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Serving God by suing others: Inside the Christian conservative legal movement

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, right, listens as her attorney Roger Gannam addresses the media on the steps of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky in Covington on July 20, 2015. Davis, who has said she cannot issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because it would violate her religious beliefs, is being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union on the behalf of two gay couples and two straight couples. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

SALT LAKE CITY — Roger Gannam cites the Bible to define his company’s mission.

That wouldn’t be notable if he worked at a church or food kitchen. But Gannam works at a law firm, suing others and representing those who have been sued.

His employer, Liberty Counsel, advocates for conservative Christian interests in cases related to the sanctity of life, family values and religious liberty.

“We seek to help Christians avail themselves of their First Amendment rights to live out a Christian life the way they want to live it,” said Gannam, assistant vice president of legal affairs for the Orlando, Fla., firm.

Liberty Counsel is part of the Christian legal movement, a collection of advocacy groups working in the legal, public policy and public relations arenas to advance and protect conservative Christian moral values.

Together, these firms have turned the courts into key battlefields in the culture wars, as will be on display this fall, when Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission is argued before the Supreme Court.

“Christian conservative legal organizations” Deseret News Graphic

The potentially far-reaching case asks what should win when the conscience rights of small-business owners who object to same-sex marriage clash with civil rights protections for the LGBT community.

Alliance Defending Freedom, the most prominent organization in the Christian legal movement, represents Masterpiece Cakeshop, but other Christian firms will be involved in the case as well, offering input on arguments or filing briefs in support of the Christian baker. These groups compete for donations and clients, while recognizing that they’re chasing after the same goals.

“There’s plenty of work to go around,” Gannam said. “I think we are co-laborers. We are partners.”

Their shared commitment to splashy media campaigns and aggressive legal tactics have troubled some who work at the intersection of law and religion. Debates over religious freedom are more contentious now than they were in the past, and these organizations may help explain why.

“I think that many of these organizations do overreach, do make implausible claims, and do discredit the cause (of religious freedom) when they do so,” said Douglas Laycock, a religious freedom expert and law professor at the University of Virginia.

Coordinated response

Coordination within the Christian legal movement is most visible in lists of amicus briefs, or the legal documents filed by subject matter experts in support of one side’s arguments.

For example, the American Center for Law and Justice and Liberty Counsel both filed briefs in support of Alliance Defending Freedom’s appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, this year’s high-profile religious freedom ruling dealing with whether churches can take part in public grant programs.

“They’ll coordinate with other organizations,” in terms of how briefs are written, said Daniel Bennett, author of the new book “Defending Faith: The Politics of the Christian Conservative Legal Movement.”

These groups aren’t reinventing the wheel. They’re borrowing strategies from other legal movements and using court rulings to influence lawmaking, he added.

“Folks that don’t have the representation in the legislative branch to defend their interests” turn to the courts for help, said Bennett, who is an assistant professor of political science at John Brown University, a Christian school in Arkansas.

Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion, helped spark the Christian legal movement, awakening conservative Christian leaders to the idea that they were losing political and cultural clout.

Within 10 years of that ruling, the first Christian legal interest group, the Center for Law and Religious Freedom, was formed.

That first group is one of 10 Christian conservative legal organizations featured in Bennett’s book. These firms protect their religious values through the court system, using cases like the Moral Majority used candidates.

“I define ‘Christian conservative legal organization’ as a multi-issue organization dedicated to the interests of Christian conservatives primarily through legal advocacy, including litigation and public education,” Bennett said.

His definition excludes Becket Law, the high-profile firm behind many religious freedom cases, because it’s focused solely on religious liberty issues. Other interest groups, such as Concerned Women for America, are also left off the list, because legal advocacy is not their primary mission.

Attorney Douglas Laycock, center, characterizes his argument before the Supreme Court on behalf of an Arkansas prison inmate who says his Muslim beliefs that require him to grow a beard are being violated by prison rules that prevent beards on Oct. 7, 2014, in front of the court in Washington. Laycock, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, is working with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which prevailed in the Hobby Lobby case last June. At left is Hannah Smith, a senior counsel with the Becket Fund. At right are Emily Hardman and Diana Verm, far right, both of the Becket Fund. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The growth and success of Christian conservative legal organizations has earned them some enemies, especially at a time when religious freedom protections increasingly clash with LGBT rights.

Three Christian conservative law firms — Alliance Defending Freedom, Pacific Justice Institute and Liberty Counsel — appear on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of hate groups because of their “anti-LGBT” positions.

“There used to be broad, bipartisan support for religious liberty. That has sort of melted away now,” said Hiram Sasser, deputy chief counsel for First Liberty Institute.

Alliance Defending Freedom did not respond to multiple interview requests.

By pairing religious freedom law with their moral agenda, Christian conservative legal organizations have hurt religious liberty’s reputation, Laycock said.

“A claim that abortion or same-sex marriage should be illegal for everybody is not a religious liberty claim. It is a claim that conservative Christian morality should be imposed by law on everyone else,” he said.

However, linking cases with moral concerns is a powerful political and fundraising strategy. When selecting cases, the firms consider whether an issue will play well in the press and catch the attention of potential donors, Bennett said.

