In Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Supreme Court (thankfully) ruled in favor of Jack Phillips, the baker who declined to be forced to bake and decorate a custom cake to celebrate a same-sex wedding. The ruling was based almost completely on the documented religious hostility of the members of the Civil Rights Commission, and thus there is concern that in the future the Court would allow government to force bakers and other service providers to support same-sex weddings over their religious objections as long as the bureaucrats pretended to be neutral to the baker’s religious views.

There are a few fig leaves in the decision that an optimist could take as good news, such as Justice Kennedy saying “the religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression,” and that “government has no role in deciding or even suggesting whether the religious ground for Phillips’ conscience based objection is legitimate or illegitimate.” And at least he conceded that “a member of the clergy who objects to gay marriage on moral and religious grounds could not be compelled to perform the ceremony without denial of his or her right to the free exercise of religion.”

The path to the case, if not necessarily the decision, in Masterpiece Cakeshop, is an easy one to follow.  It started back in 2003 with Lawrence v. Texas, which found a constitutional right to Liberty as exemplified by homosexual sodomy in that particular case (although Justice Kennedy, in his majority opinion explicitly refused to declare that homosexual sodomy itself is a constitutional right). Justice Scalia correctly predicted the path in his dissenting opinion, noting that the decision “leaves on pretty shaky grounds state laws limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples.”

The next step in the chain was United States v. Windsor in 2012, which ruled the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. Justice Scalia and Chief Justice Roberts both pointed out that this Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion would inevitably lead to the Court declaring same-sex “marriage” to be a constitutional right, which of course it did in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015 (also authored by Kennedy). This is where Justice Thomas presciently predicted that the decision “threatens the religious liberty our Nation has long sought to protect.” And here we are.

A lot of the analysis of Masterpiece Cakeshop centered around whether baking a custom wedding cake counted as “speech” for the purposes of the Free Speech clause of the first amendment. And was Phillips really discriminating against the gay couple when he offered to sell them anything else in the store, or to create a cake for any other occasion? The answer is obviously “no” and therein, I think, lies the solution to this conundrum.

As I have said before, no one has a right to force someone else to provide a good or service. If Phillips had refused to sell a pre-baked cake to the gay couple, that would have been discriminatory since he had already invested his time and talent to create the cake and it was already available for purchase by the general public. This would be the same as if a gay couple tried to by a photo print from a studio where the photographer was displaying his images for sale. But in either case, the gay couple does not have the right to force the baker or photographer to participate in a gay wedding if the vendor’s religious beliefs prevent him from doing so. So the government could not force the photographer to attend the ceremony, document the event and then produce the images, all of which require him to devote his time and talent to an event that violates his religious views.

This rule would also apply to the Arlene’s Flowers v. State of Washington case currently being petitioned to the Supreme Court.

If Mrs. Stutzman had refused to sell a floral arrangement available to the general public to a gay customer, she would be guilty of discrimination. But she had sold flowers to the gay couple – whom she considered friends – for years without a problem. It was only when she refused to be forced to design the flowers for their wedding, which involves not only creativity on her part, but also the nuts and bolts of getting the flowers to the ceremony and arranging them there, that she supposedly discriminated against them. Clearly, this is an infringement on her first amendment rights to free expression and freedom of religion.

Justice Kennedy’s reasoning in all of these cases seems to be rooted in the infamous “Sweet Mystery of Life” passage from Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which he wrote “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”  As Justice Scalia correctly pointed out, this is “the passage that ate the rule of law,” but is nonetheless central to Justice Kennedy’s jurisprudence. A person’s religious views, by definition, define his or her “own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

Why is a religious person’s liberty, which is expressly guaranteed by the Constitution, worth less than a gay person’s?

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In the days leading up to the adoption of the latest spending bill in Washington, my social media feeds were full of posts from a variety of pro-life groups addressing one topic: including protection of medical conscience rights in the spending bill. To anyone unfamiliar with the federal budget process, an appropriations bill would sound like an odd place to mention conscience rights. But as we know, all kinds of oddball things work their way into budget deals.

As it happens, the conscience protection act promoted by pro-lifers was not included in the spending bill approved on March 22. I would have shrugged – a pro-life initiative rejected in Washington? so what else is new? – but for a similar disappointment closer to home. A week before the federal spending bill was adopted, a bill to protect the conscience rights of medical professionals was rejected in my state’s legislature by a two-to-one margin.

Lest you think this is a partisan problem, note that the GOP holds majorities in the legislative bodies at issue here.

I was at the hearing for the state-level bill. The thrust of the opposition to conscience legislation boiled down to this: abortion is health care, and those who don’t want to participate in abortions have no business in the medical field.

