Make them bake cake! That’s the verdict of an administrative judge in the case of Oregon bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein. The couple, who became the brave face of America’s religious liberty clash, were informed yesterday by the state’s Bureau of Labor and Industries that in the battle over marriage, their First Amendment rights no longer counted.
In the first of what will almost certainly be several rulings, the Kleins were found guilty of violating state law for politely declining an order for a same-sex “wedding” cake. As part of his 52-page order, Judge Alan McCullough claims that “requiring them to provide a wedding cake for Complainants does not constitute compelled speech.” Aaron Klein disagrees. “First Amendment, Constitution. Freedom of religion. I’m free to exercise my religion however I see fit. If I’m told to make a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage, I feel that I’m violating my beliefs. I don’t think I should have to do that.”
Unfortunately for the parents of five, wedding vendors like them may soon have no choice. In the free market, the courts no longer seem to recognize the right to believe what you want. Owners of small businesses like Sweet Cakes by Melissa, Arlene’s Flowers, Simply Elegant Wedding Planning, Hands On Originals, and others are seen as nothing more than tools of the government to think and believe as the state sees fit. If they refuse, as Aaron and Melissa have done, Oregon is threatening to bring the full weight of the government to bear.
A hearing on March 10 will decide exactly how much the Kleins’ courage will cost them. As much as $200,000 could be at stake for a family who’s already been forced to close their shop and scrape together the money they need to make up for that lost income. Anna Harmon, one of the Kleins’ three attorneys, said that although the judge tossed out every claim but one, it’s still a tough loss. “Americans should not have to choose between adhering to their faith or closing their business, but that is what this decision means… The judge ruled wrongly that the Kleins’ right not to design and create a work of art celebrating an event which violates the tenets of their religion is not protected by the Oregon or Federal Constitutions. This is a dangerous result for religious liberty and rights of conscience in Oregon...”
If only it were just Oregon! But, as Betty and Richard Odgaard just found out, the fierce tide of intolerance is at the door of every Christian business owner in America. Last Wednesday, the long-time owners of a church-building-turned-bistro made the sad announcement that they would no longer be hosting weddings at the scenic site after settling a same-sex “wedding” dispute. The Odgaards, a Mennonite family, were hauled before a civil rights commission for deciding not to host a homosexual ceremony because of their religious beliefs. So the government gave them an ultimatum: conform or pay crippling fines.
It was a difficult decision for the family, which hosted as many as 15 to 20 weddings a year at the Görtz Haus. But ultimately, something had to give -- and that something wasn’t going to be their beliefs. “Our faith hasn’t changed,” Betty told reporters.
Where are all of those writers who insist that conservatives “can’t even convincingly demonstrate that anyone is hurt in any way by a gay wedding?” Still denying reality no doubt.
It isn’t exactly flip-flop season in Washington -- unless you’re Rep. Renee Ellmers (R). The North Carolina politician stunned everyone two weeks ago when the self-styled “pro-lifer” pulled the rug out from under a bill she supported in 2013 just hours before it was set to pass the House. The move, which threw cold water on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, shocked and frustrated a city full of activists, who were looking forward to celebrating the first pro-life milestone of the 114th Congress on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
Ellmers, who, two years earlier, had voted for the same language on the 20-week abortion ban, suddenly objected to a reporting requirement that, if excluded, could render the bill moot. Hundreds of students in town for the March for Life packed the hallways in protest outside of Ellmers's office, while other groups didn’t mince words about her betrayal.
Now, after two weeks on the hot seat, the congresswoman seems to be cracking under the pressure and is lashing out at the very pro-lifers who helped elect her. In a new op-ed, she desperately tries to justify her actions before ripping into the pro-life groups who held her accountable. “I am appalled by the abhorrent and childish behaviors from some of the leaders of the outside groups,” she writes.
Obviously, Ellmers, in her blind rage, has it all backwards. What’s abhorrent is the abortion of innocent unborn children who feel the excruciating pain of their execution at five months -- a barbaric practice this bill would have helped prevent. Instead, the legislation was shelved for now, the victim of internal politics that have no place sidetracking a common sense, life-saving bill. The pro-life movement is right to be upset.
Jon Stewart is a comedian, but the justification of his ideology is the real joke. On yesterday’s “Daily Show,” the host tore into Governor Mike Huckabee for holding the mainstream view on marriage. In what he hoped would be a “gotcha” monologue, Stewart only managed to show his ignorance about the Bible he insisted on citing.
Paraphrasing what the Governor said on CNN, Stewart said, “I just can’t ‘change’ with the ‘times’ if it means deviating from ‘biblical law.’” He went on to set up a false comparison between God’s definition of marriage and other Old Testament laws that changed under the new covenant. “It’s why Huckabee never mixes fabric in his clothes or trims his beard or sleeps with another man’s slave. It would be wrong.” Then, in an expletive-filled rant, he exclaimed, “it makes no… sense!”
Well, it may not make sense to someone who’s making a convenient argument from out-of-context Bible verses, but it’s perfectly clear to those of us who take a comprehensive view of God’s Word as inerrant truth. If it’s New Testament evidence Stewart is looking for, then look no further than Matthew’s Gospel for Jesus’s affirmation of marriage and human sexuality.
“‘Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?’” (Matthew 19:4-5, NIV) The Bible is replete with references of God’s design for marriage in the New Testament.
But Stewart and others should take note that the Bible doesn’t condemn without the offer of grace. After the Apostle Paul rebukes the practice of homosexuality (along with a host of other sins) in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, he follows it up with the hope of redemption. “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (ESV).
Much to the Left’s annoyance, the whole of Scripture affirms the natural definition of marriage and sexuality from the very beginning -- to the very end. And that same Scripture shows us that with Christ, this world is not the end for us.
** While the U.S. House votes to repeal ObamaCare, the special tag-team of Chuck Donovan and FRC’s Arina Grossu explain why pro-lifers would be glad to see the law fall in an op-ed for Townhall: “Abortion and the ObamaCare Exchanges: Still Not What the Doctor Ordered.”
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.