Supreme Court to decide whether case involves protected religious liberty or illegal discrimination.
The Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a majority of state senators have signed on to friend-of-the-court briefs in support of a Colorado bakery shop owner who refused on religious grounds to make a cake for a same-sex wedding.
Denver baker Jack Phillips’ case — Masterpiece Cake Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission — is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Virginia-based Christian Legal Society filed its brief Monday on behalf of the LDS Church, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the National Association of Evangelical, the National Association of Evangelical, the Orthodox Jewish Congregations and others. It asks the nation’s high court not to forget the First Amendment rights of those who are deeply religious.
People of faith accept that same-sex civil marriages are legal, the document states, but many can’t in good conscious provide services for a gay wedding.
“Now that the court has protected the liberty of same-sex couples, it is equally important to protect the religious liberties of conscientious objectors,” the document states.
Twenty-two of Utah’s 24 Republican state senators signed their names to a brief filed last week, which asserts that none is anti-gay, but calls for a compromise position between LGBT protections and religious liberty.
The document goes on to tout the “Utah Compromise” achieved in 2015 through the passage of a statewide nondiscrimination bill that protects LGBTQ Utahns from housing and employment discrimination, balancing those interests with the right to free speech and religious association. Those interests “need not be fought as a zero-sum conflict with political winners and losers,” the filing states.
Last week, Utah Sen. Mike Lee, also a Republican, joined his congressional colleagues in filing a brief in the case.
In remarks posted on his website, Lee said the case is part of a pattern of infringement of individual religious liberty by the nation’s “ruling elites” who he said cling to “a secular, progressive creed.”
“More and more, the adherents of this creed seek to use the power of government to steamroll disfavored groups,” he said. “So they force evangelical caterers to bake cakes celebrating same-sex marriages … And they force nuns to purchase contraceptive coverage. And sue religious hospitals that won’t perform abortions or sex-reassignment surgeries.”
In August Lee also signed on to a letter from more than 30 member of Congress that urged justices to hear a similar Washington state case involving a florist who would not sell wedding flowers to a longtime customer and his betrothed on religious grounds.
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