Government Targeting Political Opponents (an American Story, thanks to Barack Obama)

 

MAXINE WATERS - protesters burn flag outside Waters' Office

by Diane Rufino, July 21, 2018

On Thursday, July 19, supporters of Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters showed up at her Los Angeles office and put on a very troubling and unpatriotic display. I suppose their conduct was either in line with their diminished intelligence, their natural tendency to thug-like, violent behavior, or the indoctrination of the Thug Queen herself, Maxine Waters. At one point in the video taken of that protest, one lady not only parroted the vile hatred that Waters has been spewing but she also sounded exactly like her. It was disturbingly unsettling.

Waters and her ilk are the lowest of the low, and should have no place in the kind of country that was established for close-knit communities predicated on the mutual respect for our country’s ideals, our collective desire to get along, and our intelligent duty to conduct ourselves as decent members of society and to support the Rule of Law.

Last week, the constitutionally conservative group known as Oath Keepers called on members to show up outside the controversial Congresswoman’s South Los Angeles office for a “protest against Maxine Waters’ incitement of terrorism, and a stand FOR ICE and the Border Patrol.”  Supporters of Waters (ie, the demonstrators) showed up with the intent of countering that protest, but police at the protest site told the Los Angeles Times that the group had notified authorities that it no longer planned to hold the demonstration, in order to keep the peace.

Rather than go back home, the Pro-Waters crowd, which numbered a few dozen and included union workers, church leaders, South Los Angeles residents and members of activist groups, many holding signs that read “Resist!,” proceeded to demonstrate and display the hatred that Rep. Waters so often uses her platform to encourage and incite. At one point, a pick-up truck drove by, and believing it to belong to a member of the Oath Keepers, the demonstrators gathered around it, opened the doors and terrorized the driver, and then snatched his American flag from the truck bed.  No doubt, they were offended by a real American, a conservative. They proceeded to stomp on the flag and then set it on fire. They chanted “Black Power” and shouted “America was never great” A few even yelled: “This is not the American flag, this is their flag.”

…….  Not exactly the kind-of crowd you look forward to enjoying a 4th of July picnic with.
MAXINE WATERS - protesters stopping pick up truck and stealing man's flag outside Waters' Office

Ever since the election of Donald Trump, an election he won fair and square, and against an avalanche of behind-the-scenes crooked dealings, alliances, pay-offs, abuses of power, government-DNC collusion, and a phony Russian scandal, Democrats and others on the left have become unhinged and have shown their opposition in ways that exceed those allowed by the First Amendment, that offend all rules of common decency, that frustrate the traditional university goals of robust intelligent debate, and that violate our civil and criminal laws.  We see the rhetoric of hate, we see threats of violence against conservatives and against Republican members of Congress and members of Trump’s administration, we see Republican state and federal leaders and members of Trump’s administration (and their families) being shouted and threatened out of restaurants, movie theaters, and ball games, we see violence against conservative speech by Antifa and hooded thugs on campuses, we’ve witnessed the intentional shooting of Republican Congressmen (last year’s Congressional softball game), we’ve learned of the arrest of at least one Antifa member who amassed a cache of bomb-making materials and guns and who had a Manifesto outlining his mission to kill conservatives, we hear the most vile of rants and name-calling from members of the Entertainment Industry against Trump and against conservatives, we hear talk-show hosts and actors call for the rape and sodomization of members of Trump’s family and administration, we watch in disbelief as Democratic leaders in Congress become increasingly unhinged and unpatriotic in their messages and in their conduct, and we see Black Lives Matter protestors, including the likes of Al Sharpton and other race-baitors and poverty pimps, calling for the slaughter of members of law enforcement.

We see a common thread….   All of these groups, all of these so-called people belonging to the Democratic Party.

What should happen ideally is that all of these types of people, including hoards of illegal immigrants and Middle-Eastern refugees, be moved into the communities and neighborhoods of Democratic legislators, Democratic politicians, Democratic Party leaders, activist judges, Hollywood actors and actresses, liberal talk-show hosts, and editors, producers, columnists, reporters, and commentators of the mainstream media. If these people want to empower such anti-social, violent, psychotic, unpatriotic, dis-believing, dependent, entitled, abhorrent, crazed, unstable, mentally-imbalanced, irresponsible, law-breaking, terrorist individuals, then at least they should know what it’s like to have them living among them.

Anyway, I digress from my main point which is that Obama targeted political opponents, using the full force of the federal government –  a government absolutely prohibited, under the Bill of Rights, from enacting any law or policy that infringes on one’s freedom of speech, freedom to the press (including every blogger and writer who “publishes” in any way information and commentary), right to own and bear firearms (“Shall Not Be Infringed!”), freedom of conscience, right of assembly, and freedom to be safe from unreasonable government searches and seizures (to be safe and secure in one’s home and in one’s private affairs; “to be king of one’s castle”).

Right after Barack Obama took office as president, in early April 2009, he had Attorney General Janet Napolitano and the Department of Homeland Security re-draft guidelines as to who the “real threat” to America is.  This was done without anyone paying any particular attention to it and was done while the country was still shielding their eyes, as if they were looking at the face of the new “messiah.”  According to President Obama, his advisors, and his administration in general, it was no longer radical Islam that posed the greatest threat to our country, but rather, the very people he made fun of in one of his appearances in Pennsylvania — those who “cling to their religion and their guns.”  The DHS document outlining this threat was titled “RIGHTWING EXTREMISM: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” and it was issued by the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (within DHS).  You can read the entire document yourself at:  https//fas.org/irp/eprint/rightwing.pdf.  In it, the Department of Homeland Security explains that people like Tea Party groups, white conservatives. Veterans, Christians, Second-amendment supporters, and the like pose a serious threat to the country (and, as mentioned, to Obama’s administration — as he is a black man). These “rightwing extremists,” the report says, are those who will produce white supremacists, will oppose Obama’s policies, will present opposition to his policies on immigration, and in general, will try to organize against him. Because they support the second amendment, the Obama administration labeled them as dangerous, likely to organize and use violence, and put them on the DHS watch list.

Can you even wrap your mind around the sanity of the federal government in deeming God-fearing, law-abiding, Constitution-loving, patriotic conservative Americans to be dangerous to the country, moreso than the likes of those who slaughtered 3000 innocent Americans on 9/11, who have kidnapped and beheaded several of our journalists and contractors, and who have planned and carried out the many attacks on our military personnel and citizens both here and abroad ???   I certainly can’t. A government that can even think of doing so is simply evil and unconstitutionally ambitious.

In embracing Obama’s policy and attempting to sell it to state and local law enforcement and to the country in general, Secretary Janet Napolitano issued the following press release on April 15, 2009, which was posted on the Department of Homeland Security website: “The primary mission of this department is to prevent terrorist attacks on our nation. The document on Right-Wing Extremism sent last week by this department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis is one in an ongoing series of assessments to provide situational awareness to state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies on the phenomenon and trends of violent radicalization in the United States. I was briefed on the general topic, which is one that struck a nerve as someone personally involved in the Timothy McVeigh prosecution.”  Turning the government against its law-abiding citizens is the very definition of tyranny.

We associate governments targeting, harassing, drumming up false charges, imprisoning, and killing political opponents with the likes of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, with Josef Stalin and the Communist Party, with Pol Pot (Cambodia) and the Communist Khmer Rouge Party, with Pinochet in Chile, with Mao Zedong in China, with Mehmet Talat Pasa in Armenia, with Idi Ami in Uganda, and with the leadership in countries like Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur.  We all know that the government rounded up Japanese-Americans and put them in internment camps after the attack on Pearl Harbor. With intimate knowledge of and sensitive information about Pearl Harbor having been obtained by Japanese spy, Takeo Yoshikawa, and transmitted ultimately to Admiral Yamamoto in Japan to finalize plans of the attack, the government could not trust Japanese-Americans to be loyal to the United States over Japan. The camps were dismantled after Japan’s defeat.  We also all know of the McCarthy era and the political movement to weed out Communists and Communist spies from positions of power and access to sensitive information, but that was arguably for reasons of true national security. The relationship between the United States and Russia has become adversarial and competitive for control and influence in the world….  It was an era of intense geopolitics. Every move by Russia (the Soviet Union) became a matter of freedom and tyranny… a matter of individuals being able to live freely or to be controlled by a regime of fear and violence. The two countries emerged as the worlds’ two greatest superpowers, with the ability of annihilating millions of people with their nuclear capability (Russia obtaining the technology thru its espionage activities in the US) and each viewed the other as the enemy and an absolute threat to national security.

