clasped together. After the gospel was proclaimed and the congregation took their seats, he would often remain standing for a beat longer than everyone else, as if to take an extra moment to let Christ’s words soak into his soul. I could feel the devotion emanating from within him during Mass, and it rubbed off on me.

The car ride home from Mass would usually entail a heartfelt commentary from him about the priest’s homily. Countless conversations at home about the nature of faith and reflecting on the life of the Holy Family are some of my fondest memories. There were also numerous times that I recall him witnessing to friends and acquaintances who did not share his faith. This has always been something I have greatly admired in him—there was an energy and joy that his faith gave him that he did not want to contain, compelling him to share it with others. There was also fearlessness in the indifference he had to what others might have thought of him. Seeing him take his faith so seriously clearly made a great impression on me. I can see now that it was through my imitation of my father at a young age that I first began to make the Catholic faith my own.

Every father knows that they set an example for their children, but what they perhaps don’t know is how much of an impact they can actually have on them. Part of the reason for this is that it is easy for parents to underestimate how observant their children are, which I have discovered with surprise at my own son’s remarkable ability to imitate me. I doubt that my dad knew the extent to which I was watching him as I grew up. What I have noticed is that this is a common experience. I remember numerous occasions where my sister and I have related our experience of a childhood memory, to which my parents have responded, “Really? You remember that? I didn’t think you noticed” or “That’s funny—I don’t remember it that way!” I have also seen this same interaction happen with my friends and their parents. I have no doubt that when I am advanced in years and I listen to my son’s experiences of childhood, I will be blown away.

In the first verse of 1 Corinthians 11, Paul states plainly: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” For me, this is the perfect encapsulation of what authentic fatherhood should be. God created us in such a way that the father of a family is to be the image of Himself—God the Father. We see this in how a father and mother welcome a newborn child—with love. The first experience of God’s love that a newborn encounters is through the love of their father and mother. As Paul says, the model that fathers need to follow is Christ, the Incarnation of God Himself. But since Christ no longer physically walks the earth, His followers must imitate Him in order to allow His presence to abide in the world. Paul stood as an amazing model for Christ in the early Christian church, and his example was imitated by his followers, who were then imitated by their followers, and so the faith was passed down through the generations. This mission has been passed down to all Christian fathers today—to imitate Christ in order to lead by example for the good of their children and for the good of everyone they encounter.

Thank you, Dad, for your example of Christian manhood. Your witness of faith is something I hope to pass down to my own son, just as you did for me. Happy Father’s Day!

Getting to Know Generation Z

by Marion Mealor

June 14, 2018

For years, researchers have been studying the worldview of millennials and how it differs from the generations before them. More recently, however, a new generation that is just entering their college years is stepping into the spotlight and gaining attention—Generation Z.  Who are they? The simple answer is that they are the 60-70 million people born between 1999-2015 (ages 2-18), making them the second largest generation in America. The more complicated answer, however, encompasses the identity of the most ethnically diverse generation alive today. What is shaping them? What is their worldview? How can we lead them? Based on research conducted by the Barna Group in partnership with the Impact 360 Institute, Jonathan Morrow answers these questions at an FRC Speaker’s Series event yesterday in Washington, D.C.

As Gen Z is growing up, it is vital to know and understand what is shaping them and if they will carry on the cultural and moral trends that defined Millennials. David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, asks a very significant question, “Is it possible that many churches are preparing young Christians to face a world that no longer exists?” This is something we must recognize in order to equip Gen Z for the challenges they are sure to face. The percentage of people with a biblical worldview has been in evident decline with each generation, from the Baby Boomers to Gen Z. According to Morrow, only four percent of Generation Z have a biblical worldview, making them the “post Christian” generation. It is important to evaluate whether we are preparing our young people for the world we wish we lived in or the world that actually exists.

Jonathan Morrow, the Director of Cultural Engagement at the Impact 360 Institute, offers some essential mindset shifts needed for leading Generation Z. This generation does not remember a time without interactive screens, and they exemplify the pros and cons of being “digital natives.” Many in this generation need to learn more about how to form relationships with people and how to engage in face-to-face conversations. Today, many young people feel unequipped to defend their faith because they lack the training and knowledge to do so. Morrow pointed out the importance of allowing them to test what they believe by being challenging in their faith, which will give room for it to grow.