The argument was couched in terms of denial of access: if a pharmacist doesn’t want to hand out an abortion-inducing drug, that might prevent or delay a woman’s abortion; if some doctor refuses to participate in abortion, he might let a hemorrhaging woman bleed to death. (Nonsense, but some legislators swallowed that whopper whole.)

The supporters of conscience legislation testified to the primacy of conscience, which our own state’s constitution explicitly recognizes as a natural right, not one that needs to be granted. They cited the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. They spoke of their religious and ethical beliefs and how they shouldn’t be fired for sticking to them.

“Access” met conscience, and “access” won.

These state and federal votes were hardly the last word. They’re intriguing, though. They indicate to me that hostility and indifference to conscience rights are alive and well, even in more-or-less respectable circles. Fortunately, there are people pushing back.

I kinda liked Cardinal Dolan’s pushback on the federal vote.

The failure of Congress to include the Conscience Protection Act in the 2018 omnibus appropriations bill is deeply disappointing. The CPA is an extraordinarily modest bill that proposes almost no change to existing conscience protection laws on abortion—laws that receive wide public and bi-partisan support. The CPA simply proposes to provide victims of discrimination with the ability to defend their rights in court to help ensure that no one is forced to participate in abortion. Those inside and outside of Congress who worked to defeat the CPA have placed themselves squarely into the category of extremists who insist that all Americans must be forced to participate in the violent act of abortion. We call on Congress not to give up until this critical legislation is enacted.

Ellen Kolb is a writer and activist living in New Hampshire. Read more at ellenkolb.com/blog

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I suspect if the previous governor did this to defuse the whole Kim Davis business a Democrat might still govern the state today.

Kentucky’s new governor on Tuesday ordered county clerks’ names removed from state marriage license forms at the center of a controversy involving Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who was jailed after refusing to issue licenses to gay couples.

Governor Matt Bevin had said shortly after his election in November, as only the second Republican governor of Kentucky since 1971, that he would change the forms that had drawn objections from Davis and some other clerks.

“To ensure that the sincerely held religious beliefs of all Kentuckians are honored, I took action to revise the clerk marriage license form,” Bevin said in a statement.

Davis’s team was delighted:

“This is a wonderful Christmas gift for Kim Davis,” the group said. “Kim can celebrate Christmas with her family knowing she does not have to choose between her public office and her deeply-held religious convictions.”

I think driving Kim Davis from the Democrat party will cost them for decades to come.

Note: I don’t recall the ACLU getting their knickers in an uproar over Obama’s exec orders.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Like all other schools across the state and across the nation, Walnut Hill Elementary/Middle School in Shreveport is gearing up for rigorous state testing this month.  The new tests that students will now have to take are Common Core based and extremely tough and schools across the parish have been drilling, doing remediation, holding motivational pep rallies, and offering after school tutoring.  One principal is even calling on prayer, a move which now has him in trouble with the ACLU.

Mr. Albert Hardison is the principal of Walnut Hill Elementary/Middle School; he is a quiet, kind man who always has a smile and gentle nod of his head in greeting.  He has been the principal at Walnut Hill for thirty-five years; his former students are now sending their own kids to Walnut Hill because they think so highly of him and his leadership.

Mr. Hardison attracted the attention of the ACLU when he sent home his March 2015 newsletter to parents advising them about upcoming testing schedules; the school newsletter always has a Principal’s Message to parents.  I’m going to share his message to parents in its entirety here because I want you to have the context; he wrote:

Principal’s Message – ‘Truly We Are Blessed’

“Our school may be old of age, but it is cleaned, well-maintained, and free of debris and graffiti.  Our faculty may not be monetarily rich, but they care, share, and give to our students a wealth of knowledge that will help them become our country’s doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, nurses, and yes, even presidents.  Our students come from all economic levels, communities, races, and origins, but at our school they unite and become one indivisible student body under the Walnut Hill banner of excellence, fairness, and equality for all.

“The sun may not sine outside, but inside our laughter, smiles, encouragement, praise, and love for our children dazzle the day.  Although cloudy days are sometimes evident, the light of optimism, the rays of hope and the joy of teaching and helping our students brighten these cloudy days.

“Our parents may not visit our school each day, but their support, compliments, quick response to our cry for help and love for their children and school is unwavering.

Principal Albert Hardison (Shreveport Times file photo)

“Although all children may not blossom at the same time, our faculty continues to fertilize their minds, water their thoughts, nourish their spirit, pull back the blinds so that the light can stream in, and soon, they bud, grow, and prosper.