No one would ever associate modern day United States with political persecution, yet that’s exactly what happened under the Obama administration. Barack Obama deemed anyone whose views were contrary to his and his administration or whose views and background, and potential, posed a risk to his political agenda as “security threats” to the United States, posing a likely threat of acts of domestic terrorism. Is this not mind-blowing or what??  Paranoid kings of England acted in this manner, paranoid emperors of Rome acted in this manner, Stalin and Hitler acted in this manner, and the list goes on…..  those who think differently pose a threat to those in power. Yes, conservatives think the right to have and bear arms is a right meant to be essentially free from government control (except for mental illness and a violent history). Conservatives believe government control of firearms and ammunition, and talk of confiscation are the hallmarks of a tyrant (like King James II and King George III of England),.  Yes, conservatives believe that a sovereign nation without border control, ie, control over immigration, is not sovereign but merely a temporary state ultimately doomed to mob control. Yes, conservatives believe in the vitality and importance of our very first amendment – the rights to religious liberty, speech, press, assembly, and petition. They believe that a person is endowed with the right to think freely and to think as dictated by his or her religious values, his degree of intelligence and understanding, and as his heart and gut instruct (the “right of conscience”) and that government has no place to coerce thought, speech, and conduct that violates that right of conscience.  Yes, conservatives believe that a woman may have freedom over her body and her fertility (her ability to bring forth new life), but they certainly don’t believe the right is absolute and  includes the right to kill a fully-developed, living child that for the unfortunate reason that nature dictates (not yet been born), it hasn’t yet been able to take its first breath outside the mother’s womb.  Yes, conservatives believe in a limited government. They believe in the government created by the Constitution, which by its terms and provisions is certainly one meant to be limited. They believe a free country means that its citizens are able to freely exercise their God-given rights without over-regulation and intrusion by the government.  They believe in the rights of the individual and not the collective, a distinction made very clear when our country and our government system were established. They believe that a government that forcibly takes from some in order to benefit others, and then relies on those “dependents” as a crucial voting block, is an unconstitutional government – one well on its way to being a socialist government. Yes, conservatives believe in personal responsibility, lower taxes, free markets, and unburdened property rights.  And yes, conservatives believe that federal court judges and Supreme Court justices are limited in their roles on the bench; they are limited by the words, meaning, intent, and historical context of the Constitution and by the plain meaning and legislative intent of federal laws. In other words, they must be strict constructionists, textualists, and originalists, for the Constitution is a statement of the people’s intention for their government, permanently documented and ratified by state conventions specifically organized for that purpose. The only way to change the terms of government and to “evolve” with times is to take advantage of the amendment process outlined in Article V.  Conservatives  are strongly opposed to the notion of a “living, breathing, document” which gives judges and justices full reign to mold and transform the Constitution as they see fit and which allows them to by-pass the democratic process where the people dictate how fast society “progresses.”

Democrats, and especially Obama, believe in the complete opposite. The difference between Obama and other Democratic presidents is that he deceptively, secretly, covertly put programs and policies in place to subdue the opposition (conservatives) and as we are learning now, to deprive them the office of the presidency, in order to move full speed on his progressive, liberal (un-American) policies.  Besides his blatant abuse of the IRS to target conservatives, his interference in investigation and potential prosecution of Hillary Clinton for her intentional abuse of national security procedures by using a personal unsecured email server for official emails, and his creation of a “fake” dossier and his illegal abuse of the FISA warrant policy to spy on the Trump campaign, Judicial Watch has just uncovered documents that show that President Obama attempted to institute gun control stealthily by going after ammunition instead of guns. (It has just filed suit in the district court in DC to compel the ATF to produce its records on the matter).  The first shots of the American Revolution, as most of are unaware, were fired not because of taxation but because King George instructed his man in Massachusetts, General Gage, to locate and destroy all the colonists’ ammunition. And as most are unaware, it was this despotic act that prompted one of my favorite founding fathers, Patrick Henry, to exclaim to the Virginia Convention that famous night on March 23, 1775 at St. John’s Church in Richmond:

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year?  Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house?  Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?  Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us.  There is no retreat but in submission and slavery!  Our chains are forged!  Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston!  The war is inevitable–and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace.. But there is no peace. The war is actually begun!  The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms!  Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle?  Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?  Forbid it, Almighty God!  I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

With that speech, he defended the resolutions he had submitted for Virginia to build and train its militia (one in every county), to be ready to fight the British.

It is one thing to think differently, politically, for that is how citizens advance their issues and concerns in government, but it is another thing to use the government against the people because they think differently. And it is also one thing to think compromise is necessary and always a good thing, when sometimes it’s the very way we erode important foundations.  As Richard Dawkins once said:  “When two opposite points of view are expressed with equal intensity, the truth does not necessarily lie exactly halfway between them. It is possible for one side to be simply wrong.”  If the colonists had accepted Britain’s treatment of them, if they had engaged in endless compromise with its leaders, then America would never have pushed for, and fought for, its independence. Compromise breeds complacency.

If we look back on how President Obama insidiously targeted conservatives, we should take note of how he identified certain traditional “American” values and views and tried to explain them away as being dangerous to the country.  Hitler and Goebbels would have been proud.

The assessment, “RIGHTWING EXTREMISM: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” is prefaced by the following “Key Findings” by the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (DHS):

Key Findings:

(U//LES)  The DHS/Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) has no specific information that domestic rightwing* terrorists are currently planning acts of violence, but rightwing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues.  The economic downturn and the election of the first African American president present unique drivers for rightwing radicalization and recruitment.

— (U//LES)  Threats from white supremacist and violent antigovernment groups during 2009 have been largely rhetorical and have not indicated plans to carry out violent acts.  Nevertheless, the consequences of a prolonged economic downturn—including real estate foreclosures, unemployment, and an inability to obtain credit—could create a fertile recruiting environment for rightwing extremists and even result in confrontations between such groups and government authorities similar to those in the past.

— (U//LES)  Rightwing extremists have capitalized on the election of the first African American president, and are focusing their efforts to recruit new members, mobilize existing supporters, and broaden their scope and appeal through propaganda, but they have not yet turned to attack planning.

(U//FOUO)  The current economic and political climate has some similarities to the 1990s when rightwing extremism experienced a resurgence fueled largely by an economic recession, criticism about the outsourcing of jobs, and the perceived threat to U.S. power and sovereignty by other foreign powers.

— (U//FOUO)  During the 1990s, these issues contributed to the growth in the number of domestic rightwing terrorist and extremist groups and an increase in violent acts targeting government facilities, law enforcement officers, banks, and infrastructure sectors.

— (U//FOUO)  Growth of these groups subsided in reaction to increased government scrutiny as a result of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and disrupted plots, improvements in the economy, and the continued U.S. standing as the preeminent world power.

(U//FOUO)  The possible passage of new restrictions on firearms and the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.

It then explains:

(U)  Current Economic and Political Climate

(U//FOUO)  DHS/I&A assesses that a number of economic and political factors are driving a resurgence in rightwing extremist recruitment and radicalization activity.  Despite similarities to the climate of the 1990s, the threat posed by lone wolves and small terrorist cells is more pronounced than in past years.  In addition, the historical election of an African American president and the prospect of policy changes are proving to be a driving force for rightwing extremist recruitment and radicalization.

— (U)  A recent example of the potential violence associated with a rise in rightwing extremism may be found in the shooting deaths of three police officers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on 4 April 2009.  The alleged gunman’s reaction reportedly was influenced by his racist ideology and belief in antigovernment conspiracy theories related to gun confiscations, citizen detention camps, and a Jewish-controlled “one world government.”

(U)  Exploiting Economic Downturn

(U//FOUO)  Rightwing extremist chatter on the Internet continues to focus on the economy, the perceived loss of U.S. jobs in the manufacturing and construction sectors, and home foreclosures.  Anti-Semitic extremists attribute these losses to a deliberate conspiracy conducted by a cabal of Jewish “financial elites.”  These “accusatory” tactics are employed to draw new recruits into rightwing extremist groups and further radicalize those already subscribing to extremist beliefs.  DHS/I&A assesses this trend is likely to accelerate if the economy is perceived to worsen.

(U)  Historical Presidential Election

(U//LES)  Rightwing extremists are harnessing this historical election as a recruitment tool.  Many rightwing extremists are antagonistic toward the new presidential administration and its perceived stance on a range of issues, including immigration and citizenship, the expansion of social programs to minorities, and restrictions on firearms ownership and use.  Rightwing extremists are increasingly galvanized by these concerns and leverage them as drivers for recruitment.  From the 2008 election timeframe to the present, rightwing extremists have capitalized on related racial and political prejudices in expanded propaganda campaigns, thereby reaching out to a wider audience of potential sympathizers.

 — (U//LES)  Most statements by rightwing extremists have been rhetorical, expressing concerns about the election of the first African American president, but stopping short of calls for violent action.  In two instances in the run-up to the election, extremists appeared to be in the early planning stages of some threatening activity targeting the Democratic nominee, but law enforcement interceded.

(U)  Revisiting the 1990s

 (U//FOUO)  Paralleling the current national climate, rightwing extremists during the 1990s exploited a variety of social issues and political themes to increase group visibility and recruit new members.  Prominent among these themes were the militia movement’s opposition to gun control efforts, criticism of free trade agreements (particularly those with Mexico), and highlighting perceived government infringement on civil liberties as well as white supremacists’ longstanding exploitation of social issues such as abortion, inter-racial crimes, and same-sex marriage.  During the 1990s, these issues contributed to the growth in the number of domestic rightwing terrorist and extremist groups and an increase in violent acts targeting government facilities, law enforcement officers, banks, and infrastructure sector.

(U)  Illegal Immigration

(U//FOUO)  Rightwing extremists were concerned during the 1990s with the perception that illegal immigrants were taking away American jobs through their willingness to work at significantly lower wages.  They also opposed free trade agreements, arguing that these arrangements resulted in Americans losing jobs to countries such as Mexico.

(U//FOUO)  Over the past five years, various rightwing extremists, including militias and white supremacists, have adopted the immigration issue as a call to action, rallying point, and recruiting tool.  Debates over appropriate immigration levels and enforcement policy generally fall within the realm of protected political speech under the First Amendment, but in some cases, anti-immigration or strident pro-enforcement fervor has been directed against specific groups and has the potential to turn violent.