Too often, the data of our lives is compartmentalized into different boxes, but one of the best gifts we can give Gen Z is showing them how all these isolated parts work together. Our faith should not start and end when we go to church on Sunday, but instead be integrated into everything we do. One of the positive things about Gen Z is that they have a lot of empathy. Our job is to help them channel that in the direction of virtue. They need to know why they believe what they believe so they can take a stand of faith no matter what they may face. In short, Gen Z needs more connections, more challenge, more training, more integration, and more critical thinking.

Understanding Generation Z is critical if we want to serve, lead, influence, and equip this next generation. The majority of these young people are still heavily influenced by parents, friends, teachers, and churches. They are driven by the desire for success in schooling and careers, and one of the best ways to reach them is vocational discipleship. We can be an ally to this “next, next generation” and continue to direct them to a biblical worldview. In the words of Morrow, “Listen and be present.” For more information and to learn more about Generation Z, be sure to view FRC’s Speaker Series event with Jonathan Morrow.

Marion Mealor is an intern at Family Research Council.

Good But Not Great: Don’t Be Fooled by the Masterpiece Decision

by Andrew Rock

June 12, 2018

While it is wonderful that the Supreme Court gave Jack Phillips long-overdue justice in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado, the battle for religious liberty is far from over. The Court only held that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s obvious bias against Phillips violated his right to a neutral decision maker. This means that future cases could undermine religious liberty so long as the decision makers appear neutral. What we need is a decision or a law that explicitly protects business owners like Jack Phillips, or better still, a repeal of misguided laws passed under the guise of “antidiscrimination.”

Jack Phillips runs Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado, and in 2012, he refused to create a cake for the wedding of a same-sex couple. The couple complained to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, who sent the case to an Administrative Law Judge, who in turn found that Phillips had broken Colorado’s civil rights laws. The Supreme Court held that the Commission had violated Phillips’ rights under the First Amendment due to their blatant anti-faith bias.

The Commission brusquely dismissed Phillips’ arguments that his faith precluded him from endorsing a same-sex wedding without thoughtfully addressing their substance or nuance. One commission member went so far as to compare Phillips’ arguments for religious liberty to those of slave owners and people complicit in the Holocaust. In addition, the Commission granted exemptions to bakers who refused to bake cakes with Bible verses opposing homosexual behavior, holding that this was not unlawful discrimination. The Court held that the flagrant anti-faith bias shown in the Commission’s comments and decision-making invalidated its judgment in Phillips’ case, because the First Amendment requires the government to remain neutral on religious issues.

While it is good that the Court rebuked this blatant abuse of power, this decision does not bode well for future religious liberty cases. The Court merely held that someone like Phillips has the right to a hearing before a neutral decision maker, and if this occurs, outcomes in such cases “may well be different going forward.”

This means that the next case could go poorly for a Christian business owner, provided that the deciding body maintains a pretense of neutrality. If a court or commission can restrain themselves enough to avoid comparing ordinary Christians to slave-owners and Nazis, and then finds that their freedom of conscience subjects “gay persons to indignities,” (which is vague and subjective enough to mean just about anything), they could easily punish someone for refusing to participate in a same-sex wedding through cake or floral design, photography, or other creative service. This is poor precedent, as it leaves Christian businesses vulnerable to biased decisions by courts and commissions sly enough to conceal their prejudice when they apply laws such as Colorado’s.

Since a court that appears neutral could easily use these “antidiscrimination” laws to punish Christians who follow their conscience, religious freedom rights must be clarified in the context of these laws. Better yet, given the constant abuse of laws like Colorado’s to target anyone who disagrees with the politically correct orthodoxy, it would make sense to repeal them and avoid the problem entirely.

Jack Phillips received well-deserved relief in this case, and there is now clear precedent against open bias on the part of courts and commissions in similar instances. However, there is still an enormous risk that decision makers will simply stay quiet about their anti-Christian biases and continue to produce biased and skewed decisions based on current “antidiscrimination” laws. This means that we need to either craft protections in the context of these laws or repeal them outright.

Andrew Rock is a law student and an intern at Family Research Council.

Warning to Northern Ireland: Science Without Faith is Dead

by Patrina Mosley

June 11, 2018

On May 25th, the world turned its eyes to Ireland for a historic vote. For the first time ever, a nation’s populace democratically voted to take away protections of the God-given right to life of unborn children, which had been established in Irish law since 1861. Now the pressure is upon Northern Ireland to do the same—members of Parliament have called for an emergency debate to decriminalize abortion.