“They’re looking for cases that set a precedent and earn them a little money in terms of fundraising,” he said. The groups profiled in “Defending Faith” bring in anywhere from $300,000 to $48.3 million in annual revenue, according to Bennett’s research.

Gannam resists the notion that faith-based legal activism harms non-Christian Americans.

“We are distinctively Christian, but the religious liberties we secure and vindicate are for everyone, not just for Christians,” Gannam said.

Beyond the courtroom

The drawback of tapping into the power of the courts is that most lawsuits are all-or-nothing propositions, Bennett said.

“The courts can be good when you’re winning, but really, really bad when you’re losing,” he said.

Christian conservative legal organizations mitigate the risks of losing by proposing legislation, organizing educational conferences and training supporters to effectively interact with the media.

“They’re trying to coordinate grass-roots mobilization, media advocacy and litigation,” said Amanda Hollis-Brusky, co-author of a forthcoming book on law schools that feed the Christian legal movement.

Gannam actually began his religious freedom-related litigation work by attending a training program hosted by the Alliance Defending Freedom. At the time, he was a commercial litigator focused on business transactions, but exposure to the Christian legal movement changed his course.

“I had to work at the traditional practice of law and make money so I could support my religious liberty habit,” he said.

He joined the Liberty Counsel staff three years ago, diving into full-time religion-related advocacy.

The organization looks for opportunities to influence the direction of the law, through relationships with lawmakers.

“We have a dedicated lawyer in D.C. who heads up our public policy arm. He spends all of his time meeting with legislators and other policy organizations trying to think through and articulate appropriate policy goals and sometimes offering model legislation,” Gannam said.

Through similar initiatives at the state level, Christian conservative legal organizations have emerged as key opponents of so-called “fairness for all” bills, which seek to balance religious liberty with LGBT nondiscrimination protections.

Robin Fretwell Wilson, director of the family law and policy program at the University of Illinois College of Law, has helped draft these compromise bills in multiple states, often running into members of the Christian legal movement in the process.

“I think it is fair to say they are moving heaven and earth in the states to make protecting gay rights look like it always comes at the expense of religious persons and communities,” she said.

Liberty Counsel leaders believe the “fairness for all” concept offers a weak return for people of faith compared to what’s given to members of the LGBT community, Gannam said.

Although court cases continue to represent the core of these organizations’ work, political activism and community outreach may become more valuable in the future, as religion-related debates expand and evolve, Sasser said.

Taking the long view

At first, the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage seemed like a lethal blow to Christian conservative legal organizations. They’d spent years opposing gay marriage, but it still became the law of the land.

In reality, the outcome ushered in new varieties of religious freedom cases, allowing these firms to reshape their public image, focusing on their support of personal liberties rather than their opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion.

Rebranding comes with its own set of challenges. Religious freedom protections are increasingly portrayed as a “license to discriminate.”

Younger Americans, in particular, seem to be wary of conscience rights. In a recent Public Religion Research Institute survey, 1 in 4 Americans ages 18 to 29 favored allowing small-business owners to refuse to provide products or services to the LGBT community for religious reasons, compared to one-third of Americans ages 30 to 64 and 43 percent of Americans older than 65.

First Liberty has responded to the contentious religious liberty climate by working to diversify its clientele, Sasser said, noting that judges and Americans in general are more responsive to the needs of minority faith groups.

“I worry that there are judges who would be sympathetic to protecting a Hindu temple or synagogue or mosque, but maybe wouldn’t worry about a zoning case against a church,” he said.

The key is for Liberty Counsel and other Christian conservative legal organizations to stay committed to making a difference in the long term, Gannam said.

“As a Christian organization, we draw comfort and encouragement from the Scripture: Do not grow weary of doing good,” he said. “Our mission doesn’t allow us to get tired of trying, even if there are short-term setbacks.”

(Kelsey Dallas writes for The Deseret News)

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Kelsey Dallas

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  • Liberty Counsel are grifters for reactionary Christians. Their work involves largely frivolous arguments to justify attacks on 14th amendment equal protection under the law. All done to spur donations and leave clients in the lurch for fines. They are people of low character, shaky professional ethics and defenders of reprehensible behavior.

    We can quit the nonsense. “Conscience rights here” mean legalized discrimination in commerce and access to government services. There is no such thing as compromise on civil liberties. Merely delaying them.

  • Let’s stop pretending this is about “religious freedom”, Ms. Dallas. These so called Christians have the right to worship as they choose, believe whatever they wish, and claim they are speaking for god. What they don’t have, and what they actually want, is the freedom to discriminate on the basis of religious belief, something that has been illegal in this country since the Civil rights Act of 1964.

    Either we have laws which forbid such discrimination, or we do not have those laws. Trying to find a middle ground and allow a certain class of so called Christian to discriminate on the basis of religious belief in ONE CASE, AND ONE CASE ONLY, simply underlines why we have those laws to begin with.

    It’s very telling that gay people are the one case: not atheists, not jews, not catholics, not Mormons, not Buddhists, not hindus.

  • The only god these christofascists serve is power. No mention that one of these oozy oily sharks, jay Sekulow, is now Trump’s lawyer. Birds of a feather!

