By Roger Drinnon
The LCMS has joined an amicus brief for the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Colorado baker Jack Phillips, sued by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for sexual-orientation discrimination for refusing to make cakes for same-sex wedding ceremonies.
The Synod joins seven other organizations advocating religious freedom in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission on the basis that the government cannot force Americans to use their abilities and vocations to perform such services that violate their faith and conscience.Download amicus brief
In July 2016, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys and allied attorneys petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case.
This year, on June 26, the high court granted review of the case and, as of Oct. 6, oral arguments are scheduled for Dec. 5.
According to ADF case details, an administrative-law judge ruled in December 2013 against the baker, saying that designing cakes for same-sex wedding ceremonies is not speech protected by the First Amendment.
The commission also ordered Phillips and his staff to design cakes for same-sex wedding celebrations; take “corrective action,” including comprehensive staff training; implement new policies to ensure compliance with Colorado anti-discrimination laws; and file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years to show that Phillips has implemented the changes and to document any patrons denied service.
ADF attorneys indicated that when the U.S. Supreme Court rules in this case, it will have a major impact on religious freedom in America, collectively stating, “It could very well be the most important decision in our lifetime” in terms of religious freedom.
Also, ADF has appealed another right-of-conscience case to the U.S. Supreme Court. In the case involving Arlene’s Flowers, the Washington Supreme Court upheld a ruling against florist Barronelle Stutzman, who declined to create custom flowers for a longtime customer’s same-sex wedding.
The U.S. Supreme Court could consider this case along with Masterpiece Cakeshop or hold it until its Masterpiece decision is made, and then send the case back to the lower court for reconsideration in light of the new opinion. Last year, the Synod also joined an amicus brief for Stutzman’s case, State of Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers.Read about Barronelle Stutzman
Although neither Phillips nor Stutzman is an LCMS Lutheran, the outcome of each case may pose significant ramifications for the Synod, its agencies, affiliated institutions and members of LCMS congregations.
The U.S. Supreme Court will be deciding, in effect, whether Christians who do not support same-sex marriage have the same liberty as others to live consistently according to their religious beliefs and whether Christians can be forced to express messages or promote events that violate their faith.
If the high court rules against Phillips (and Stutzman), the ADF says potential ramifications include lawsuits against other creative professionals and Christian business owners who express themselves through their business activities, a rule of law that would not support the First Amendment rights for all people.
Last year, the Synod in convention adopted Resolution 14-01 to encourage intentional leadership in matters of religious freedom.
To learn more about what the Synod is doing regarding religious liberty, visit its “Free to be Faithful” webpage.
To read about other amicus briefs the LCMS has joined, go to lcms.org/board/amicusbriefs.
Roger Drinnon (firstname.lastname@example.org) is director of Editorial and Media Relations for LCMS Communications.
Posted Oct. 11, 2017