Although Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom, where abortion was legalized under The Abortion Act of 1967, that Act has not been extended to Northern Ireland as it has maintained its respect for life under their Offences Against the Person Act 1861. Opponents are seeking to repeal articles 58 and 59 of the Act which makes it a crime for any man or woman to procure or cause an abortion. This Act also covers other crimes such as “conspiracy to commit murder, manslaughter, assault and child abduction.”

Here’s what I would warn Northern Ireland about in the debate:

It’s hard to ignore the irony here—having a debate about whether a person should have a right to life as protected under the Offences Against the Person Act. What could possibly be more offensive to a person than killing them?

Abortion is not a “right” but a crime against humanity and denies what we already know in our natural consciences. Abortion is not “progress” as some have held in praise towards Ireland’s vote. Abortion is not a “woman’s right.” It is not “women’s healthcare.” Nor is it about “ women’s dignity,” as some have claimed. Abortion is the taking of innocent life for the convenience of another. There is no dignity in that.

Abortion does not make women’s lives better; it is often done because they don’t feel empowered to care for the child by their partners, parents, or community. Countless women have shared their experiences of how abortion has not made their lives better but only complicated it. Thousands of testimonies (see here and here), many anonymous, have been written by women who are left with the devastating psychological and emotional effects of abortion.

Emotional personal testimonies of women who had abortions due to physical ailments were shared during the debate, but according to the U.K.’s abortion statistics, less than one percent of abortions occur to save the life or health of the mother. Northern Ireland already has protections for instances like these when the physical or mental health or well-being of the mother is at risk. We should not use rare cases to justify the demand for the convenience of abortion.

Abortion is not progress, but instead permission to start a culture of death. Make no mistake, the legalization of abortion in the Western world has opened the door to the legalization of assisted suicide, the elimination of the weak or disabled in society, and so much more. It corrupts the value of life in all facets of society—look no further than the rampart mass shootings we’ve endured.

According to a recent Pew Research report, nearly 80 percent of Irish adults identify as Christians, but church attendance rates have decreased from 54 percent in 2002 to 36 percent in 2017. What Ireland has shown us is that a society can have all the facts and science in the world, but without faith, there is no moral compass. Anything goes. It would appear that science without faith is dead.

In the words of Alexis de Tocqueville: “Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.” Northern Ireland, do not be deceived. I say it again, a disregard for life is not progress, but merely permission to start a culture of death.

More information on U.K. abortion statistics.

Keep up with live updates on the Northern Ireland abortion debate.

Masterpiece Cakeshop: How Can a 7-2 Supreme Court Decision Be “Narrow?”

by Peter Sprigg

June 8, 2018

On June 4, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a decision by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission (upheld by Colorado courts) that had found baker Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop guilty of unlawful discrimination for declining to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The vote was 7-2—that is, seven justices voted to overturn the Colorado decision, while only two voted to uphold it.

The New York Times’ online story about the ruling carried the headline, “In Narrow Decision, Supreme Court Sides With Baker Who Turned Away Gay Couple.” The Washington Post editorialized, “The Supreme Court’s narrow ruling on a wedding cake is a step in the right direction.”

Subsequently, I noticed some people on social media (especially conservative friends) grousing about the description of the 7-2 decision as “narrow,” as though the liberal media was trying to downplay Jack Phillips’ decisive victory. So I thought I would offer a short explanation.

Masterpiece Cakeshop is being described as a “narrow” ruling not because of its margin, but because of its reasoning. Neither side in the case got everything that it wanted.

Those supporting Colorado, and supporting Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins (the same-sex couple who had requested a cake from Phillips), wanted a broad ruling that 1) Phillips violated Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act by discriminating against the couple on the basis of “sexual orientation; and 2) that no claim of religious freedom or free speech can excuse that statutory violation by a business that qualifies as a “public accommodation.” In the end, only two justices (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with Sonia Sotomayor joining her in dissent) adopted that view and considered it decisive.

Those supporting the baker Phillips, on the other hand, wanted a broad ruling that his rights to freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion, because they are fundamental rights under the U.S. Constitution, must take precedence over the statutory provisions of Colorado law. Yet the Court’s ruling in favor of the free exercise claim was a narrow one, and only two justices expressed support for the free speech claim as well (Clarence Thomas, with Neil Gorsuch joining his concurrence in the judgment).