“On mornings when the sun is beaming or hidden, our student prayer group ‘Hornets for Hope’, pray and give thanks to the Son of God for carrying our school over the thorns of negativity and the thistles of discord and setting it gently on the petals of harmony and the lily of tranquility.  Our ‘Hornets for Hope’ thank God for giving us a school that believes in God, family, and education.

“We thank God for helping us to realize that if we removed Christ, family, and teachers from the lives of our children there is no way that adding more police officers, legislating more laws, building more jails, requiring more testing, mandating more parental involvement, earning more money, or purchasing more things could ever replace the blessings of God, the love of our family, and the knowledge imparted by our teachers.

“A hundred years from now it will not matter what type of house we lived in, what color our skin was, how much money we had or what brand of clothes we wore, but what will matter is that we steadfastly walked in the ways of Christ, that we honored and loved our parents, family, and fellow man and that we lived by our school motto:  ‘Work for the Best – Accept only the Best – Be the very, very Best.’

“And that in itself is truly a Blessing!

“Albert Hardison, Principal.”

Personally, I think it’s a lovely analogy and a beautiful message.  The ACLU did not agree.

On March 30, 2015, the ACLU of Louisiana sent a letter to the superintendent of Caddo Parish Schools informing him that Mr. Hardison “has engaged in a pattern of religious proselytization by sending messages to parents invoking prayer, and through a lengthy ‘Principal’s Message’ on the school’s website.”  Further:

This letter is to inform you that these messages violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and comparable provisions of the Louisiana Constitution, and they must stop immediately.

They also found offense with this blurb found within the newsletter:

Phillippians 4:13. . .I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.

 

Marjorie R. Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana has demanded that all religious references be removed from Walnut Hill’s website and from all other Caddo Parish schools.  She also demands that all Caddo Parish staff be educated about “the Constitutional protections of students and staff from religious indoctrination; and Instruct the Principal of Walnut Hill that neither he nor his staff may include religious references of any kind in school communications.”

In response, Caddo Parish did indeed remove all offending references from the Walnut Hill website.  Via The Shreveport Times:

The school district issued a statement Tuesday saying it would investigate the matter internally and make certain there isn’t a Constitutional violation.

“In this instance, questionable materials subsequently have been removed from district web pages while the investigation continues,” the statement said. “If there is a violation, we will make certain we act swiftly to ensure we do not have any further violations.”

The Walnut Hill community responded, too.  Friday morning a prayer rally was held at Grawood Baptist Church and despite drizzling weather and cloudy skies, it was attended by hundreds of parents, students, former students, and other community members.

A Facebook page, Support Albert Hardison, now has over 8,000 Likes and the comments in support are powerful:

“I support Mr. Hardison 100%. All 3 of my kids go there & he is what a principal should be! He is an outstanding leader & role model for our young children! Walnut Hill is a great school & all that started with him, and the compassion that he has for our kids. He is a man that stands firm in his beliefs & we as Christians should stand firm in ours as well & support him!”

And another:

I don’t even practice any sort of religion and he has done nothing wrong. Ever since I was in 1st grade to 8th grade at that school Mr.Hardison was a huge inspiration to me. He kept me going and motivated me to do the best I could. I was going through times with severe bullying and people putting me down every day. He gave me the hope and strength to move on and set my goals for myself. Every morning I would go to his office and visit him and tell him about my day and how things were going. Every staff member at walnut hill is beyond amazing! They help out so much with the kids and care so much about them. If this adult’s child actually went to that school then they’d be satisfied with how much they help out. I’m more than 100% on his side!

There are streams of similar comments on the page.

Shreveport attorney Royal Alexander weighed in with an Op-Ed in The Shreveport Times, and went on to tie the local issue in with the current brouhaha in Indiana:

Here in Shreveport, Caddo Parish schools is investigating allegations that the principal of Walnut Hill Elementary supposedly violated the First Amendment by invoking God and Jesus and calling for prayer in school publications. However, Principal Albert Hardison has an excellent reputation and I applaud him for erring on the side of religious freedom. I strongly maintain that these types of issues are not nearly as clear as the ACLU has asserted.

The current state of the law regarding prayer in public schools is that, generally, a school official may not initiate and/or sponsor a prayer because, the argument goes, doing so tends to endorse one religion over another in violation of the Establishment Clause. However, a very important distinction has been drawn for student-initiated prayer practices such that public school facilities may be used as long as the use of the facility is truly neutral and equally available to religious and non-religious groups alike.

Another distinction has been drawn that makes allowable the study of the Bible in public schools as long as the study occurs in a purely academic manner. There are still other distinctions as well.