  • Mormons, Buddhists, and even you Atheists, are NOT forcing Christians to do things that openly and diametrically oppose our own Christian faith. But the Gay folks? Yes they are.

    Wanna birthday cake? It’s all yours. Even if you’re Gay. Cake Boss all the way.
    We’ll even pipe “Happy Birthday Ben” on it, with imported fancy Belgian sugar.
    God knows your birthday (He invented it), so we participate in your Mormon, Atheist, Buddhist or Gay birthday event, by providing our goods and services.

    So next week, the Mormons, Buddhists, Atheists, and Gays call for a wedding cake.
    Which again is calling for Christian participation in that marriage event. (Just like the Cake Boss. He’s clearly participating in the marriage event itself, with goods and services.)

    The first three groups, as long as the wedding is opposite-sex, you are NOT forcing us to oppose our own God, our own Jesus, and our own Bibles via our goods and talents. But the final category? Yes they are. That’s why Christians need ADF, LC, and other law defenders.

  • 1) They are not participating, except in the imagination of their dark hearts.

    2) If they are participating, they are participating in god denying atheist weddings, jesus denying Jewish weddings, Jesus ignoring muslim weddings, Yahweh denying Buddhist weddings, and demon worshipping hindu weddings. And false-god-worshipping-every-one-of-those-religions-weddings.

    It doesn’t matter how much you spin it, trying to avoid the obvious.

    And you are.

    BTW, plenty of real Christians have no problem with it. Only special snowflake Christians have a problem with it.

  • BTW, cakes are for the reception, which is a party. Not for the wedding. But who needs facts when you have trumpenopinions.

  • ADF’s failure to provide a response to a legitimate inquiry troubles me, both as a conservative and an evangelical who believes we are required to answer those who question our motives and strategies. Where, if not the courts, are these questions to be addressed when there is a cultural conflict within the fabric of our society. What I do note happily, is that these cases do not typically involve the question of economic considerations, at least with respect to punitive damages. These lawyers do not appear to be ambulance chasers. Within the context of scripture, Christians are specifically enjoined not to sue one another in pagan (read: Civil) courts. But the circumstances described in those cases speaks to material motives, not spiritual ones. There is flexibility with respect to rights and values, though there will always be adversaries and opponents, that is the nature of human governance..

  • I would love Arbustin’s take on this, as an attorney he would have a uniquely qualified insight; I’m not saying I would entirely agree with him, but I would definitely evaluate his thoughts with great respect and care.

  • “forcing Christians to do things that openly and diametrically oppose our own Christian faith.”

    As I understand US laws no-one is forced to become a cake-baker or a florist – or any of the multiple varieties of claiming-to-be-a-Christian-faith-person – but if a florist/baker etc. offers to provide a service for one wedding they must do so for all.

    Therefore it is the person who chooses to be both a wedding services provider and a minority-position christian that has to take responsibility for their decision to create an incompatibility, an incompatibility in their mind – not in any physical reality.
    Their decision is their problem – morally no-one else can be expected to solve, or suffer from, the dilemma the instigator has caused themself. They are forcing the consequences of their, freely made, choices on those they unreasonably seek to blame for their self-created conflict (unless, of course, it’s just an excuse to be an a*****e).

    As to participation – is the gun shop participating in the murder of the person killed by their product, the rope supplier in the death of the suicide or the pastor in child abuse because he sold the bible that was used to justify beating the infant?

    As usual – reason is not your friend.

  • Translation:
    “We don’t care what you Christians believe — we’re gonna repeal your constitutional religious freedom, we’ll shut your very livelihood down — and we’ll even blame you for it all like ‘Give’ does — if you don’t bow and kowtow to our demands to violate your own religious tenets on the gay marriage issue.”

    Now in some states, (including mine), you can’t get away with that kind of mess. The Supreme Court has not yet said, “Christian wedding service providers must bow and kowtow to Gay Marriage participation via goods and services.”

    But some states have bought into general gay rights legislation which, decades later, are NOW used as absolute weapons against Christian businesses. Again, that’s why Alliance Defending Freedom, Liberty Counsel, and ACLJ, are needed.

  • So tell me Ben, what’s a “real Christian”? Hmm? I’d love to hear your explanation.

    For example, would you consider a Christian who serves gay customers, hires gay employees, and publicly expresses support for legalized gay marriage (in principle), to be a “real Christian”?

    (Yes, that is a “set-up” question. Very much so. But I’d love to hear your direct Yes or No answer on it anyway.)

  • And after he informs us of what a “real Christian” is, he can follow up with what a “real atheist” is. ROFL!

  • They are ambulance chasers of a sort. Their revenue comes from donations. They advertise for them by taking cases which appeal to reactionary notions of religious privilege. It’s not a matter of defending a client as it is using them as a form of advertising. It’s a very unethical and unsavory used legal process.

