For Immediate Release
Contact: Paul Fidalgo
Phone: (207) 358-9785
June 26, 2017
In deciding to hear the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission next term, the United States Supreme Court should take the opportunity to unequivocally state that religious freedom cannot be used as cover for denying rights to others, the Center for Inquiry said.
The owner of the Colorado bakery violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws when he claimed the religious freedom to refuse to serve same-sex couples, according to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Supported by the deep pockets of religious right organizations such as the Alliance Defending Freedom, the owner will argue before the high court that his personal religious beliefs outweigh the rights of LGBTQ individuals to be treated fairly.
“Religious freedom is not a license to discriminate against individuals,” stated Nick Little, CFI’s Legal Director. “Dressing anti-LGBTQ prejudice in religious garb does not and must not endow that prejudice with legal privileges.”
“This baker has the right to hold negative opinions about gays and lesbians; he has the right to believe they are damned to Hell,” added Robyn Blumner, CFI’s President and CEO. “What he does not have is the right to refuse them service at his business.”
There have been times when American businesses in various parts of the country routinely rejected customers because they were African-American, Mexican, Japanese, and Chinese, among other groups. Religion was commonly used to justify this practice. For instance, in 1963, a Florida religious leader objected to civil rights laws in a meeting with President John F. Kennedy, claiming that “segregation is a principle of the Old Testament.” Federal and state public accommodation laws rid the country of this noxious practice of exclusion.
Nick Little explained that if the Supreme Court were to rule that religious belief does grant an exemption to civil rights laws, the those laws would be dramatically undermined. “If this baker is permitted to exclude LGBTQ people from his store based on his religious views, the floodgates of discrimination will have been opened,” he said. “Today it is the same-sex couple seeking a wedding cake; tomorrow it could just as easily be women seeking contraception, or African Americans seeking a meal at a lunch counter.”
“This so-called ‘right’ to discriminate based on religion cannot be cabined, and threatens to turn America back to the dark days of legally justifiable segregation,” said Little.
CFI urges the Court to stand up for civil rights legislation, and will seek to participate in the case as an amicus curiae.
# # #
The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at www.centerforinquiry.net.