(U//FOUO)  DHS/I&A assesses that rightwing extremist groups’ frustration over a perceived lack of government action on illegal immigration has the potential to incite individuals or small groups toward violence.  If such violence were to occur, it likely would be isolated, small-scale, and directed at specific immigration-related targets.

— (U//FOUO)  DHS/I&A notes that prominent civil rights organizations have observed an increase in anti-Hispanic crimes over the past five years.

(U)  Legislative and Judicial Drivers

(U//FOUO)  Many rightwing extremist groups perceive recent gun control legislation as a threat to their right to bear arms and in response have increased weapons and ammunition stockpiling, as well as renewed participation in paramilitary training exercises.  Such activity, combined with a heightened level of extremist paranoia, has the potential to facilitate criminal activity and violence.

— (U//FOUO)  During the 1990s, rightwing extremist hostility toward government was fueled by the implementation of restrictive gun laws—such as the Brady Law that established a 5-day waiting period prior to purchasing a handgun and the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act that limited the sale of various types of assault rifles—and federal law enforcement’s handling of the confrontations at Waco, Texas and Ruby Ridge, Idaho.

The assessment also informs: “The information is provided to federal, state, local, and tribal counterterrorism and law enforcement officials so they may effectively deter, prevent, preempt, or respond to terrorist attacks against the United States.  Federal efforts to influence domestic public opinion must be conducted in an overt and transparent manner, clearly identifying United States Government sponsorship.”

Through the DHS and its directive (“Rightwing Extremism…..”), the Obama administration was almost “deputizing state and local law enforcement” to do the government’s bidding.  We truly weren’t a “free country” during those years.

Clearly, the “assessment” by the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (DHS) was meant to identify the threat to OBAMA and to his administration and his agenda, rather than to the United States and to its security and its citizens.  The identification of Rightwing groups and individuals as potential “domestic terrorists” is predicated wholly and improperly on a difference of political opinion and political viewpoint. It is as clear a violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of Free Speech and Freedom of Conscience as it gets.

Anyone who can connect dots can see that Obama used the full forces of the federal government to target, harass, discriminate against, and to neutralize Tea Party groups and other conservatives. It is why he used the IRS to block Tea Party groups from organizing (they were denied, exclusively, the ability to organize as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt groups for political purposes), to go out and harass and excessively audit them, and why he had Dinesh D’Souza thrown in jail.  With this in mind, it’s not hard to see why he did everything possible to divide the country into groups violently opposed to conservatives and then to use government agencies to work silently to make sure Hillary Clinton won the 2016 election and to make sure Trump did not. It’s why they are still fighting Trump (and the conservatives in general). It’s become violent.

So far, President Trump reversed that policy and put the focus back on radical Islamists. He has not turned the tables on Democrats and their venomous, vile, and violent ilk and put them under the microscope by Homeland Security. But maybe he should.  Democrats have become a dangerous and obstructive force in our country – spewing and inciting hatred, division, and violence. They care little for political discourse so it isn’t about free speech; rather, it’s about getting Donald Trump out of office in any conceivable way possible, even if it has to be by creating a false and fictitious charge or by bombarding the American audience with a false narrative. It’s strictly a power ploy, designed to make useful idiots out of useless ones (Democrat voters) for the purpose of denying political power to the legitimate party, the Republican Party (duly elected by the people, thru the Electoral System; a government “by the people”) and transferring it, by a political coup, to the Democratic Party elite.

Trump is far too honorable and responsible of a president to ever consider turning the government against its citizens because unlike Obama, who supposedly taught Constitutional Law and an “expert on the Constitution,” Trump has an uncanny understanding of it and a deep respect for it.  He also understands and respects that the government belongs to the people, through their collective judgement and their action at the ballot box, and not to the puppet masters of a Political Party.

Here is another example of an approach where compromise cannot be sought. One approach is clearly wrong.

We must never again allow an administration to forcibly, or even tacitly, silence the voice of political opposition.  We must ever remain vigilant.

“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.” President Harry Truman spoke these words on August 8, 1950 in a special message to Congress on the Internal Security of the US.

Liberty, and the US Constitution, must always be those gems worth fighting for.  Both belong to the people; both are the birthright of every American.

 

References:

“Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” (An Assessment), Office of Intelligence and Analysis, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), April 7, 2009 –  https://fas.org/irp/eprint/rightwing.pdf

Paulina Dedaj, “Maxine Waters Supporters Burn American Flag Outside California Rep’s Office,” FOX News, July 20, 2018.  Referenced at:  http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/07/19/counterprotesters-burn-american-flag-outside-office-maxine-waters.html

Carlos Granda, “Oath Keepers Calls Off Protest Outside Maxine Waters’ Los Angeles Office,” ABC7 News, July 20, 2018.  Referenced at:  http://abc7.com/politics/oath-keepers-calls-off-protest-at-maxine-waters-office/3789197/

“Statement by U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on the Threat of Right-Wing Extremism,” Department of Homeland Security, April 15, 2009.  Referenced at:  https://www.dhs.gov/news/2009/04/15/secretary-napolitanos-statement-right-wing-extremism-threat

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Football Players Abusing Their Forum and Disappointing Team Fans (No White House for You!)

COLIN KAEPERNICK - Time Magazine cover (taking a Knee)

by Diane Rufino, June 8, 2018

A few years ago, the talk of the media was professional football player Tim Tebow. He took a knee, not during the National Anthem and not in protest of any sort. He took a knee before and after each game he played (from his sophomore year in high school through his time in the NFL) to “thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and to put things in perspective.” He was absolutely vilified for doing so. It was an abomination and offensive to the fans and to those watching his games on TV, according to members of the media.

“I never did anything during a national anthem but stand and support my country,” he explained.

And that’s what the playing of the National Anthem is all about….. recognizing that the game is being played in the “Land of the Free” and being grateful for that. It’s about supporting the country we all live in.

Then we have different football players who have been taking a knee, during the National Anthem, to make a very public protest over what they don’t like about the country. The more left-leaning media has continued to praise their courage and support their right to protest as they see fit.

So this is what we’ve been told:  Kneeling During Anthem — Good; Kneeling To Pray – Bad.

But that’s from the leftist media’s point of view.  The President, however, feels very differently, and he happens to be joined by the majority of Americans. President Trump views the “taking of the knee during the National Anthem” (or any variation of that protest) as a contemptible act. He views it as an act of disrespect to those who serve the country unconditionally and who have died for their loyalty and devotion. Trump criticized the NFL for allowing protest during what he called the “country’s love song,” and to some extent, his criticisms have had an impact.

To the leftist media, the protests by the NFL players are rightful expressions of outrage over social injustice, forced nationalism, and forced patriotism; the protests, they say, are rightful expressions of free speech.

The President, on the other hand, holds the opinion that the football field is not the place for such protests and certainly not during the playing of the National Anthem. Men and women have given their lives in support of the rights of Americans to exercise their rights freely, regardless of their personal political views or their religious affiliation. President Trump believes that out of respect for their service to all Americans equally, players should not hijack the National Anthem to make their political statement.

I’m glad President Trump cancelled the celebration at the White House for the Philadelphia Eagles. The NFL has ceased to be about the sport of professional football, which it was organized for, and has become both a forum for politics and a vehicle for it. It has offended too many Americans who pay far too much to merely enjoy a good old-fashioned game of football, usually with their buddies or with their family members.

The players sign a contract to play football, to entertain people who PAY to watch them play. Their contract is not like one for Jimmy Kimmel or Joe Scarborough or even Tucker Carlson, who are paid to express their political views. When patrons attend a game, these players essentially take them hostage and force them to hear (or view) their politics, which often includes the disrespect of the country they love, a history they appreciate, and the sacrifice of men and women who give their lives defending the flag and our ideals. Why do I say that the patrons are “held hostage”? I say that because after paying a lot for the ticket, and also probably paying too much for beer and stadium food, and looking forward to watching their team play, they are usually willing to tolerate the political messages the players express. But make no mistake, they are being forced to hear (or see) their protests. They did not buy a ticket to be held as political hostages. Players are just like every other American – they have a role as an employee and a role as a private citizen. Almost every American cannot use their jobs as a platform to espouse political views. In fact, HR makes it very clear that the workplace is a neutral place – nothing can be said or displayed to make it hostile for any other employee. As a private citizen, however, each person has a political voice and can use that voice however he or she sees fit, including using all possible outlets (social media, phone calls, emails, yard signs, tee shirts, letters to the editor, visits to their representatives, protests and marches, rallies, etc). The NFL is a forum for sports and as players (as paid employees of the NFL), they should be required to respect a neutral environment for their fans and not create a hostile environment for those who don’t share their same political views. They are public figures, they can use their voices off the football field.

With that in mind, I am glad President Trump did-invited the Philadelphia Eagles to the White House. The sports-White House tradition is just that – a tradition. It is a celebration or recognition of the historic and traditional love affair that Americans have (maybe “had”), pure and simple, with sports and competition. It has always been a non-political love affair and a non-political tradition. Making it political destroys everything. And because it does, there is no need to continue the tradition of having the winning teams to the White House because that, in and of itself, now becomes a political statement.