  • GLARING OMISSIONS: Little Sisters of the Poor v. Obamacare made it all the way to the Supreme Court. While in the U.S., Pope Francis visited with the nuns in support of their lawsuit. Before signing his executive order on “religious freedom,” Trump decried the “attacks against the Little Sisters of the Poor” because they had to request their exemption from affording insurance for contraception in writing. Trump told the nuns who were present “Your long ordeal will soon be over.”
    On June 29 Pope Francis awarded the highest honor available to laymen to Alan Spears, head of the “hate group” the Alliance Defending Freedom. (cruxnow.com)

  • Marriage, and it’s recognition is a state matter. This is why we have “marriage licenses” and the associated laws governing taxes, benefits and inheritance. No one is stating you cannot be baptized, or have to be in a certain manner – that would be infringing on someone’s religious freedom.

  • You mean the same guy that continues to allow Pedophile priests to abuse children under their tutelage, that guy? Okay then, that makes it all better.

  • Fail, Capt. Kangaroo.
    Why don’t you prog libs try to be a little more creative in your slander? Lol. You all sound exactly alike. How funny!

  • And what if the Christian baker says she does not want to participate in a non-Christian wedding? Such a case has already “arisen” (actually it’s a caterer/reception hall, not a baker, but I wanted to keep the pun).

  • Thanks for the shoutout Edward. As to the litigation itself, I don’t have a problem with bringing lawsuits, and focus on the merits of any given case. I routinely disagree with their legal positions but that’s the nature of litigation, if there’s no disagreement there’s no case. They do chase business, but I don’t find it sleazier than any plaintiff’s personal injury firm, and plaintiffs do have legitimate claims to make.
    I do have a problem with the media campaigns and some of the public statements of Alliance Defending Freedom in particular. I can think of three incidents off the top of my head where ADF has misrepresented the facts to the press:
    (a) In Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, ADF claimed that a local ordinance was going to force a preacher out of the wedding business, where there was no actual indication any enforcement was to be taken against him. The city refused to alter the ordinance and paid him $1,000 to go away.
    (b) In Iowa, they claimed that the state antidiscrimination agency was planning to enforce its laws against churches, based on the ADF’s out-of-context quote of an advisory brochure.
    (c) In Madison WI, just this week, they claimed a judge handed an anti-SSM photographer a huge victory, when in actuality the city and state agreed the antidiscrimination law did not apply to her because she was not a public place of accommodation.

  • Vendors aren’t participants in a celebration. If I buy chips and soda for a party, the cashier isn’t participating in the party. If I buy a knife and stab someone with it, the person at the store isn’t a participant in a murder, nor is the guy at the hardware store who sells me a shovel participating in hiding the body.

    Vendors sell items. They are not involved in what the consumer does with it afterwards. If a vendor sells an item, they are supposed sell it to anyone willing to pay without discriminating against any particular group. Christian vendors do not get special exemptions from the law.

  • If I have time.

    But here’s a hint. I picked the words “real Christian” as opposed to my usual “true Christian”.

    You and your fellow travelers. TRue Christians.

    decent people who don’t use their bibles as weapons: real Christians.

  • For Christians, it’s never going to be merely “a state matter.”

    In the Bible, God’s invention of marriage and family, (which is ALWAYS based on Male-Female Gender Complementarity), actually pre-dates God’s invention of human government (which respected the MFGC as the definition of marriage.)

    So Christians don’t — and won’t — ever get escape hatches like “a state matter”. Either we Christians agree in word and deed with our professed God, our professed Jesus, and our professed Bible, or we just plain don’t.

    One could just as easily argue that the U.S. slavery horror-show was merely “a state matter” (a la the Supreme Court’s official “Dred Scott” decision), and therefore American Christians should shut up and accept it. But such kowtowing was never an option for Christians. The only Christ-honoring response was RESISTANCE, in word and deed. In 2017, it’s the same for gay marriage.

  • Tell me is that the God-invented view of marriage which includes a man, his wives and his concubines? A man and his slaves? A man and his wife’s slaves? A man and many wives? A man and his brother’s widow? A male rapist and his female victim? Male soldiers and female prisoners of war? Because those are the types of marriages espoused in the Bible.

  • Here’s the case I’m thinking of:
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2016/05/26/christian-wedding-venue-owner-in-il-turned-away-couple-that-wanted-a-non-religious-ceremony/

    Take it with a grain of salt considering the source if you wish, but there is a link to a regular local news site. The case involved a heterosexual couple that had already booked their wedding at an inn. They wanted what was described as either “non-religious” or “non-denominational” because one of them was from a Jewish background and the other a Christian background and they didn’t want anyone to get offended. When they informed the inn owner of this, he refused and said that he would only allow ceremonies that mentioned God or religion.

  • ““We seek to help Christians avail themselves of their First Amendment rights to live out a Christian life the way they want to live it…”

    Well, that’s nice. Not that they can’t pray, or go to church. But what part of living out a Christian life involves forcing your views on non-believers who don’t want to live out a “Christian life?”

  • You’re not real clear about what a business can do when offering services to THE PUBLIC, are you?

    Those laws came into play because bigots refused to serve people of color, and this is no different.

    You want to serve the public, you don’t get to choose which public are acceptable.
    Nobody is forcing anyone to embrace marriage equality, but you don’t get to discriminate because of your belief system.

    Don’t want gay marriage? Don’t get one.
    Don’t want to bake gay cakes? Don’t go into baking.