(I should note as well that some key elements of the case remained in dispute. Phillips’ attorneys questioned whether the Anti-Discrimination Act even applied, arguing that Phillips did not, in fact, “discriminate” on the basis of “sexual orientation” at all, because he was happy to serve self-identified gay customers with products other than a wedding cake. Colorado’s attorneys questioned whether the First Amendment even applied, arguing that baking a cake cannot be considered a form of “speech” at all.)

Instead of clearly explaining that Jack Phillips’ has robust constitutional rights regarding the cakes he designs, the majority opinion found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission simply didn’t behave well enough in this case, due to: (1) the hostility aimed specifically at his religious beliefs (evidenced in comments of the Commission), and (2) the different treatment the Commission gave a parallel case (one in which the Commission allowed bakeries to refuse to make cakes criticizing same-sex marriage). It was only because the Commission exhibited anti-religious bias in its proceedings against Jack Phillips that the Supreme Court threw out its ruling, on free exercise grounds. Justice Gorsuch also wrote a strong concurrence, joined by Justice Alito, elaborating on the strength of the free exercise claim here.

Although they joined the majority opinion, Justices Kagan and Breyer additionally wrote a concurrence explaining that their lukewarm support for Phillips was only based on the fact that he was treated really badly by members of the Commission in this case. They argued that the disparate treatment between the two bakery cases could have been justified, were it not for the overt anti-religious hostility exhibited by the Commission.

Justices Kennedy and Roberts—in writing and joining only the majority opinion, respectively—ruled in favor of Phillips, but not on the basis of a sweeping affirmation of his freedom of speech or of religion.

A definitive Supreme Court precedent, resolving the underlying dispute between “non-discrimination” principles and freedom of speech and religion, will have to await another case and another decision. That is why many are calling Masterpiece a “narrow” decision.

Politically Motivated Research Underestimates Risk of Suicide After Abortion

by Martha Shuping

June 8, 2018

A study published recently in the American Journal of Psychiatry online claims that abortion does not increase the risk of suicide. If only that were true. The study by M. Antonia Biggs and colleagues (which I will refer to as “the Biggs study”) used data from the University of California San Francisco’s Turnaway Study. But the results are very questionable because they are inconsistent with many other studies, and the final results of this study are based on only 18 percent of the original sample.

The Turnaway Study was intended to provide a comparison between women who aborted and those unable to obtain an abortion due to waiting to come to the clinic until the pregnancy was too advanced (past the limits for the clinic chosen, or for their state). But only 38 percent of eligible women consented to participate in the research, with 15 percent of those dropping out before the first interview (see study). With further dropouts over the five years of the study, only 18 percent of the original sample remained—even though women received a $50 gift certificate for each telephone interview (see study).

The low participation rate and the additional dropouts make the results questionable, because it is well known that the most distressed individuals are more likely to avoid participating. This has been reported in research on abortion and other reproductive losses, and in more general trauma research.*

The Biggs study concluded that rates of suicidal ideation were comparably low in women who obtained abortions and those who were refused abortions. The authors further conclude that their results show that state laws requiring informed consent about suicide risk should be scrapped as unnecessary. But we lack information on 82 percent of the women who either declined to participate or dropped out. The results may be meaningless if those women included those who were most distressed.

In addition, the Biggs study contradicts a large body of research on suicide and abortion. A study from Finland published in the British Medical Journal linked medical records to death certificates, showing that women having abortions had a 650 percent increased risk of suicide compared to women who gave birth.

One of the highest quality studies of abortion and mental health was done by Donald Sullins of the Catholic University of America in 2016 using data from The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (“Add Health”) which was funded by 18 different federal agencies and which provided a nationally representative sample of 8,005 women, with 81 percent of the sample completing this 13-year longitudinal study. In his analysis, Sullins controlled for 13 different potential confounders, and showed increased suicidal ideation in the women who had abortions compared to those who completed pregnancies. In addition, Sullins showed that women having abortions had increased risk for a total of seven different mental health outcomes. The results were statistically significant.

The Biggs study is an outlier, giving results that are very different from the results of a number of high quality studies of suicide risk and abortion. The truth is, we have the words of actual women who have attempted or completed suicide. The British artist Emma Beck said in her 2007 suicide note: “I told everyone I didn’t want to do it, even at the hospital … now it is too late … I want to be with my babies.” The authors of the Biggs study show their political bias in their conclusion that women like Beck have no need to be warned about suicide risk before their abortion.