We all know Colin Kaepernick and how he started the “take the knee” movement. We know why he did it – to protest police brutality against African-Americans.  As he said when he first started taking a knee: “”To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street, and people getting paid leave, and getting away with murder.”  His “taking the knee” protest led to the “standing with arms locked” movement, leading to the “staying behind in the locker room” movement, leading to the “fist in the air” movement. They are all various forms of the very visible protest movement started by Kaepernick. But let’s be honest, the NFL players (and in particular, the Philadelphia Eagles), used the very public “National Anthem protest” controversy to show their lack of support and indeed, their contempt, for President Trump and his administration. They turned a wholesome sport into a political vehicle. I am sorry folks, but Kaepernick was wrong for starting this movement and he has done a lot of damage and caused a lot of resentment in this country. He has “politicized” many fellow players. He has brought disrepute to professional football and to himself and fellow players. At least, that is how I see it from the comments made about the current status of the NFL. He may have a legitimate gripe but the football field is not the place to make it. He and his fellow protesters should have been taking their concerns to President Obama, who was hugely obsessed with the treatment of African-Americans by law enforcement. President Trump is working very hard to improve the lives of African-Americans (for ALL Americans, let’s be clear) and to improve the status of their communities. Political disrespect to this President on racial issues is just inexcusable.

No one takes a spoiled grossly-overpaid professional athlete seriously. And many see the protests over injustice against African-Americans by the police as hypocritical. They complain about racial profiling and over-policing in African-American communities yet they themselves are often brought up on drug charges, carrying an unlawful firearm, brandishing a firearm, threatening others with a firearm, manslaughter, gun violence, killing their girlfriend (and sometimes the babies they are carrying).  If they really care about the issue and if they really want to be the instruments of change and meaningful dialogue, then they should work to come up with solutions, point out where the problems lie, exactly (on both sides), admit to the failings in the African-Americans communities that cause over-policing, donate their money to the right causes, become role models to impoverished and crime-ridden communities…. What they shouldn’t do is merely take a knee or hide in the locker room to make a statement. That does nothing but foster division, send wrong or mis-messages, and increase tensions. They are nothing more than attention-grabbing opportunities that end up creating more controversy.

Phillips v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission: Will the Supreme Court Leave the First Amendment Intact?

PHILLIPS CASE (Before the Supreme Court, Dec. 5, 2017) - Jack Phillips and his lawyer, Kristen Waggoner (Alliance Defending Freedom) - BEST

Photo:  Taken by Diane Rufino on December 5, 2017, of Jack Phillips and his attorney, Kristin Waggoner, outside the Supreme Court building after Oral Arguments.

by Diane Rufino, March 9, 2018

We’ve all heard of the case of the Christian cake artist who declined to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because of his deeply-held belief in the Biblical view of marriage. What most people don’t know are the details of the case.

For example, the cake artist is Jack Phillips and he and his cakeshop (Masterpiece Cakeshop) were found guilty of discrimination in Colorado, in violation of an anti-discrimination law, at a time not only when the state constitution defined lawful marriage as only between a man and a woman, but also the law stated that no other type of marriage would be legally recognized in the state.

Also, for example, Phillips himself was discriminated against on account of his particular religious views when the state granted multiple exceptions to other bakers to deny goods and services (ie, to “discriminate”) when themes offended their sensibilities.

You hear people refer to the man at the center of the case as a “Christian baker.” What you don’t hear is people referring to him as a cake “artist.”  You will hear this case referred to as one addressing the baker’s free exercise of his religion; what you won’t hear is that this case is also about his freedom of speech and expression.

Most people hearing the limited facts gravitate to an issue that they are familiar with – religion v. gay rights – or the Right of one person to the Free Expression of Religion vs. Society’s interest in not having certain individuals suffer discrimination. They right away see that the right that the state of Colorado is violating in the case is Phillip’s right to live his life according to his religious beliefs. They see that Colorado is more interested in protecting the rights of homosexuals than in upholding the most essential right of all – the First Amendment’s religious liberty guarantee.

As it turns out, the case has not moved forward on that legal theory but rather on one most people would never have anticipated.  Instead, the case is one about the scope of the Right to Free Speech and Expression. Under this umbrella of speech and expression, Phillips is bringing in his right to religious liberty by asserting that his religious beliefs, his creed, dictates how he will expresses himself.

This (long) article seeks to acquaint you with the details and the many issues involved, including its inquest before the Supreme Court.

The Supreme court must decide whether the First Amendment bars application of Colorado’s public accommodations law (aka, the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act) to compel a person to create expression (here, a wedding cake) that conflicts with that person’s sincerely held religious beliefs about same-sex marriage. In other words, it must decide if Phillips deserves an religious exemption under the CADA.

On Tuesday morning. December 5, 2017, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case (Phillips v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission). I traveled to Washington DC, to the Supreme Court building for this event because I wanted to hear the issues on both sides in order to fully understand this case.  I heard the issues and now I believe I understand what the case boils down to, in the minds of the justices.

It was interesting to learn that the views and concerns of ordinary people are not necessarily the views held by the justices of the Supreme Court

I snapped the photo above as Jack Phillips emerged from the Supreme Court building with his attorney Kristin Waggoner from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). In their comments to the media and to the groups there in support of their cause, they were optimistic and hopeful. They appreciated the justices’ questions and felt their case resonated with Justice Kennedy, the Court’s critical swing-vote member.

I hope the high Court will be able to weed out the critical issues at stake by the time it hands down its opinion   next year, on June 26 or thereabouts.

I.  FACTS

In July 2012, when same-sex marriage was still prohibited in the state of Colorado, residents Charlie Craig and David Mullins decided to get married in Massachusetts, where it was legal. They would return and celebrate with family and friends at a “wedding reception” for themselves in Lakewood, which is a suburb of Denver. When it came time to pick out a cake, they were referred by their wedding planner to the Masterpiece Cakeshop, also located in Lakewood. (The shop is located about 10 miles outside of Denver).

The founder, owner, and proprietor of Masterpiece Cakeshop is Jack Phillips, a skilled baker and a talented artist.  He calls himself a cake artist, and that is what he is known as. But most important for this case, he is also a devout Christian. His religious beliefs guide him in every aspect of his life, including his profession. “My bakery, the work I get to do… they are gifts from God and I want to honor him in everything that I do, including my art. When I finish in this life, I want Him to say: ‘Well done. You’ve been a good and faithful servant.” The name “Masterpiece” has particular meaning for him. First, it refers to artistry. Masterpiece Cakeshop indicates that the artistry is in relation to cakes – his cakes are artistic, not mass-produced. Second, the name “Masterpiece” refers to his belief that each person is created as a masterpiece by God.  And third, the name “Masterpiece” includes the term “Master” which, as Phillips explains, references the gospel of Matthew which says that ‘no man can serve two masters.” (Matt: 6:24).

Phillips believes he is serving Christ with each cake he makes. He especially believes so when it comes to creating wedding cakes. He sees a wedding as a religious sacred event and he knows the particular significance of the cake in the reception ceremony. The feeding of the cake to one another and sharing it with guests is probably the most significant part of the reception (with the giving of the toasts perhaps being the most entertaining!) Historically, the cake was a symbol of good luck, stemming back before Roman times – back to at least 1175 B.C. Of any form of cake, wedding cakes have the longest and richest history. In modern Western culture, the wedding cake serves a central expressive component at most wedding receptions; it not only communicates that the couple is now married, but forms the centerpiece of a ritual in which the couple celebrates their marriage by feeding each other cake and then sharing cake with their guests. Only a wedding cake communicates this special celebratory message; certainly the reception meal doesn’t do this, nor does the liquor. Wedding cakes are so essential to a modern wedding that one author suggests, “A memorable cake is almost as important as the bridal gown in creating the perfect wedding.”  Because they are so important to creating the right celebratory mood, wedding cakes are uniquely personal to the newly married couple and require significant collaboration between the couple and the artist to create the perfect design.

And so, Phillips devoted himself to creating a special unique cake for each customer, helping to celebrate the religiously sacred union of a man and a woman, and integrating his faith into each creation.

The process of creating the perfect cake (the perfectly unique cake) involves input from the couple. Phillips meets with the soon-to-be man and wife to find out how they met, how he proposed marriage, what they love about each other, what their interests are…  in short, what “their story is.”  Listening to the couple, Phillips tries to figure out what the predominant theme is to their relationship….  What it is about them that will hold them together and strong throughout their marriage. He wants the cake to embody that message as a way to celebrate their special day, and that is where the creativity comes in. He combines what he has learned about the couple, with some research, and maybe some meaningful phrases or words, to create an artistic cake that “shares their story” with family and friends.  With each cake project, Phillips pours himself into its design and creation, marshaling his time, energy, and creative talents to make a one-of-a-kind “masterpiece” celebrating the couple’s special day and reflecting his artistic interpretation of their special bond.

Phillips opened Masterpiece Cakeshop in 1993 and has joyfully served the community of Lakewood for 22 years. In his years of business, he has been a part of major milestone events for many in the community. He’s watched families grow from young couples requesting wedding cakes to parents requesting graduation cakes for their children.

Wedding cakes and graduation cakes are not the only cakes created at Masterpiece Cakeshop. All kinds of people and groups have requested cakes for their various parties and celebrations. But Phillips is always guided by his conscience and his beliefs. And that has caused him to decline to bake cakes in the past. In fact, he has declined to bake cakes on several occasions since he started the business. He has turned down requests to create Halloween-themed cakes, lewd bachelor-party cakes, cakes with any type of profanity on them, cakes disparaging the LBGT community, cakes with anti-American themes, and a cake celebrating a divorce. No one has ever complained about these restrictions nor has he never been reprimanded over those decisions. But it would be the cake requested by Craig and Mullins that would get him in trouble.