Parents at the school support Mr. Hardison;  I am told that Mr. Hardison “is a godly man” that doesn’t force his religion on anybody.  He puts God first in his own life, then family, and then education.  If a child asks him to pray for them, he does it (and they do), but he doesn’t force it on anyone.

Parents are upset because whomever made the complaint doesn’t have a child in the school; they don’t want any ‘watchdog’ group or outside interference in a system that clearly works.  Walnut Hill is a high-achieving school, earning a “B” letter-grade from the State Department of Education; the school has over 60% of its population on free/reduced lunch and draws from all demographics.  Mr. Hardison is clearly doing something right at Walnut Hill.

For now, the Caddo Parish School Board is investigating the ACLU complaint.  Mr. Hardison, by necessity, has issued no statement nor has he attended any of the prayer rallies or gatherings.  But he certainly can feel the love and support flooding his way.

Isn’t there someone else the ACLU can go pick on rather than a good man trying to keep kids on the right track?

 

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

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Senators Lee, Cruz and Rubio have gotten a lot of attention recently with their assertion that this is the last chance to rid the world of Obamacare. In the upcoming debt negotiations, they are offering a strategy to refuse to fund Obamacare, even if that means shutting down the government.  Now, no one wants the government to shut down, but this may come down to who blinks first.  Already pundits and some Republicans are saying that this is a bad strategy claiming that Obama will win eventually and Republicans will have another public defeat that will be difficult to recover from.  In the end, some say, the GOP loses.

I say nonsense. Here are 6 reasons why this is a good strategy and we should stand behind it:

1) This really is the last chance to substantially weaken the law.  Democrats knew all those years ago that they needed to build in a phased approach to the law.  Let’s face it, if Obamacare’s implementation had gone any more quickly, we may have still had the backbone needed to do something about it.  But, as it stands, years have gone by and sleepy-eyed members of Congress are tired of fighting Obama, tired of losing.  However, since the law has not been implemented yet fully (though the federal worker bees have been busy prepping to take over the free market ever since the bill was signed into law), the GOP does have a card to play here.  We would be dumb to not use it to its full advantage.

2)  We already lost the Presidential election. There seems to be perpetual hand-wringing  and whining in the Republican Party.  It goes something like this, “if the GOP stands up against Obama, Obama will win and it will make us look bad and lose the next election.  We can’t let that happen, so we need to look like we are working with him.”  This is the most asinine logic I’ve ever heard.  First of all, it doesn’t work.  We already lost!  There is nothing we can do to go back and win.  And, giving in to Obama has gotten us nothing.  In 5 years, I challenge anyone to think of what the GOP has gained strategically by compromising to Obama.  I can’t think of anything.

 3) The law is so bad that it is worth any political risk.  I’m not going to go back and conjure up all of the reports that show how bad this law is.  You can go Google or Bing that yourself.  However, at this point it is well-known that this law will have a substantial negative impact on our economy, on jobs and businesses, and on the healthcare industry as a whole.  Is anyone confused about that?

4291562_eagle_and_american_flag) Obamacare contracts our freedom.  Make no mistake, this is the definition of socialism.  The Executive Branch should not have the power to mandate whatever rules it wants to the healthcare industry.  Going forward, the government gets to design coverage for all Americans the way that it wants. The free market is no longer at play here and people are forced to pay for whatever the government deems to be “basic mandatory coverage.”  I’m not confused about how bad the health care industry was before Obamacare was passed.  But, let’s face it, this takes an existing problem, multiplies it by infinity, and then perpetuates it into eternity.

Obamacare is also a threat to religious liberty.  This is no surprise.  Anytime the government expands its reach, religious liberty is at risk.  The contraceptive mandate is only the beginning.  What other religiously controversial mandates will come out of the Obama (or any future liberal) administration that offend people of faith?

 5) If the GOP loses short-term, we win long-term.  The fact is that this may not work.  However, does the GOP become a strong party again by doing whatever Democrats want?  This battle gives us an opportunity to stand together and fight for something.  It shows voters that this Party is not in retreat.  It provides us with fuel for next year’s elections.  Doing nothing will only hurt us next year.  I’m sad about last November just like everyone else, but the reports of the GOP’s long and slow death are only going to end up being accurate if we let them.

 obama6) Sometimes you just have to do what is right.  If we don’t fight for this, then MSNBC has won, Obama and his Chicago thuggery have won, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and their dishonest cram-down-our-throats tactics have won, and who we are as a party (or as a nation) may never be the same.  There is a time for compromise, and that time has passed.  The President didn’t compromise when he forced his will on the American people with this bloated takeover of the health care industry.  We cannot compromise as we fight back.