    It’s that simple. Gay people are part of what makes up We the People.
    Get used to it.

  • Fifty years ago, you could refuse service to people of color.
    Now that color is rainbow, but the bigotry is the same.

  • But it’s still the after-event party, not the ceremony. Splitting hairs over silly things is what holy hypocrites do best. BTW, speaking of Mormons, most Mormons hire other Mormons to do their wedding cakes. Mormons are used to dealing with bigoted holy roller bakers wanting preach against Mormonism while selling them a cake. My wedding cake was far better than any I could have purchased from a Hallelujah baker and it was exactly what I asked for. And Mormon bakers, professional ones, are in it for the money, not to use business to burden the lives of others. Holy hypocrites just can’t help being a thorn in the lives of their neighbors, being harshly intrusive to the point of bullying is in their nature, or so I have found. Hence the old joke about the Quaker with the ornery cow. The Quaker, being a pacifist, had a cow who sometimes kicked over the milk bucket, sometimes kicked him off the stool, and sometimes got him in the face with her tail. One day, she did all three. The Quaker stood up, drenched in milk, face smeared with what is in a cow’s tail, and said, “I cannot strike thee, I cannot curse thee, but I can and will sell thee to an Evangelical.”

  • Mormons typically do not go to hallelujah bakers to order wedding cakes. They are long used to being preached about the “evils” of Mormonism and then getting a cake that is subpar by simply wanting one that reflect their Mormonism. I had my wedding cake done by a private Mormon baker decades ago. We had different flavors of cake in each tier and a special custom cake for the top, anniversary tier. We knew better than to go to a holy roller baker and be preached at for being Mormon. Of course, I am no longer married and no longer attend the Mormon Church, but I still avoid holy roller bake shops.

  • But if you know the knife is going to used to murder someone you may be held accountable.

  • The funny part is, Floyd is black. In his mind, that makes him even more right than right.

  • I’m glad to see I can amuse you.
    But still, it isn’t me that is busy telling other Christians that they aren’t true Christians. That’s all you, and Floyd, and dirty, and kev and sandimonious, and a host of others.

  • ADF lying? That would be tantamount to saying that lying for Jesus is normal conservative Christian behavior.
    Say it ain’t so.
    As spuddie says, they are grifters. Their track record is abysmal, to say the least.

  • Nobody’s perfect that’s for sure. But even Alan Dershowitz has criticized the ACLU for some of it’s actions. And I think he even left their employ in protest. Another lawyer/commenter here Marty Eble (sp?) I think noted that as he had resigned from the ACLU in protest , as well.

  • That’s exactly what you were just doing. Nor is it the first time you have, by a long shot. And while you’ve yet to hear it from me, you do have a number of liberal “real Christian” buddies here saying it to the more orthodox of us and it bothers you so much that you upvote them regularly — which unfortunately says a lot about you and even more about them.

    Hypocrisy, thy name is…

  • A gun dealer can most certainly be prosecuted for selling a firearm to a convicted felon. I thought everyone knew that.

  • I upvote them regularly?

    I almost never upvote ANYONE! But sure, tell yourself some more stories about me. Better that, than a Halley answer the criticism.

    But if we’re going to go that route, let’s talk about your failure, and definitely regularly, to call out the reviles and slanderers who post here regularly.

  • You never seem to specify what kind of “slander” you have in mind, but we’ll talk more about that when I start to see you comment on your liberal “real Christian” buddies telling us we’re not “real.” While it doesn’t bother me in the slightest, liberal hypocrisy is entertaining enough to call for popcorn, extra butter.

    You owe Floydlee an answer first, though.

  • It doesn’t matter why. The point is that it is possible to be held legally accountable for knowingly giving someone the means to commit a crime.

  • Well I can’t. But I said “may” not “would”. In these litigious times I’m sure someone would say you were partly responsible. And what about the girlfriend of the guy who killed the gays at the gay bar in FL? Didn’t they find her culpable?

  • No. The clerk in that case would be held accountable for breaking the law against selling convicted felons guns. It wouldn’t matter what said felon did with it, even if said felon did nothing. The penalty would be the same, because the vendor is not actually held legally responsible for the actions of another, only their own actions.

  • Did she sell him the gun? No. Therefore it’s not applicable.

    Can we try to get remotely back on topic here?

  • No, it’s the one Christ said was His original creation design — not the corruptions of it which came about over the ages due to man’s hardness of heart.

  • Oh, so it’s the one he said, but one that’s completely unlike anything that was in the Bible. That makes sense.

  • Like I said, name one case where a store clerk had been charged with that after legally selling someone something.

  • It’s not unlike anything in the Bible. It may be found in the first two chapters of Genesis.

  • But all the other references to marriage are crap? All the other things God did and approved of past the first two chapters of the first book? All that is garbage past Genesis chapter 2? Good to know.

  • Legally speaking, the cases are easily distinguishable, and raise different issues. In the Inn-keeper’s case, he was imposing a positive demand on his customers; in the bakers’ case, they are demurring from the customer’s demand.

  • If enough sensible people did that all of the hallelujah hypocrite bakeries would close due to a lack of business and that would solve the problem, too.

