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Presiding Bishop joins Amicus Brief in wedding cake case

Presiding Bishop joins Amicus Brief in wedding cake case

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church has joined an Amicus Brief in support of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission in a case which involves the owner of a bakery who refused to bake a cake for a wedding reception celebrating a same-sex marriage, an action which the Colorado Civil Rights Commission argues was unlawfully discriminatory.

From the Office of Public Affairs:

In his capacity as Presiding Bishop and in exercising his responsibility to speak on behalf of the Episcopal Church and to “speak God’s word to the church and the world” (Canon I.2.4(a)(2)),  Presiding Bishop Curry joined the leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the General Synod of the United Church of Christ, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, and the Chicago Theological Seminary (UCC) in signing the Amicus Brief.   As the Brief notes, the denominations represented by this group “hold differing views regarding the religious implications of same-sex marriage.”

The major points presented in the Amicus Brief are:

  • Laws like the Colorado statute at issue which prohibit discrimination by businesses operating in the public marketplace – “public accommodations laws” — protect religious liberty by prohibiting discrimination based on religion while also exempting religious institutions from their application, so that houses of worship may exercise religion freely within their walls.
  • Such laws also further religious values by protecting human dignity, by guarding minority groups from the humiliation in the marketplace that arises from being denied service on a discriminatory basis.
  • While the sincerity of the bakeshop owner’s religious beliefs are not questioned, by entering the public marketplace the bakeshop subjected itself to Colorado’s laws governing public accommodations, including the statute forbidding discrimination.  The Constitution’s guarantee of religious liberty does not require granting the bakeshop an exception from Colorado’s public accommodations law, where the statute is limited to commercial activity and does not require the bakeshop to directly participate in a religious ceremony.

As noted in the Amicus Brief:

The Church has adopted a resolution “affirm[ing] its support for religious freedom for all persons” and “affirm[ing] religious freedom as a goal to be sought in all societies.”  The Church has also adopted a rule which provides that “[n]o one shall be denied rights, status or access to an equal place in the life, worship, and governance of [the] Church because of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disabilities or age, except as otherwise specified [in Church rules].”  In 2015, the Church adopted a trial rite for the celebration of same-sex marriage, and at the same time “honor[ed]” “the theological diversity of this Church in regard to matters of human sexuality” and confirmed that no ordained person “should be coerced or penalized in any manner” because of his or her “theological objection to or support for” the Church’s action in adopting the trial rite, and further required every bishop to “make provision for all couples asking to be married in this Church to have access” to the trial rite.

Further, the brief notes:

The Episcopal Church’s Baptismal Covenant, which reflects the denomination’s core beliefs, asks for commitments from persons being baptized as well as all other witnesses to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.”  Book of Common Prayer 305 (1979).

Find the full announcement, including links to General Convention resolutions which support the action here.


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Prof Christopher Seitz

Dear Ann Fontaine: Are the present holders of power so unsure of their position on polity that they fear an amicus brief seriously prepared for supreme court review, and bring Title IV charges against them to stop their making their case? That is an indictment of itself. People have serious arguments in defense of the polity of TEC. And of course that is why the progressive position in TX lost, and even more definitively in Illinois, Title IV power notwithstanding.

Prof Christopher Seitz

Worthy of Title IV discipline was the filing of an amicus brief in TX by 9 conservative Bishops.

But it is always OK if you are someone with progressivist views who inhabits the TEC majority.

Ann Fontaine

Dear Prof Seitz: That was about the very structure of the church and the bishops’ vows. This is about public access to public businesses — apples and artichokes

Quentin Durward

First, this is not a disagreement between the tolerant and the closed minded; it’s not. Second, gay marriage was not legal in Colorado when the incident took place so those who fear this is about relitigating gay marriage are mistaken. Third, Jack Phillips did not refuse to bake a cake for David Mullins and Charlie Craig, the gay couple. Fourth, what Phillips refused to do was design and bake an erotic-themed cake for the couple. Fifth, Phillips previously refused to do erotic-themed cakes for other customers, regardless of who they were. Sixth, the lower court acknowledged points three through five. Seventh, in the same jurisdiction, a baker who refused to bake a cake with anti-gay bible verses prevailed in court!

I would expect the PB to show some spine and stand up to tyranny and defend equality but he’s got it backwards. Free speech, freedom of association, and the free exercise of religion are not for some, but for all.

Ann Fontaine

Dear Mr. Durward — what if they refused to provide a cake for you because of something they did not like about you. The issue is that if you plan to open a business in the US — you must serve all alike. Remember when Woolworth would not serve lunch to certain people? If you only want to serve a certain group of people then don’t open a public business.

Quentin Durward

Ann, I respect your passion but it is being misapplied here. This is not like Woolworth (which I don’t remember but I’ve heard the stories); the baker did not refuse to serve the couple. As for what I would do if someone refused to bake a cake for me, I’d find someone else. I have too much respect for others and the rights of others to even imagine a scenario where anyone should be force to bake a cake for me. Would you force a Muslim baker to design a cake with Mohammed’s image? You can be sure I wouldn’t!

Helen Kromm

First: You’re interpretation is inaccurate, or at a minimum, opinion based. I would argue this is certainly an issue of tolerance.
Second: Utterly irrelevant. It doesn’t matter what the status of Gay marriage was in the state of Colorado.
Third: Phillips refused to bake the cake in the first twenty seconds of this encounter. That is admitted by both sides.
Fourth: The initial design of the cake included a rainbow. This is erotic? Please provide your source for this misrepresentation.
Fifth: Again, provide a source. We do know Phillips refused in the past to do Halloween cakes. And again, the design of the cake has never been in issue in the first place.
Sixth: Untrue. Here is the court filing: Philip’s attorney states the religious objection is the sole defense in this case.
Seventh: Please provide a link to this case.

Quentin Durward

I would argue in favor of tolerance for BOTH the baker and couple, You would say tolerance is consistent with being intolerant of the baker. Framing this as the “tolerant” vs the “closed minded” gets us nowhere. Legality of gay marriage at the time of the incident is very relevant in understanding why this is not about relitigating gay marriage. In your article, the Baker did not “admit to refusing to bake the cake in 20 seconds” but, like the issues of tolerance and the legality of gay marriage, that’s not the point. In your article, the couple said, “We went in with a bunch of ideas” and I don’t know what they were nor do you but again that’s not the point. What is the point? The baker refuses to do designs he finds offensive. PERIOD! I understand you and he and I may have very different views on what is offensive. I can live with that. I believe we must protect and defend the rights relevant to this case (speech, association, and religion) even for people we don’t agree with.

Helen Kromm
Helen Kromm

I believe that it’s important to represent accurate facts first and foremost if you are going to have a meaningful discussion of this issue. I have asked you to provide sources or links for the claims that you made in your initial post, and apparently you either choose not to or are unable to do so.

Earlier you stated: “what Phillips refused to do was design and bake an erotic-themed cake for the couple”. Those are you words. Now you state: “I don’t know what they were nor do you but again that’s not the point.” So which is it?

You have aggrandized, fabricated, and lied. And we do know what the designs were because they were included in a design book that they were never allowed to present. The prominent design was that of a Rainbow. Oddly enough, and in CCRD testimony, Phillips revealed he would be more than happy and was willing to bake a wedding cake for two dogs.

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