Martha Shuping, M.D., is a practicing psychiatrist who lives in Winston-Salem, N.C.

 

*Broen, A.N., Moum, T., Bødtker, A.S., & Ekeberg, Ø. (2005). The course of mental health after miscarriage and induced abortion: a longitudinal, five-year follow-up study. BMC Medicine, 3,18. doi: 10.1186/1741-7015-3-18. Retrieved from http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/3/18   

Shuping, M. (2016). Counterpoint: Long-lasting distress after abortion. In R. MacNair (Ed.), Peace Psychology Perspectives on Abortion. Kansas City: Feminism and Nonviolence Studies Association.

Weisaeth, L. (1989). Importance of high response rates in traumatic stress research. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica Supplementum, 355, 131-137.

Masterpiece Cakeshop: Summary of Each Supreme Court Opinion

by Peter Sprigg

June 7, 2018

In the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, finding by a 7-2 vote in favor of a baker who had declined to create a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding, there were five separate opinions written.

Here, I offer a brief summary (not a detailed legal analysis) of what each of these opinions contained. (For more, see this blog post by FRC’s Travis Weber.) In the five opinions:

  1. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the Court, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Stephen Breyer, Justice Samuel Alito, Justice Elena Kagan, and Justice Neil Gorsuch (six Justices; Justice Clarence Thomas wrote separately “concurring in part and concurring in the judgment,” but did not join the Court’s opinion);
  2. Justice Kagan wrote a concurrence which Justice Breyer joined;
  3. Justice Gorsuch wrote a concurrence which Justice Alito joined;
  4. Justice Thomas wrote an opinion “concurring in part and concurring in the judgment,” with which Justice Gorsuch joined;
  5. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in dissent, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Here’s an overview of each opinion:

Kennedy for the Court (joined by Roberts, Breyer, Alito, Kagan, and Gorsuch):

Justice Kennedy ruled in favor of Masterpiece because “the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s consideration of this case was inconsistent with the State’s obligation of religious neutrality.” He found this for two reasons:

  1. Comments made by members of the Commission in the course of its hearings, especially one notorious quote:

    “Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the holocaust, whether it be—I mean, we—we can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use to—to use their religion to hurt others.”

    Kennedy noted that this statement disparages religion “in at least two distinct ways: by describing it as despicable, and also by characterizing it as merely rhetorical—something insubstantial and even insincere.”

  2. The difference in treatment between Phillips’ case and the cases of other bakers, who had refused to bake cakes communicating negative religious messages about same-sex marriage, but were found not to have discriminated against the customer (William Jack) on the basis of religion. He notes inconsistency in how the free speech claims were treated, but most notably in how the conscience objections were viewed, with the Commission accepting the secular objection to making anti-SSM cakes “because of the offensive nature of the requested message,” but rejecting Phillips’ religious objection to making a same-sex wedding cake. Kennedy says, “[I]t is not, as the Court has repeatedly held, the role of the State or its officials to prescribe what shall be offensive,” yet the Colorado decision “elevates one view of what is offensive over another and itself sends a signal of official disapproval of Phillips’ religious beliefs.”

Kagan concurring, with Breyer joining:

This short opinion (a little over three pages) concurs in the judgment—but goes out of its way to say that Colorado could have made a legitimate distinction between the Masterpiece case and the three cases of William Jack (who was refused cakes expressing opposition to same-sex marriage, but was not deemed a victim of discrimination). Kagan says explicitly that Jack Phillips of Masterpiece was guilty of discrimination:

Phillips sells wedding cakes. As to that product, he unlawfully discriminates: He sells it to opposite-sex but not to same-sex couples. And on that basis—which has nothing to do with Phillips’ religious beliefs—Colorado could have distinguished Phillips from the bakers in the Jack cases, who did not engage in any prohibited discrimination.

However, she concurs because the State’s decisions must not be “infected by religious hostility or bias”—as in this case.