  • “The seller may not ignore the purpose for which the purchase is made if he is advised of that purpose, or wash his hands of the aid that he has given the perpetrator of a felony by the plea that he has merely made a sale of merchandise. One who sells a gun to another knowing that he is buying it to commit a murder, would hardly escape conviction as an accessory to the murder by showing that he received full price for the gun; and no difference in principle can be drawn between such a case and any other case of a seller who knows that the purchaser intends to use the goods which he is purchasing in the commission of felony.” Backun v. United States 112 F.2d 635 (4th Cir. 1940)
    June 10, 1940

    The Model Penal Code, which is used as a resource and guidebook by state legislatures, basically adopts the Backun standard : “A lessor rents with knowledge that the premises will be used to establish a bordello. A vendor sells with knowledge that the subject of the sale will be used in the commission of the crime. A doctor counsels against an abortion during the third trimester but, at the patient’s insistence, refers her to a competent abortionist.”‘

    The key to a vendor’s accomplice liability is the KNOWLEDGE of what the goods are to be used for.

  • Jesus told us that certain things were temporarily tolerated because of the hardness of the fallen human heart and the absence of the Holy Spirit’s influence in human interactions (divorce was an example). It was the original creation design (one man, one woman, in close fellowship and communion with God and united for life) that He came to restore.

  • And I bet they didn’t even require treatment for migraines, high blood pressure, excessive sleep, paleness, impaired digestion, resumption of smoking habit, feelings of mental rape, loss of appetite, weight gain and much, much more. ?

  • Religion in politics has ruined every civilization its been involved in. The christian extremists want their bible as the legal law in this country, and, if it should happen, watch this country get flushed, just like all the others.

  • I’ve been in businesses where people behaved badly on the subject of religion. I was never rude to them for their inappropriate intrusiveness; I just took my business elsewhere. More often than not, such businesses would fail on their own as people got tired of being preached at as the price of doing business with them.

  • Well, thank god that the Bible-god did not invent marriage. It’s sort of the other way around. Humans invented the Bible-god in the process of a bunch of wandering sheepherders giving themselves airs over living a nomadic life in the desert. The only real value that Christianity has had to humanity is that that shrewd politicians used the religion to give humans a long list of human rights that are not even listed in the Bible, and which many Bible-thumpers want to curtail for everyone but them.

  • Funny, I’m 65 yrs old and have never had a store owner talk to me about religion – I don’t know where you live but I live in the bible belt and nothing like that has ever happened to me.
    Sure you don’t have a sign on your back that says “ask me about religion”?

  • “Shhhhhh… watch what you say. The Southern Baptist Convention Secret Police are out looking for you even as I am writing this. I’ve heard from reliable sources they are forcing….what’s that? They are at my door…Nooooooo!”
    “Hi I’m Brother Bill, Pastor of First Baptist Church here. I’d like to invite you to our church this Sunday. You’ll hear God’s word preached and taught and also please be our guest at the potluck dinner that follows church. Remember: God loves you and so do we.”
    “Whew…that was a close call.”

  • Actually, in a way, I did. I grew up Mormon and socially liberal in farmland outside a small town in northern California that was mostly Evangelical and conservative. There were a whole lot of folks descended from the Dust Bowl migrants of the Great Depression in my town. My closest friends in elementary school were the other “social outcasts”: the only black kid, the only Latino kid, the only white Catholic kid, and the kids who did not go to any church. The hallelujah kids found out that we were not easy mark for playground bullying the hard way. Some needed more than one “lesson” to get the message. I grew up very outspoken when Hallelujahs got in my face about the “evils” of Mormonism. I was just as much an advocate for my other “outcast” friends. And sometimes that meant being at odds with other Mormons over my black friend or at odds with them for any number of reasons stemming from my liberalism versus their bigoted version of conservatism.

  • Yet Hiram Sasser has no issues in conspiring with the American Legion in submitting false affidavits and receipts and lying to our federal courts to become part of a lawsuit that the American Legion never belonged too to start with. (Hewett v City of King). That’s why they were barred from interfering with the settlement. In fact Hiram was told to leave the negotiation meeting where he tried to interfere with the settlement till I spoke up and had him thrown out! These people will lie to the courts to get their way!

  • You’re conducting a business transaction, you’re not invited to participate! Yet we see the blatant hypocrisy when it comes to the same people having no problem with multiple divorcees getting married or those fornicators and why aren’t they surveying everyone to see what religious belief is being violated so they can refuse business?

  • Amendment VI
    In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

  • You’re right. I should stop entertaining your questions on gun control.

    Vendors aren’t participants in what consumers do with their products. A baker that makes 10 cakes a day isn’t going to 10 parties a day. They are selling products, nothing more. If they don’t sell it to everyone equally, it’s discrimination. It’s against the law in most cases, and immoral in all cases.

  • Difference is they also cite to existing law on this subject, constitutional principles and aren’t trying to attack civil liberties of others. The religious right seeks to be a law unto itself with privilege to attack others with impunity.

  • That may be a distinction without a difference. The customers want a non-religious ceremony, and the innkeeper is refusing based on his beliefs, which I can’t go so far as to assume are Christian but certainly seem religious in some way.

