ST. GEORGE – Should a baker be allowed to refuse to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple due to his personal religious convictions? That is a question pending before the U.S. Supreme Court that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and majority of the Utah Senate have filed support for on the side of the baker.
The case centers on Colorado baker Jack Phillips, owner of the Masterpiece Cakeshop, who declined to make a cake for David Mullins and Charlie Craig for a wedding reception in 2012. Mullins and Craig filed a complaint with Colorado’s Civil Rights Division, which ruled against Phillips. Subsequent appeals were made to the Colorado Civil Right Commission and Colorado Court of Appeals. Both ruled against Phillips.
The Supreme Court accepted the case for review.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, along with other religious groups like the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, National Association of Evangelicals, Rabbinical Council of America and others, joined in filing a “friend of the court” brief, also known as an amicus brief, in support of Phillips.
“Amici are religious organizations who accept that same-sex civil marriage is the law of the land. But some deeply religious Americans, including some of amici’s members, cannot in good conscience assist with same-sex weddings.” the brief states. “Now that the court has protected the liberty of same-sex couples, it is equally important to protect the religious liberty of these conscientious objectors.”
In its portion of the brief, the LDS church states it believes “in basic fairness for all,” and noted its support of the 2015 Utah legislation protecting the housing and employment rights of LGBTQ individuals while also preserving the religious freedom for others.
While stating that it believes in “honoring and sustaining the law,” the church added that the law does not change its doctrine, practices and teachings that marriage is set up by God to be between a man and a woman exclusively.
The church further states:
When religious and LGBT interests conflict, the church advocates civility, protection of core rights for all, and reasonable compromise, with the goal being pluralism rather than domination by either side. The church joins this brief out of a conviction that this court must rigorously protect basic First Amendment rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion to safeguard the conditions that make such pluralism possible.
Last week, 22 of the state’s 24-member Utah Senate filed their own brief, stating
Amici are Utah Republican State Senators who support compromise between LGBT protections and religious liberties. In 2015, against then prevailing political currents, supermajorities in Utah’s GOP controlled legislature added sexual orientation and gender identity to state antidiscrimination laws after stakeholders carefully balanced LGBT safeguards with religious liberties. This ‘Utah Compromise’ brought together LGBT organizations and faith groups with the mutual goal of achieving fairness for all in state employment and housing laws.
Last month, Utah’s Sen. Mike Lee, also a Republican, also expressed his support for the Colorado baker, as well as a Washington state-based floral business owner involved in a similar case. Lee added his name to fellow senators and representatives on their amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to hear the Arlene’s Flowers, Inc. vs. State of Washington case.
“Like the Masterpiece Cakeshop case the court has already agreed to hear, this case involves more than a clash between norms of non-discrimination and religious liberty,” the brief states. “The more fundamental question in both cases is whether a government can coerce religious believers to speak or act contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Troy Williams, executive director of the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Utah, told Fox 13 News, that he believes religious freedoms do not give a person a right to discriminate.
“If the LDS church and the Utah legislature don’t want the courts to decide something like public accommodations, that’s awesome,” Williams told Fox 13 News. “Let’s get together this January at the Utah legislature and let’s start working together to pass a law that protects everybody.”
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