Gorsuch concurring, with Alito joining:

Gorsuch focused in specifically on the disparate treatment of the Masterpiece case as opposed to the three William Jack cases involving refusal to bake cakes opposing same-sex marriage. In contrast to both the Ginsburg/Sotomayor dissent and the narrow Kagan/Breyer concurrence, Gorsuch argued that there was a very close correspondence between the facts of the cases, saying that “the two cases share all legally salient features”:

  • bakers refused services to persons who bore a statutorily protected trait (religious faith or sexual orientation)”
  • they would not sell the requested cakes to anyone, while they would sell other cakes to members of the protected class (as well as to anyone else)”
  • the bakers in the first case [William Jack] were generally happy to sell to persons of faith, just as the baker in the second case [Jack Phillips/Masterpiece] was generally happy to sell to gay persons.”

Gorsuch concludes that “the Commission failed to act neutrally by applying a consistent legal rule,” and warns that “the one thing it can’t do is apply a more generous legal test to secular objections than religious ones.” In contrast to the four liberals, Gorsuch states explicitly that “the Commission must afford him [Jack Phillips/Masterpiece] the same result it afforded the bakers in Mr. Jack’s case.”

Thomas, “concurring in part and concurring in the judgment,” Gorsuch joining:

To me, one of the most notable facts of the decision is that at oral arguments, the ADF attorneys representing Masterpiece put their emphasis on arguments resting on First Amendment Free Speech grounds (not Free Exercise of Religion). They emphasized that designing custom wedding cakes is a form of artistic expression and therefore, requiring they be provided for same-sex weddings is an unconstitutional form of “compelled speech” by the government. This, however, turned out not to be the primary issue addressed by the court, which instead decided there was a Free Exercise violation because of the lack of religious neutrality.

Justice Thomas’ opinion was the only one that addressed the Free Speech issues at length. He acknowledges that the issue here is “expressive conduct” rather than pure speech as such, but says under Court precedents, “Once a court concludes that conduct is expressive, the Constitution limits the government’s authority to restrict or compel it.” He says that in this case, “Phillips’ creation of custom wedding cakes is expressive,” and concludes the following:

Forcing Phillips to make custom wedding cakes for same-sex marriages requires him to, at the very least, acknowledge that same-sex weddings are “weddings” and suggest that they should be celebrated—the precise message he believes his faith forbids.

Although declining to decide whether Colorado’s law satisfies “strict scrutiny,” Thomas warns, “States cannot punish protected speech because some group finds it offensive, hurtful, stigmatic, unreasonable, or undignified.”

Ginsburg dissenting, Sotomayor joining:

Like the Gorsuch/Alito concurrence, the Ginsburg/Sotomayor dissent focused specifically on the differing results given by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission in the case involving Jack Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop (where refusing to provide the cake requested by the customer was found to be illegal discrimination) as opposed to the cases involving customer William Jack (where refusing to provide the cakes requested by the customer was found not to be illegal discrimination). However, Justice Ginsburg reaches the exact opposite conclusion from that of Justice Gorsuch.

Ginsburg and Sotomayor agreed with their liberal colleagues Justices Kagan and Breyer in saying that the cases could be legitimately distinguished, but disagreed with the latter pair’s conclusion that anti-religious bias had impermissibly “infected” Colorado’s adjudication of the cases. Ginsburg writes:

The different outcomes the Court features do not evidence hostility to religion of the kind we have previously held to signal a free-exercise violation, nor do the comments by one or two members of one of the four decisionmaking entities considering this case justify reversing the judgment below. 

Commentary

The problem I see with the dissent is this statement (which was repeated, in various ways, several times): “Phillips did … discriminate because of sexual orientation; the other bakers did not discriminate because of religious belief.” Ginsburg argues that Phillips’ refusal of a same-sex wedding cake was “determined solely by the identity of the customer” whereas the refusal of William Jack’s request “was due to the demeaning message” he wanted displayed.

Since Phillips regularly serves customers who identify as gay (but would refuse a cake to celebrate a same-sex wedding regardless of who requests it), the first conclusion is questionable. The latter conclusion, however, is nothing short of astonishing. What Ginsburg calls a “demeaning message” may have been crude (including, among other things, “an image of two groomsmen, holding hands, with a red ‘X’ over the image”), but combined with biblical verses and quotations, its essential content was that 1) homosexual conduct is sinful, and 2) God does not approve of same-sex sexual relationships or consider them to be “marriage.” I fail to see how this “message” (however “demeaning” some may find it) can be seen as not representing a “religious belief.”