  • Yep.

    I think your biggest error is considering the religious left at all as an equivalent. They do not have the size, influence or resources of their reactionary counterparts.

  • Okay, thanks; I’m back now.
    You are correct, btw, about taking atheist Hemant Mehta “with a grain of salt.” For example, Mehta correctly said that Dave Anderson took a deposit from the couple in question, but conveniently failed to point out that Anderson DID actually return the deposit after all (according to the ACLU).

    Also, he describes the engaged couple’s request as both a “non-denominational wedding” and a “non-religious wedding”, as if the two phrases were identical in meaning. They ain’t.

    (So for me, it was much much safer to go to the WGN-TV report, the Salt Lake Tribune report ,and the ACLU’s own report instead of Mehta.)

    Anyway, this Anderson case, as suggested by OttoZeit, IS visibly different. So much so, that it’s pretty much a change-of-subject to discuss the Anderson case. Which I don’t mind doing of course, but this case is NOT applicable to the primary argument I offered Ben above.

    My reply (layperson’s) to your question, is that Anderson would run afoul of federal public accomodation law, because in THIS case it’s solely about denying services on the basis of the couple’s religion alone.

    But this one aspect is why the Anderson case is clearly Apples-&-Oranges with regard to the gay-wedding cases we’re talking about.

    Also, the Salt Lake Trib reported that Anderson believed that his practice (which not only involved him as a mere inn-keeper but ALSO he was like the actual officiant with his own religious script) was abiding by a “city rule” of the city of Galena. He said he was researching the point, and consulting with a lawyer (Mehta missed this, of course).

    Anyway, reading all three non-Mehta sources, it’s clear to me that (1) a formal hearing with attorneys on both sides would be needed to sort out all the details, and (2) at the end of the game, the federal accommodation law would still force Anderson to change his ways. But just him.

    Federal law specifically says “race, color, religion, national origin.” But not “Sexual Orientation” or “Same-Sex Marriage.”

  • “And by the way, we’ve invalidated your big gay marriage, closed your women’s health clinics, and stuck a big old 10 Commandments monument in your public park.”

  • The state of the federal law with regard to covering sexual orientation is actually a current subject of litigation. As established law it does not cover it at this time. However, various arguments are being made on both sides that “sex” in the Civil Rights Act does cover it, and the Supreme Court will likely have to rule on this at some point. But it doesn’t matter in all cases, because there are many states and municipalities with their own statutes.
    I also thought that his reference to the Galena IL local law was some kind of zoning ordinance, i.e., he’s performing religious services and therefore cannot allow a non-religious service, but the local authorities seemed to put a damper on that defense. If he performs all the wedding ceremonies, and you can’t bring in your own officiant, then that completely changes the case. You couldn’t force him to say something he doesn’t want to say.
    I agree that non-religious and non-denominational are not the same, and it’s not clear what the couple wanted. For example, I’ve know of similar weddings where “non-denominational” rabbis and ministers performed a religious ceremony (the Lord’s Prayer, with its origin in Judaism and no mention of Jesus, can work as a compromise).
    If you wish you may go back to the hypothetical scenario. A straight couple goes to a restaurant that also has private event space and wants to book their wedding. The owner takes down their info and asks who their “pastor” will be. They say that a judge will be doing it because they’re atheists. The owner refuses, saying that because he’s of x religion, “participating” in an atheist ceremony would go against his beliefs. He’d be happy to serve them dinner any time, seated or takeout, just no wedding. Should this be legal?

  • 1.How many legs does a dog have if you count its tail as a leg?
    Answer: 4 – just because you call a tail a leg doesn’t make it one.
    2.Talk to your state rep about your need of a woman’s clinic.
    3.What’s the matter God’s Law make you a little uncomfortable? Thought so – it’s suppose to.

  • You bad ol’ OT prophets!
    And Jesus you better cut out all that teaching and preaching from the OT. You’re making people feel uncomfortable.
    And shame on you Apostles for quoting the Bible to people. Boy that really made them mad.

  • Most trad con churches won’t marry divorced couples without at least inquiring into the circumstances of the divorce. Those who were the ones at fault in the divorce usually cannot serve in any leadership capacity. In fact in many fundamentalist churches even if you are the aggrieved party in a divorce you cannot serve either.

  • Nope. Western civilization came after the invention of marriage, and after the invention of the Bible and Christianity. We get the notion of monogamy from the Romans and then from the Orthodox Christians (including RCC). It was not an original feature of Western Civilization. Druids, Celtic faiths, Norse Gods, Gaia, etc, were the original faiths of Western Civilization before the Romans and then the Christians came into the picture. BTW, just to make sure you stay current, it was Christianity and not homosexuality that caused the end of the Roman Empire. Early “Puritans” within the Roman Catholic Church closed all the taverns, theatres and ended the games, making Rome a dreary place before the Goths came in and livened things up by sacking the place. The RCC first puritans took away every reason for the Romans to actually defend themselves against the invaders.

  • Lol! Your analysis is short on facts and heavy on road apples. Careful when you walk here that you don’t cut your foot. Lol lol lol!