Republicans, this is about doing what is right and doing it now.  Visit the site dontfundobamacare.com and see where your Senator stands.

Lisa @ AmericaisConservative.org (This post is a reprint of the original from AmericaisConservative.org.)

My sister had a baby last week and so our family has been focused on a new little newborn.  This has led me to ponder what the future will be like for this little child.

One story that hit the news last week was the high school graduation ceremony where the valedictorian read the Lord’s Prayer for his speech since the school district had chosen to not allow prayers at school functions.

I was thinking about this young man and the stand that he took, that he had to take given the decision made by the school district to remove religion from the ceremony.  He rose to the occasion and made a statement about who he is.  Had he not done that and had he just read a typical graduation speech, no one would have thought anything less of him.  In fact, he would still have been applauded as the valedictorian of his school.  However, he did something more.  He stood up for who he is knowing there may be consequences.  The school officials may have had the microphone turned off for all he knew.  People may have denounced his action.  But, he took a stand anyway because he knew it needed to be done.

When it comes to religious liberty, the days are past where religion was generally accepted as the basis of society.  Religion is being systematically removed from our institutions and government.  This is far beyond anything the Framers intended, but this is where we are.  So, it becomes even more important for individuals to actually practice their liberties to keep religion in the public sphere.

This is a huge task for a generation that is growing up not hearing prayers in public.  Children are living in a world where religion is a secretive event allowed only to be practiced at home and in churches.  They are not learning about religion in schools, even to the point of having “Winter” parties instead of Christmas parties. Their “normal” will not equate to public displays of religion, and yet that is the task that is falling on them if we are to have any hope for a future where religion is once again a vibrant part of society.

Then there is the breakdown of the family.  My nephew will grow up in a family where religion is practiced and revered.  But he will find himself more and more in the minority.  Families are falling apart and religious devotion is slipping.  It isn’t a secret that these are related principles.  Strong families make us better people and tend to be more religiously active as a recent Heritage blog post pointed out.

I recognize this is a somewhat negative outlook of both the current and the future, but I am not even 40 yet and I can see a palpable difference in the way society treats religion.

May the next generation be strong enough to rise to the occasion and stand for truth.  May my new little nephew learn this and be willing to be criticized if needed for boldly declaring what he knows.

This week has been a difficult one for religious freedom and liberty. Freedoms have taken a beating from all sides of the country. The week against liberty started off with MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Parry saying that our kids “belonged” to the community. (A funny reply on Facebook had a picture of Sarah Palin with the quote “Dear MSNBC, if our kids belong to you, do your kids belong to us? If so, can we take them hunting after church in our big pickup truck?” Awesome.)

By Tuesday, there was media blackout about the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, an abortionist who murdered babies AFTER birth. That’s right, he killed babies…after they had been born. Main stream media has ignored this man’s atrocious behaviors. By turning a blind eye, the violation of the children’s rights is being ignored.

By the time Wednesday came around, California lawmakers had proposed SB-323, a bill that would remove the Boy Scouts tax exempt status if they did not allow openly gay men and boys to join their organization. Regardless of your belief about same-sex marriage, this removes the freedom of an organization to set restrictions around its membership. The government’s place is not to dictate to organizations that they must violate their religious liberty and extend membership to those outside the limits their beliefs dictate.

Another unfortunate assault came from the military. A United States Army officer sent a 14 page email labeling Christian groups as “domestic hate groups.”

“The message, apparently sent by Lt. Col. Jack Rich at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, also instructed those who received the e-mail to be on the look-out for fellow soldiers who might be supporters of the organizations (or who, at the least, aren’t upholding “Army Values”).” 

(It should be noted that this comes only a week after Foxnews’ Todd Starnes reported that a training instructor in the Army labeled evangelical Christianity “religious extremism.”)

The Attorney General in Washington also decided to sue a florist who opted out of providing flowers for a gay wedding. The florist, Barronelle Stutzman, stated it was against her faith to provide arrangements for the wedding. The government is now suing her and threatening a $2,000 fine for each violation.

This week, Americans have had their freedoms challenged from state governments, the U.S. military, and the media. And this is just 1 week of a sampling of what was reported…a subsection of all of instances it occurs.

When people argue that gay marriage should be legalized or promote the ideal of “live and let live,” it’s important to realize that when the government promotes one entity, it can be robbing Constitution-protected freedoms from another. Marriage is not a “right” defined in any of the founding documents. Freedom of religion is protected.

Rebecca @ AmericaIsConservative.org