When the couple entered Masterpiece Cakeshop on that July afternoon in 2012, same-sex marriage was not allowed in Colorado; the Colorado Constitution stated that “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state.” It was before the Obergefell decision which struck down state bans on same-sex marriages and gave the red light on gay marriage. That opinion wasn’t handed down by the Supreme Court until 2015.  Anyway, the couple arrived with Craig’s mother and a book of ideas. As soon as the couple told Phillips that the cake was to celebrate their wedding, he cut them short and explained that he could not create a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding. As acknowledged by all parties, Phillips told the men, “I’ll make you birthday cakes, shower cakes, sell you cookies and brownies, I just don’t create cakes for same-sex weddings.” He recommended a baker who would certainly bake them a special cake. The couple became very angry, swore at Phillips, flipped him off, and stormed out of the bakery.

This point is very important:  Phillips was willing to sell them any pastry, and any type of baked goods they wanted for their affair.  And he was perfectly willing to sell them a cake, one suitable for a reception.  But what he couldn’t do, due to his religious beliefs, was decorate it with a gay wedding theme or to custom design one specifically celebrating gay marriage. As Justice Alito emphasized strongly during oral arguments, the record was undisputed that Phillips did not refuse to sell the couple a wedding cake; he refused to “create” a special cake for them. Phillips was very careful to use the word “create.”  (see pg. 67 of the transcript of Oral Arguments)

The couple, as anyone would understand, felt humiliated and demeaned. The outcome at the bakery bothered Mullins so much that he immediately took to Facebook, describing in a public post what happened. “If you feel like the treatment we received is wrong, please contact Masterpiece Cakeshop and let them know you feel their policy is discriminatory.”

[NOTE:  Colorado’s state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was struck down in the state district court on July 9, 2014, and by the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado on July 23, 2014. Furthermore, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals had already made similar rulings with respect to such bans in Utah on June 25 and Oklahoma on July 18, which are binding precedents on courts in Colorado].

Pretty soon, newspapers started calling the couple. And almost immediately, members of the LGBT community and supporters began calling Masterpiece Cakeshop. Phillips, his daughter, and others were called all kinds of names and they began receiving death threats. According to Mullins, it was only after they were turned down service that they learned that Colorado has an Anti-Discrimination Act (the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, or “CADA”) which includes a provision banning discrimination, including based on sexual orientation, in public accommodations.

The pertinent part of that statute reads: “(2)(a) It is a discriminatory practice and unlawful for a person, directly or indirectly, to refuse, withhold from, or deny to an individual or a group, because of disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, or ancestry, the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation……”   

Although Craig and Mullins easily obtained a wedding cake, and a free one at that, with a rainbow design from another bakery, they went ahead, on Sept. 4, and filed a charge of sexual orientation discrimination with the Civil Rights Division, the board created by CADA to review its complaints. Phillips responded in a timely manner and explained his refusal to bake the cake. Phillips argued that he did not discriminate based on sexual orientation in violation of CADA because his religious objection to creating custom wedding cakes for same-sex wedding ceremonies is based on the celebratory message those cakes promote. He explained that he serves all customers regardless of their sexual orientation. He simply believes that only marriage between a man and a woman should be celebrated. Thus, he declined to create custom art for a specific event because of the message it communicated, not because of the persons requesting it.  In addition, he argued that CADA should be read narrowly to avoid a constitutional violation because requiring him to create custom wedding cakes to celebrate a same-sex wedding ceremony would violate the “Compelled Speech Doctrine” (an element of Free Speech) and his right to the Free Exercise of religion under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the US Constitution.

The administrative law judge (“ALJ”) did not side with Phillips, declined to interpret CADA narrowly, and on May 2013, it filed a formal complaint against Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop alleging that the refusal to create a wedding cake celebrating Craig and Mullins’ wedding constituted sexual-orientation discrimination in violation of CADA. It disregarded his religious liberty argument.  It further alleged that requiring Phillips to create custom cakes to celebrate same-sex weddings did not violate his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.  The ALJ reached this conclusion by not characterizing the cakes as “art” or “artistic creations”; in other words, because he did not characterize the products as “art” which implies creativity and expression, he avoided characterizing the cakes as speech and hence the First Amendment – and by incorporation to the States, the Fourteenth Amendment – do not apply.

Again, note that the Commission interpreted the law to be able to force a baker to bake a cake to celebrate a same-sex wedding even though the state constitution said that “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state.”

Finding that Phillips violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act and rejecting his First Amendment defenses, the ALJ proceeded to order him to: (1) create custom wedding cakes celebrating same-sex marriages if he creates similar cakes for one-man-one-woman marriages, (2) retrain his staff to do likewise, and (3) report to the Commission every order he declines for any reason for a period of two years.  In contrast, and this is especially important, while this case was still ongoing, the Commission found that three secular bakeries did not discriminate based on creed when they refused a Christian customer’s request for custom cakes that criticized same-sex marriage on religious grounds (despite “creed” under CADA encompassing “all aspects of religious beliefs, observances, and practices … including the beliefs or teachings of a particular religion”).

Phillips appealed these rulings to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a 7-member panel, which adopted the ALJ’s opinion in full. Phillips then appealed the Commission’s ruling to the Colorado Court of Appeals, asserting the same defenses made to the Colorado Civil Rights Division. The Colorado Court of Appeals, just as the ALJ did, declined to interpret the CADA narrowly, thus rejecting Phillips’ compelled-speech defense, and it also held that the ALJ’s order did not violate the Free Exercise Clause. It deemed CADA to be a neutral law of general applicability, despite the law’s broad exceptions and the Commission’s decision to target for punishment only expressive business owners who, like Phillips, oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds. The Colorado Court of Appeals upheld the Commission’s ruling.

“Masterpiece remains free to continue espousing its religious beliefs, including its opposition to same-sex marriage,” Judge Daniel Taubman wrote. “However, if it wishes to operate as a public accommodation and conduct business within the State of Colorado, the law prohibits it from picking and choosing customers based on their sexual orientation.”

Phillips, on the other hand, believes he has rights under the First Amendment that continue to protect him as a cake artist even in the face of Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA).  He defends his position on two grounds: (1) First, he doesn’t believe he should have to compromise his deeply-held religious beliefs. He lives his faith and doesn’t just make a show of it at church on Sunday or exercise it in his home. And the Biblical view of religion is a central part of his religion, as it has always been. This is his “Free Exercise” defense (Free Exercise of Religion). (2) Second, he has rightfully characterized his cakes as “expression” which brings him under the umbrella of the First Amendment’s guarantee of Free Speech. The Right of Free Speech includes the right not to speak. He says to be forced to make a cake for a member of the LGBT community is akin to being forced or coerced to speak a viewpoint that the government demands but which violates his conscience.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, an alliance-building legal ministry that advocates for religious freedom, contacted Jack Phillips and offered him free legal services to vindicate his beliefs and the protections afforded individuals like him under the US Constitution, thru the Bill of Rights. The ADF offers free counsel to those whose religious liberties have been violated; it seeks to preserve the right of people to freely live out their faith. On the other side of the conflict, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), an organization determined to root out and destroy the Free Exercise of Religion, is defending Craig and Mullins. The ACLU, in typical form, sees this case only as a discrimination case.

Phillips, with the ADF, decided to appeal his case to the Supreme Court and submitted a Petition for Certiorari, which is a fancy legal term for the formal request submitted to the Court seeking review of the case and laying out the reasons for such review.

The Petition for Certiorari explained the issue for the Court: “The question presented is whether applying Colorado’s public accommodations law to compel Phillips to create expression that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage violates the Free Speech or Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment.” In other words, can the state of Colorado force Jack Phillips, a Christian baker, to create a custom cake for a same-sex wedding against his deeply held religious beliefs?

The Petition sat with the justices for many months waiting for a decision. The Court had put off making a decision on whether to hear the case twice before, likely because a justice had not yet been appointed to replace Antonin Scalia, who died suddenly in February 2016. Shortly after this inauguration, Donald Trump nominated justice Neil Gorsuch, a conservative, to the bench, and in April, he was sworn in. Two months later, a majority of the justices agreed to “grant cert” (grant review) and hear the case. The argument that the Supreme Court found most compelling and the one it decided to grant review on was Phillips’ second defense (above). Indeed, it is a well-established principle of Free Speech, and one that the Supreme Court has upheld time and time again, that government cannot coerce a person to engage in speech that he or she finds offensive.

II.  QUESTION PRESENTED:

The question presented to the Supreme Court is this:  Does the application of Colorado’s public accommodations law (CADA) to compel a cake maker to design and make a cake that violates his sincerely-held religious beliefs about same-sex marriage violate the Free Speech or Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment?

III.  THE ARGUMENTS:   (from The Heritage Foundation)

Undisputed:  Jack Phillips is an evangelical Christian whose religion dictates that marriage is a union reserved only for a man and a woman. When Charlie Craig and David Mullins entered Masterpiece Cakeshop and requested a cake to celebrate their marriage, Phillips told them: “I’ll make you birthday cakes, shower cakes, sell you cookies and brownies, I just don’t make cakes for same-sex weddings.”

The question is whether his religion, in the marketplace of “accommodations” (goods and services), will permit him to be excused from participating in same-sex marriages or celebrations of same-sex marriages. More specifically, as an artistic baker, will his deeply-held religious beliefs permit him to be excused from creating a cake that celebrates the marriage of a same-sex couple?