Note that this is not to say that the solution would be to force bakers to make cakes with messages they consider “demeaning,” as well as forcing them to make cakes for same-sex weddings. Instead, the opposite would be ideal. Baking cakes, whether to celebrate a specific event such as a same-sex wedding or to condemn that concept, is a form of expressive conduct that should not be compelled by the government. Even if Colorado believes that its Anti-Discrimination Act was violated, the provisions of this state statute cannot be allowed to override the bakers’ fundamental right to free speech under the U.S. Constitution.

No baker should be forced to communicate a message with which he or she disagrees. Although Jack Phillips prevailed in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, the ruling does not clearly apply the Court’s compelled speech precedents to that context. The debate continues.

The Ethical Imperative of Adult Stem Cell Research

by Hannah Borchers

June 6, 2018

On June 15th of 2017, a bill cited as the “Patients First Act” (H.R.2918) was introduced by Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.). As FRC has stated: “This [bill] not only reinforces our belief that all life is sacred and should be protected, but it will also allow the NIH to prioritize non-embryonic stem cell research that has been proven to have the greatest benefits for treating disease.” The bill seeks to intensify stem cell research and improve the understanding of treatment while protecting the dignity of life. Strictly referencing the National Institutes of Health’s annual budget, the bill would continue to fund and encourage stem cell studies with ethically obtained stems cells.

The stem cell battle has been waging since the 1980’s as research regarding both human embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells has advanced. However, despite the great success of adult stem cell research (ASCR) and its continual increase in funding, the push for human embryonic stem cell research (hESCR) has remained. The success of hESCR is often touted by proponents, but the lack of funding due to its inability to produce successful therapies for patients does not match these statements. In fact, funding for non-human embryonic stem cell research has more than doubled that of hESCR for years.

The largest issue with hESCR is the ethical procedures of obtaining human cells. While many scientists have clearly stated that human embryos are not considered lives, the language used by hESCR proponents seems to contradict this notion. In NIH’s brief overview of hESCR, they specifically state that embryonic stem cells “are not derived from eggs fertilized in a woman’s body.” This statement may seem like a simple explanation of experimental procedure, but the fact that NIH felt the need to address the location of fertilization as an ethical clarification already hints that they know full well of the ethical dilemma at stake. Even in the realm of science, NIH is admitting that there is something wrong with experimenting on an egg fertilized in a woman’s womb. Still, lab fertilization should not be the solution.

The solution is not that we should remove stem cell research from the agenda of scientific advancement, but rather that it be done in a way that respects all ethical boundaries. There are other ethical options within the realm of stem cell research—the growth and success of ASCR being evidence of this. The Charlotte Lozier Institute published a factsheet pointing out that “effective, economical, and ethical alternatives to embryonic stem cell research exist. Adult stem cells are the gold standard for stem cell treatment, having been used to help over one million patients worldwide.” While proponents of hESCR claim that it is more cost effective and accessible, the scientific community and the people need to decide if ease of access is going to be the deciding factor in medical research.

NIH’s mission is to “exemplify and promote the highest level of scientific integrity, public accountability, and social responsibility in the conduct of science,” all with the intention of serving patients and people. However, the core of hESCR ignores this very goal. The Patients First Act not only calls science to pursue excellence, but also calls the research field to protect human embryonic life while at the same time seek to save the lives of patients. It asks science to put “patients first” by pursuing both excellence and integrity.

For more on the Patients First Act, be sure to view FRC’s Speaker Series event with Rep. Jim Banks as he discusses the bipartisan bill he introduced.

Supreme Court Protects Jack Phillips’ Rights, Tells Colorado: “Not So Fast”

by Travis Weber

June 4, 2018

The Supreme Court’s much-awaited decision in the “wedding vendor” case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, was announced this morning. Ruling narrowly for Jack Phillips, owner of the bakery at issue, the Court focused squarely on the fact that the state of Colorado did not treat Phillips with “neutrality,” but rather “hostility,” due to the religious beliefs underlying his claims. Thus, the Court concluded, the state violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment—which prohibits the government from singling out, targeting, and discriminating against religion.