  • so if a gay couple buys some of their wedding decorations from Hobby Lobby are they forcing Hobby Lobby to participate in their wedding?

  • “If I buy a knife and stab someone with it, the person at the store isn’t a participant in a murder,” In fact the NRA maintain that gun manufactorers are not liable for what people do with guns–a conservative evangelical stance as well. So how can they say that making a wedding cake should be used according to the baker’s religious sensibilities.

  • Even still, murder is illegal, and weddings aren’t. And the likelihood of the knife seller being convicted of such is slim.

  • “why aren’t they surveying everyone”

    Paul said don’t ask about the meat, so we don’t ask either. We’re only responsible for what we know.

    Some things, however, are obvious without asking.

  • The key is knowledge. You’re not liable for what people do with guns unless you KNOW you’re giving it to someone for the commission of a crime.

  • But technically a cake does not a wedding make. The cake is not the sole instrument or even an ancillary instrument for creating or validating the act of marriage. Celebrating an act already completed cannot be construed as participating in the act. Selling cake for someone else to use for the celebration is even a farther step removed from it.

    With the standard this promotes a dry cleaner could refuse service to the couple, a tux seller, a photographer, a shoe seller, Hobby Lobby, all could refuse to sell to the couple if selling something peripheral to the act of marriage is deemed “participation.”

    And in the case of the photographer who refused, photographing the wedding is not celebrating, else we could consider war photographers that depict war criminal acts to be war criminals, too. And if a photographer photoed a murder, they wouldn’t be considered an accessory.

  • I have to laugh when I hear from people who pine for the fun and “lively” pagan Roman world where at least one third of the population were chattel slaves, where the sick were casually put out to die in the streets and female newborns were eaten by rats or faded away from dehydration on garbage heaps, where men could force gory abortions on their wives while themselves cavorting with mistresses with the full approval of society, where gruesome torture and execution of political enemies and conquered peoples was public entertainment, and people murdered each other in the arena for the amusement of the masses who crowded into the stinking slums of Rome because confiscatory imperial taxation prevented farmers and rural people from making even a bare subsistence.

    I only WISH we could take full credit for the end of that beast!

  • Jim, the degree of participation is what makes the act objectionable or not. I would have absolutely no problem selling anyone a cake the in same manner as ours was sold to us, standard in design and ordered virtually anonymously. As in, “I’d like Design X made and delivered to Location Y on Date Z.” On the other hand, where a custom designer, an artist really, must sit down and go over ideas and options and specifications with a couple, that’s a whole other ball game.

    It is possible for bakers and sometimes even florists to conduct this kind of business in a morally unobjectionable manner. A photographer, however, mostly can not.

  • Excellent article. With markets doing as well as they have last year, had a bit of extra change that I was looking to donate. Any organization defending Constitutional freedoms (such as religious freedom) has my support. Thank you Alliance Defending Freedom folks.

  • The fundamental issue I have with conservative Christianity is its complete lack of Jesus.

  • The distinction is real, and legally significant, while the similarity is legally irrelevant. What connects the two cases is that both behaviors are religiously (presumably “Christianly”) motivated. What makes them different is the radically different kinds of behavior that the motives (whatever they are) led to. The focus of the law is (and should be) on visible behavior, not on invisible motives and attitudes. Because of the difference in behavior, the one case is not legally relevant to the other –unless you are prepared to criminalize (or at least “tortalize”) the Christian motive behind the behavior to begin with. But then, I rather get the impression from some of the regular commenters here that they’d strongly support the idea.

  • I will consider the lawsuits against Christian bakers and florists even-handed pushback by LGBT activists when they start going after Muslim bakers and florists.

    I will also change my opinion of them when they match the punishment to the “crime”. Oh, that lesbian couple felt marginalized when the florist referred them to another florist down the street? Let’s sue them for $235,000 and take their shop, home and cars.

  • “conservative Christian moral values”

    For example brainwashing children, harassing and threatening biology teachers who teach evolution, sticking their nose into other people’s private lives, and constantly trying to make America a Christian theocracy.

    Christians have zero moral values.

  • You’re right, the result and not the motive is key. However the result that matters is that someone is being denied service based on, in the examples we’re talking about, religion or sexual orientation. Maybe the vendor is Christian, maybe he’s Muslim, maybe he’s an atheist but thinks gays are “gross,” maybe he’s a Nazi and doesn’t want Judaism “infecting” his property.
    Anyway, like I said to Floydlee, simplify the hypothetical: A heterosexual Jewish couple comes to a Christian caterer/restauranteur and wants to book their wedding there. He tells them he can’t, because he doesn’t want to “participate” in an “unbeliever” wedding. He’ll be happy to seat them for an ordinary dinner, sell them take-out, he’ll even book other events for them. Should this be legal?

  • What doesn’t cost the taxpayers these days? Sorry, a smarmy rhetorical. Still, I can’t speak to motives beyond the putative defense of religious freedoms, lawyers cost…period, whichever side they serve. I find no evidence that the ACLU has ever taken cost to the taxpayers as a consideration in any of their past litigation…though Christians perhaps should argue that Christian lawyers should know better. Maybe.

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