Attorneys for the Respondents (Charlie Craig and David Mullins) see this case as a pure discrimination case, in violation of the anti-discrimination law passed in Colorado to prevent discrimination against certain protected classes of persons (“It is a discriminatory practice and unlawful for a person, directly or indirectly, to refuse, withhold from, or deny to an individual or a group, because of disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, or ancestry, the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation….”). Respondents are a protected class of persons (“sexual orientation”) under the statue. Their argument is that Jack Phillips discriminated against them and denied them services he would provide to other heterosexual couples because they are homosexual. They assert that Phillips shouldn’t be allowed to “hide behind his religion” to excuse his outright discrimination.

The ADF attorneys representing Phillips respond by asserting that his religion is NOT a pretext for intentional discrimination but rather a creed that guides the very way he thinks and the way he lives his life – at home, in the community, and at work.

The same-sex couple posit the issue as one involving public accommodations, not about religion or free speech. They argue that it is a pillar of American anti-discrimination law that, when a business opens itself to serve the general public, it cannot refuse to serve customers based on who they are. Phillips responds by emphasizing that he does not refuse to serve customers based on “identity” (who they are), but rather on the themes they seek to promote in the custom cakes they order. In other words, he believes he has the right, under the First Amendment’s guarantee of Free Speech, to articulate and express only those themes and messages that don’t conflict with his religious beliefs and his conscience.

The couple argues that permitting Phillips to refuse services to them would open the doors to other forms of discrimination that have long been prohibited by courts. They hypothesize that, if his position prevailed, a portrait photographer could refuse to conduct photo shoots with Hispanic families or that a banquet hall could refuse to host events for Jewish families. And, indeed, the entire inquiry that Phillips endorses – a judge deciding whether a religious belief is sincerely held – would result in an uncomfortable entanglement of the courts in matters of religion.

But regardless of how Craig and Mullins, and the ACLU, try to explain their view of anti-discrimination, Phillips and his attorneys see this case as one touching on his First Amendment guarantees to the Free Exercise of his religious beliefs and to the right NOT to be compelled to express views that he fundamentally disagrees with. Such would amount to an egregious violation of his essential right of conscience, the right at the very heart of most of our first amendment liberties. As Phillips’ Petition to the Supreme Court for Certiorari states: “This Court’s review is needed to alleviate the stark choice Colorado offers to those who, like Phillips, earn a living through artistic means: Either use your talents to create expression that conflicts with your religious beliefs about marriage, or suffer punishment under Colorado’s public accommodation law.”

As explained above, Jack Phillips, has two arguments to support his position that the state of Colorado violated his constitutional rights by finding that he discriminated under the CADA:  First, that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment protects individuals in their right to live out their religious identity, including in the public square and in the marketplace; and second, that Colorado is forcing him to “create art” (expressive speech, which is protected by the First Amendment) which he finds repugnant to his religious beliefs. Just as the State cannot force children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, or its drivers to display its motto on their license plate holders, so it cannot compel Phillips to express a message that offends his conscience (and which he repudiates).

As the ADF stated in its Petition, the Supreme Court’s review is needed to alleviate the stark choice Colorado offers to those who, like Phillips, earn a living through artistic means: Either use your talents to create expression that conflicts with your religious beliefs about marriage, or suffer punishment under Colorado’s public accommodation law.

Furthermore, as the specific facts of this case show (ie, the exceptions that the Commission chose to recognize under the CADA, as well as the energy used to go after Masterpiece), Phillips himself has been the victim of targeted discrimination on the basis of his religion. Given the exceptions to the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) that state authorities have recognized for other cake artists, including three secular cake artists who refused to create custom cakes for customers seeking to criticize same-sex marriage on religious grounds, the Commission’s application of CADA targeted Phillips’ religious beliefs about marriage for punishment in violation of the Free Exercise Clause and coerced his speech in violated of the First Amendment’s guarantee of Free Speech and Expression. According to the CADA, bakers are free to refuse to bake a cake condemning same-sex marriage but MUST make a cake recognizing and celebrating it. It is a case of Viewpoint Discrimination, in violation of the First Amendment.

The ADF is asking the Supreme Court to address the targeted discrimination against religion by the CADA and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and to protect the free exercise of his right to express (expressive “speech” under the First Amendment) only those messages that comport with his deeply-held religious beliefs, while still welcoming all customers into his store. Phillips believes that the First Amendment’s free speech and religious liberty clauses protect his freedoms to do just that. Conscience is something that we all want the right to life by. The Constitution guarantees that to us.

That’s the big picture.

To get a case reviewed by the Supreme Court, the Petitioner (in this, Jack Phillips) must find error with the decisions of the lower courts or lower rulings, and to that extend, the Alliance Defending Freedom has asserted two essential and glaring errors. First, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and then the Colorado Court of Appeals refused to acknowledge Phillips as a cake “artist” who goes through a creative process to create wedding cakes. In other words, they held that his work comprises not speech or expression but rather conduct. And second, in denying Phillips a religious exemption from the CADA, the Commission and Court of Appeals applied the wrong standard of review. They applied the least stringent of all standards. When a law allows for individual exemptions or targets disfavored religious views for punishment, as was the case in Colorado under the CADA, strict scrutiny (the most stringent standard of review) must be applied under the Free Exercise Clause if a law allows for individualized exemptions or targets disfavored religious views for punishment.

Recognizing that Jack Phillips “speaks” and “expresses” messages and themes through his work is the cornerstone concept to his case. At least it’s the one that got him to the Supreme Court and before the Supreme Court.

Specifically, in their Petition to the Supreme Court requesting Certiorari, Phillips and the ADF made the following arguments:

A).  The First Amendment prohibits the government from telling private citizens “what they must say.”  It is undisputed that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission does not apply the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) to ban (1) an African-American cake artist from refusing to create a cake promoting white-supremacism for the Aryan Nation, (2) an Islamic cake artist from refusing to create a cake denigrating the Quran for the Westboro Baptist Church, and (3) three secular cake artists from refusing to create cakes opposing same-sex marriage for a Christian patron. If the Commission can make exemptions such as these, then it should also exempt Phillips in his polite decision to decline to create wedding cakes celebrating same-sex marriages on religious grounds when he is happy to bake other items for gay and lesbian clients. The Supreme Court specifically recognized and made special note of in the Obergefell v. Hodges decision (2015) the fact that “those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.”  In other words, the Court made it clear that there are those who truly believe in the traditional and Biblical definition of marriage and that doesn’t make them discriminatory. But the Commission ruled that is exactly what the law requires – Phillips and his kind MUST accept and support gay and lesbian marriages despite deeply-held, “utmost, sincere convictions, by divine precepts” that teach him otherwise. The Colorado Court of Appeals upheld that mandate on appeal. In so doing, that court approved nothing less than the outright compulsion of speech.

The Colorado Court of Appeal’s reasoning turns the Compelled Speech doctrine on its head. All coerced speech results from “compliance with [a] law” – government compulsion of speech. But instead of concluding that forcing Phillips to create art violates the Free Speech Clause, the Colorado Court of Appeals held something stupid and ridiculous. It held that because the law requires Masterpiece to conform to its mandate and not discriminate when it comes to the certain “protected” classes of persons listed, any product created is not “artistic” but rather is “required conduct.”  That explanation thus robs Phillips of ownership of any message sent by his art.  In other words, the court upheld the compulsion of Phillip’s artistic expression because that speech was legally compelled, or required.  Maybe that is what the Court intended when it made its ruling – to strip Phillips of any ownership of message.  But the reasoning of the Court was circular (something they teach you to avoid in the first week of law school) and as the ADF argued, “threatens the continued vitality of the compelled speech doctrine and directly conflicts with this Court’s (the Supreme Court’s) Free Speech precedent.”

The First Amendment protects the right of individuals to hold a point of view different from the majority and to refuse to foster an idea they find morally objectionable. That is when the First Amendment is most meaningful and most important. “The Right of Free Speech thus includes both the right to speak freely and the right to refrain from speaking at all.” (language taken from the Wooley v. Maynard case, 1977)  This right extends “beyond written or spoken words as mediums of expression,” and applies both to individuals and “business corporations generally” (language taken from the Hurley v. Irish-Am. Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Grp. of Bos. case, 1995 – a case the attorneys representing Phillips’ position will cite heavily during oral arguments).  The function of the First Amendment is to protect “’the sphere of intellect and spirit’ and ‘individual freedom of mind’ from all official control.” (Wooley)  Under the Supreme Court’s Compelled-Speech precedent, the state invades this freedom of mind when it forces a private citizen to speak the government’s own message, or when it compels a citizen to speak the message of a third party. The First Amendment prohibits the government from telling private citizens “what they must say,” or forcing or coercing them to do so.  Yet the Colorado Court of Appeals held that the state may compel Phillips to create a custom wedding cake promoting a morally objectionable message.

Colorado requires Phillips not only to interview the same-sex couple and develop a custom design celebrating their union, but to physically create their wedding cake with his own two hands.  Colorado thus mandates that Phillips do far more than recite an offensive message.  It requires him to first research and draft that message and then bring it to life in three dimensional form using a variety of artistic techniques that range from painting to sculpture.  Moreover, the Commission significantly magnified the intrusiveness of its compelled-speech order by requiring Phillips to reeducate his employees and report to the Commission every order he declines for any reason for the next two years.  If that is not compelled expression, nothing is.