The Court featured two primary bases for this determination. First, the “Civil Rights Commission’s treatment of [Phillips’] case has some elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs that motivated his objection” to creating a same-sex wedding cake. Comparing him to a slave owner and Holocaust perpetrator (a comparison which was never objected to or disavowed in all the time leading up to the Court’s ruling), the Commission clearly disparaged Phillips’ beliefs in two ways: by calling them “despicable, and also by characterizing [them] as merely rhetori­cal—something insubstantial and even insincere.” Moreover, the commissioners who ruled on his case “endorsed the view that religious beliefs cannot legitimately be carried into the public sphere or commercial domain, implying that religious beliefs and persons are less than fully welcome in Colorado’s business community.” These “inappro­priate and dismissive comments” showed a “lack of due consideration for Phillips’ free exercise rights and the dilemma he faced.”

Second, the fact that Colorado treated other bakers (who were asked to make a cake condemning same-sex marriage and declined because the message was “offensive”) differently constituted further evidence of the state’s animus against Phillips’ beliefs. “A principled rationale for the difference in treatment of these two instances cannot be based on the government’s own assessment of offensiveness. Just as ‘no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion,’ West Virginia Bd. of Ed. v. Barnette, 319 U. S. 624, 642 (1943), it is not, as the Court has repeatedly held, the role of the State or its officials to prescribe what shall be offensive. See Matal v. Tam, 582 U. S. ___, ___–___ (2017) (opinion of ALITO, J.) (slip op., at 22–23). The Colorado court’s at­tempt to account for the difference in treatment elevates one view of what is offensive over another and itself sends a signal of official disapproval of Phillips’ religious beliefs.” It was on these two grounds that seven members of the Court concluded that the state of Colorado treated Jack Phillips harshly because of his religious beliefs.

Harkening back to another Justice Kennedy free exercise opinion from decades ago, Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah, the Court elaborated upon principles that the government cannot single out and target religious beliefs for disfavored treatment. And though it went unmentioned in the Masterpiece opinion, the Court’s ruling in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer—holding that the government may not disfavor religion in public grant programs—from just last term affirmed this principle.

While the Court clarified that anti-religious animus was unacceptable (protecting Phillips for now), and while today’s opinion will likely be cited favorably by other wedding vendors who’ve experienced religious bias or animus from government actors, the opinion left other questions unanswered—namely, how the Court will handle free speech claims in the context of sexual orientation nondiscrimination regulation, or free exercise claims in the same circumstances absent such animus. The Court wasn’t exactly clear on how these matters would be decided, noting that clergy are protected (this is beyond debate), but expressing uncertainty on the myriad other matters which have arisen in the last few years as religious beliefs come into conflict with newly-mandated government requirements regarding same-sex marriage. In essence, the Court kicked that can down the road for another day.

While the majority opinion produced a good result, some of the real meat was in the concurrences. Justice Gorsuch penned a concurrence (joined by Justice Alito) in which he offered a clear defense of free expression (this principle being especially important when the expression is unpopular) and a clear explanation of what actually occurred here—Phillips had an objection to the message, not the messenger. As Phillips testified, “I will not design and create wedding cakes for a same-sex wedding regardless of the sexual orienta­tion of the customer” (emphasis mine). Justice Gorsuch made very clear that Phillips was objecting to the creative process, not how the customer identified.

Justice Thomas also concurred (joined by Justice Gorsuch), commenting in depth on the free speech protections he believed Phillips possessed. In doing so, he pointed out that the important free speech case Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston supported Phillips’ arguments, and noted that Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights and PruneYard Shopping Center v. Robins were not applicable to scenarios like this (something I have argued separately), for they dealt with allowing other parties access to speech fora, not alterations to a party’s own message. Justice Thomas concludes:

In Obergefell, I warned that the Court’s decision would ‘inevitabl[y] … come into conflict’ with religious liberty, ‘as individuals … are confronted with demands to participate in and endorse civil marriages between same-sex couples.’ 576 U. S., at ___ (dissenting opinion) (slip op., at 15). This case proves that the conflict has already emerged. Because the Court’s decision vindicates Phillips’ right to free exercise, it seems that religious liberty has lived to fight another day. But, in future cases, the freedom of speech could be essential to preventing Obergefell from being used to ‘stamp out every vestige of dissent’ and ‘vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.’ Id., at ___ (ALITO, J., dissenting) (slip op., at 6). If that freedom is to maintain its vitality, reasoning like the Colorado Court of Appeals’ must be rejected.

The conclusion to his concurrence, describing all the First Amendment issues not resolved by today’s opinion (which really need a legislative remedy and not a judicial one), is also a fitting conclusion for us as we anticipate the many religious liberty cases surely to be confronted in the years ahead.

May 2018 «

Archives