The Supreme Court has made clear that public accommodation statutes are subject to the same First Amendment bounds as all other laws.  When, in the Hurley case, an LGBT group sought to march as a unit in Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade over the parade organizers’ objection, the Supreme Court held that Massachusetts’ public accommodation law could not be applied to grant them access. The Court held that the state “may not compel affirmance of a belief with which the speaker disagrees.” Yet Colorado did so based on the feeble justification that Phillips’ speech is legally required.

B). It is undisputed that CADA does not require other cake artists to create custom cakes promoting an unwelcome message.  Yet the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld the Commission’s (and hence the State of Colorado’s) determination that Phillips violated the CADA by declining to create a custom cake for a same-sex wedding on religious grounds.  This ruling squarely conflicts with the Supreme Court’s Free Exercise precedent and with decisions by the Third, Sixth, and Tenth Circuit Courts (Colorado comes under the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit). Strict scrutiny applies under the Free Exercise Clause if a law allows for individualized exemptions or targets disfavored religious views for punishment. Colorado’s application of CADA does both, yet the Colorado Court of Appeals held that Phillips’ Free Exercise rights were not even implicated. That holding also conflicts with the Supreme Court’s precedent and decisions by the Third, Sixth, and Tenth Circuits. When a law allows for case-by-case exemptions, the government cannot deny a religious exemption without overcoming Strict Scrutiny.  It is undisputed that CADA allows for such individualized exceptions. It has been undisputed throughout this case, that CADA permits other cake artists to decline to create cakes that convey an offensive message to THEM. For example, Craig and Mullins, their attorneys from the ACLU, and the state’s Solicitor General (attorney general) have conceded that a baker may decline a custom order if “the design requested” violates a “tastefulness policy.” The State has not defined exactly what that “tastefulness policy” includes and protects, but nevertheless refused Phillips’ request for a religious exemption based on his particular objection to same-sex marriage.  The ALJ decision, for example, which was adopted in whole by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, stated that CADA would allow “a black baker [to] refuse to make a cake bearing a white-supremacist message for a member of the Aryan Nation” and that “an Islamic baker could … refuse to make a cake denigrating the Koran for the Westboro Baptist Church.”  Yet the Colorado Court of Appeals applied mere Rational Basis review (a very low standard of review, which basically allows any reason given by the State to justify its law to supersede or trump the individual’s particular civil liberty at stake) to the Commission’s decision to deny Phillips a religious exemption from CADA. (“Having concluded that CADA is neutral and generally applicable, we easily conclude that it is rationally related to Colorado’s interest in eliminating discrimination in places of public accommodation”). Again, that holding conflicts with the Supreme Court’s precedent.  The ALJ reasoned that “the explicit, unmistakable, offensive message” communicated by these cakes gave “rise to the bakers’ free speech right to refuse.”

Similarly, when a Christian patron requested that three secular bakeries in Colorado—Azucar Bakery, Le Bakery Sensual, Inc., and Gateaux, Ltd.—create custom cakes disapproving of same-sex marriage on religious grounds, the Commission found no probable cause of discrimination based on creed.  And it did so despite the fact that creed discrimination under CADA encompasses “all aspects of religious beliefs, observances, and practices … [including] the beliefs or teachings of a particular religion,” The Commission found an exception to CADA when the denial of service is “based on the explicit message that the [customer] wished to include on the cakes.”  This offensive-message exception to CADA is expressly based on the Commission’s individualized assessment of a baker’s reasons for declining a cake order.  If the Commission considers the denial based on the message of a cake, as it did for the African-American, Muslim, and three secular cake artists cited above, an exemption to CADA is made available.  But if the Commission views the baker’s rationale differently, as it did Phillips’ religious objection to creating custom cakes honoring a same-sex marriage, no exception to CADA applies. Indeed, by deeming Phillips’ religious reasons for declining to create a custom cake to be of less importance than those of other cake artists, the Commission singled out Phillips’ religious practice for “discriminatory treatment.”  In short, the Commission deemed every similarly-situated baker’s objection to creating an offensive cake “message based” and thus exempt from CADA.  It held only Phillips in violation of state law.

That in and of itself was discrimination. It was blatant discrimination on Colorado’s part.  Government discrimination.  It was arbitrary. And arbitrary enforcement of the law is a violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection clause.

Regardless of how the State of Colorado, the Commission, and the Colorado Court of Appeals characterize Phillips’ religious objection, the Supreme Court’s controlling precedent holds that because a system of individualized exemptions exists, Colorado cannot deny an exemption to Phillips without first hurdling Strict Scrutiny. Strict Scrutiny is the proper form of judicial review that courts must use to determine the constitutionality of certain laws that burden fundamental rights and liberties. To pass Strict Scrutiny, the state legislature must be able to show that it passed the law to further a “compelling (very important) governmental interest,” and it was “narrowly tailored to achieve that interest.” Put another way, the legislature must show that it couldn’t further than same compelling interest by means less restrictive on the fundamental right or liberty at stake. Apparently because so many exemptions have been recognized by the State of Colorado with respect to the CADA, the law is overly-restrictive and thus could never survive Strict Scrutiny. “In circumstances in which individualized exemptions from a general requirement are available, the government may not refuse to extend that system to cases of ‘religious hardship’ without a compelling reason.”

But beyond blatant discrimination by the State of Colorado, there was malice and animus towards Phillips and his religious beliefs. There was hostility.

The Commission, for example, found it critically important that the three secular cake artists who refused a Christian patron’s orders did so “based on the custom cakes’ explicit message,” although they were happy to create other items ordered by Christian customers. Phillips explained that he too declined to create a custom same-sex wedding cake based on its morally objectionable message and that he was happy to provide other baked goods for Craig and Mullins’ reception and is happy, in general, to create other items for gay clients.  After all, a wedding cake is not a passive object but a central component of the wedding reception that celebrates the couple’s joining as one.  Nonetheless, the Commission found Phillips in violation of CADA. The only explanation for this disparate treatment is the Commission’s disapproval of Phillips’ religious beliefs about same-sex marriage.  Such hostility was apparent during the proceedings in Phillips’ case.  One Commission member summarized the Commission’s logic, during the course of an administrative hearing, as follows:

“I would also like to reiterate what we said in the hearing or the last meeting. Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the holocaust, whether it be – I mean, we – we can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use to – to use their religion to hurt others.”

The Commission thus disfavored Phillips’ request for an exemption from CADA based on its religious nature.  In so doing, the Commission violated the essential Free Exercise principle that “government, in pursuit of legitimate interests, cannot, in a selective manner, impose burdens only on conduct motivated by religious belief.”  Yet the Colorado Court of Appeals ignored CADA’s real operation and declined to address the evidence showing the Commission’s targeting of Phillips’ religious views.

[Reference:  Petition for Certiorari –  http://www.scotusblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/16-111-cert-petition.pdf

(Note:  This overview is not meant to exclude other arguments made, including the one highlighting the fact that the different Circuit Courts (federal courts of appeals) are in conflict as to which legal standard controls whether a product such as Phillips’ custom cakes is to be considered “expressive” or not. One of the specific reasons the Supreme Court will hear a case is when the various Circuit Courts are in disagreement, so that it can establish uniformity).

As you can see, the Phillips case is complex and examines some very important and fundamental issues, including, ironically, discrimination against Phillips himself and his religion.

Again, the most successful approach that Jack Phillips and the Alliance Defending Freedom could take in addressing the violation to his rights as a Christian man, determined to live his life according to his deeply-held religious beliefs, and being engaged in as an artisan who designs custom celebratory cakes, is the “Compelled Speech” argument.

Luckily, it appeared that the justices of the Supreme Court agreed with Phillips that there is speech and expression involved in the work that he does to create wedding cakes.          

IV.  ORAL ARGUMENTS:

PHILLIPS CASE (Before the Supreme Court, Dec. 5, 2017) - Signs.JPG

Perhaps indicative of the gravity of the issues at the center of the case, the justices of the Supreme Court extended the time for oral arguments for this case. It allotted almost 90 minutes instead of the usual hour.

The justices’ questioning at oral argument highlighted the difficult balance of interests in this case. Phillips has fundamental individual rights recognized since the before the founding of the country, memorialized in the First Amendment – rights to speech, thought, religion (a relationship with his Maker), and conscience – which should be respected to the highest degree by government, and Craig and Mullins, as homosexual men, have certain civil rights which should not be ignored to make them feel like second-class citizens. All sides were closely scrutinizing the questions asked by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who seems once again to be a critical vote in what could be a split decision. He expressed concerns for the rights of the same-sex couple, but he also noted that the commission had been “neither tolerant nor respectful of Phillips’ religious beliefs.” Justice Samuel Alito agreed with that latter point, stating that is was “disturbing” that the commission was apparently engaged in “a practice of discriminatory treatment based on viewpoint.”

Justice Kagan’s questioning expressed concerns about the difficulties in drawing lines.  If a baker is allowed to refuse to bake a cake, would it not be true that make-up artists, hairstylists, tailors, caterers, florists, chefs, and the like could all refuse to provide services to same-sex couples planning their weddings?  The baker’s counsel tried to distinguish Mr. Phillips’s work as an artist. Justice Elena Kagan pushed back. She asked on which side of the line chefs, florists, hairstylists, tailors and makeup artists would fall. According to Phillips’s position, he designs cakes as works of art that convey a message, and is therefore engaged in speech, whereas neither a chef nor a tailor are engaged in the same sort of artistic creation. Justice Stephen Breyer expressed concern that this position would “undermine every civil rights law.”

These questions highlight the toughest question in this case: Where is the line? The Supreme Court will likely try to thread that needle by issuing a narrow decision that does not massively unsettle either First Amendment or anti-discrimination rights.

On behalf of its client, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is ultimately asking the Supreme Court to alleviate the stark choice Colorado offers to those who, like Phillips, earn a living through artistic means, which is ‘Either use your talents to create expression that conflicts with your religious beliefs about marriage, or suffer punishment under Colorado’s public accommodation law,’ and to find a solution that respects each parties’ rights.

In a lengthy and charged oral argument session (with time restrictions lifted!!), the nine justices wrestled with how Americans who hold different views on marriage in our post-Obergefell society can continue to live with each other in mutual respect. The arguments fell essentially into four issues, which the justices addressed or explored with the four representative attorneys engaging in oral arguments.

At oral argument, the following counsel were present:

(1)   Kristin K. Waggoner, with the Alliance Defending Freedom, on behalf of Jack Phillips (the Petitioner – the one petitioning the Supreme Court to hear the case),

(2)  General Noel J. Franscisco, on behalf of the federal government (as amicus curiae, or “Friend of the Court,” supporting Phillips),

(3)  Frederick R. Yarger, Colorado Solicitor General, on behalf of the State of Colorado

(4)  David D. Cole, with the ACLU, on behalf of Charlie Craig and David Mullins (the Respondents – those responding to the Petitioner)

This is also the order in which they went before the justices of the Supreme Court for questioning.

Note that the justices have different approaches to the interpretation of the Constitution and a different understanding of their roles on the Court:

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan – are liberal justices (They believe they are not limited to the plain words and meaning of the Constitution and can expand its terms and meaning as the government needs or as social change requires. They are activist justices who look only to what a “modern” Constitution should read rather than rely on the commentary provided by those who wrote and ratified the document).

Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Samuel Alito, and Chief Justice John Roberts – are conservative justices  (For the most part, they believe in the original meaning and intent of the Constitution when they are interpreting it to render an opinion. They don’t believe in arbitrarily expanding the powers of the federal government through a liberal reading of the Constitution, as the other justices do, but rather try to maintain the balance of power among the parties (the federal government, the States, and the People) as the Founders envisioned and as historical commentary supports. (The one glaring exception to this general description of these justices is the Obamacare case where Chief Justice Roberts committed judicial malfeasance to uphold the Affordable Care Act)

Neil Gorsuch, the most recent member to join the bench, has embraced an expansive view of religious rights in his past decisions from the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit (the same jurisdiction that includes the state of Colorado!)  Many wonder if this will have any implications for the case at hand.

Justice Anthony Kennedy is the historic “swing voter” on the Court, sometimes siding with the liberal justices and sometimes with the conservative ones. Kennedy often sides with the conservative justices on issues of the First and Second Amendment and States’ Rights under the Tenth Amendment. For example, it was Kennedy who provided the swing vote in the 5-4 decision of McDonald v. Chicago (2010), the seminal opinion defining the meaning and intent of the Second Amendment, including the individual right to have and bear arms for self-defense. It was also Kennedy who provided the swing vote in the Obergefell v. Hodges decision in 2015 to strike down state bans on same-sex marriage and to recognize the right of homosexuals to marry.  It is Kennedy that counsel often has to convince during oral arguments.

In an unprecedented move, the Trump administration’s Justice Department publicly expressed its support of Phillips’ position in a “friend-of-the-court” (amicus curiae) brief submitted in September 2017.

I have broken this section on oral arguments down into the individual exchanges with each of the attorneys, first giving an overview of the issues that the justices chose to explore with that attorney, and then selecting portions from the actual dialogue to highlight the themes addressed and the types of questions asked.  [The dialogue is taken directly from the transcript of the oral arguments before the Supreme Court on Dec. 5, 2017 –  (https://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/2017/16-111_f314.pdf),

1.  When Is a Service Provider Considered an “Artist” Who “Speaks” Through His/Her Work ?

While the justices were open to the argument that Phillips, as a “cake artist,” engaged in protected speech when he “creates” his wedding cakes, the more liberal justices, Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan tried to figure out which other businesses “speak” through their work. Indeed, they spent considerable time (almost all of Phillips’ attorney, Ms. Kristin Waggoner’s time) trying to pinpoint which occupations associated with weddings are “expressive” enough to enjoy free-speech protections. Justice Elena Kagan asked if a hair stylist would qualify, to which Ms. Waggoner responded, “Absolutely not.” But Kagan replied, “Why is there no speech in creating a wonderful hairdo?”

The concern of the justices is whether all sorts of providers – tailors, hair stylists, makeup artists, chefs, architects, photographers – could refuse to supply goods and services for same-sex weddings. Justice Stephen Breyer summed it up best: “The reason we’re asking these questions,” he said, “is because obviously we want some kind of distinction that will not undermine every civil rights law.” He also suggested that there was no way to rule for Mr. Phillips without inflicting grave damage on principles of equality.  The conservative justices on the other hand countered that to rule in favor of the same-sex couple would inflict grave damage on someone as religiously-disciplined as Phillips and on our American notion of free speech.

In response to the questioning regarding “Who speaks?,” the threshold question, according to Ms. Waggoner, is whether a message is being conveyed through the creation. Is the service provider “engaged in speech”

The conservative justices considered whether artists can be required to convey messages with which they profoundly disagree, in light of laws requiring that they do so that persons are not discriminated against in the marketplace.

pp 4-25

MS. WAGGONER: (counsel for Mr. Jack Phillips; opening remarks to the Justices) Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court: The First Amendment prohibits the government from forcing people to express messages that violate religious convictions. Yet the Commission requires Mr. Phillips to do just that, ordering him to sketch, sculpt, and hand-paint cakes that celebrate a view of marriage in violation of his religious convictions.   (“Compelled Speech”)

JUSTICE GINSBURG: What if it’s an item off the shelf? That is, they don’t commission a cake just for them but they walk into the shop, they see a lovely cake, and they say we’d like to purchase it for the celebration of our marriage tonight. The Colorado law would prohibit that. Would you claim that you are entitled to an exception?

MS. WAGGONER: Absolutely not. The Compelled Speech doctrine is triggered by compelled speech. And in the context of a pre-made cake, that is not compelled speech. Mr. Phillips is happy to sell anything in his store (that is pre-made). In the context of a product already made, it’s already been placed in the stream of commerce in a public accommodation setting. His speech has been completed. Any message he intended to convey in that particular cake (if any at all) was completed at the time he created it. The message, if any at all, was not unique or personal to the buyer….

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: But I thought that the couple was looking at his already pre-designed cakes that he appears to sell without any customization, and they sat down with him, and he said I don’t supply cakes of any kind to gay couples So I thought this cake was about his refusal to supply a cake for any same-sex wedding ceremony.

MS. WAGGONER: Justice Sotomayor, that’s not how he responded to the couple. The couple came in and they requested a custom cake for their wedding. At that point, they brought in a folder with all kinds of designs they wanted to discuss rainbow-layered cake. (That’s when Mr. Phillips explained that he could not create a cake celebrating a same-sex marriage. The couple ended up purchasing a rainbow-layered cake – or received one free). A rainbow-layered cake is certainly expression….. The order imposed by the Commission requires Mr. Phillips to make such a cake. It also requires him to include words and symbols on his cakes. It’s that broad. So if, for example, Mr. Phillips had used a Bible verse on a cake in the past, he would be compelled to use that Bible verse in a different context (for same-sex couples).

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Who else, besides the individuals getting married (and the cake artist) speaks at a wedding?

MS. WAGGONER: The artist speaks, Justice Ginsburg. It’s as much Mr. Phillips’s speech as it would be the couples’.

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Who else then? Who else as an artist? The person who does floral arranging, who owns a floral shop? Would that person also be speaking at the wedding? What about the person who designs the wedding invitations? Or the person who sets the menu for the wedding dinner? What about the jeweler? The hair stylist? The make-up artist?

JUSTICE KAGAN: — I’m quite serious, actually, about this, because, you know, a makeup artist, I think, might feel exactly as your client does, that they’re doing something that’s of great aesthetic importance to the wedding and that there’s a lot of skill and artistic vision that goes into making a — somebody look beautiful. And why wouldn’t that person or the hairstylist — why wouldn’t that also count?

MS. WAGGONER: Because it’s not speech. And that’s the first trigger point

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: But explain how baking a cake becomes expressive speech, how that medium becomes expressive speech.

MS. WAGGONER: Certainly not all cakes would be considered speech, but in the wedding context, Mr. Phillips is painting on a blank canvas. He is creating a painting on that canvas that expresses messages, and including words and symbols in those messages. We have someone that is sketching and sculpting and hand designing something, that is creating a temporary sculpture that serves as the centerpiece of what they believe to be a religious wedding celebration, that cake expresses a message.

JUSTICE BREYER: The reason we’re asking these questions is because obviously we want some kind of distinction that will not undermine every civil rights law, including those protecting African Americans and Hispanics, and including everybody who has been discriminated against in very basic things of life, food, design of furniture, homes, (education), and buildings. Now, I’ve tried to narrow it and specify it to get your answer.

MS. WAGGONER: Thank you, Justice Breyer. In terms of the test that would be applied, the Court would first ask under the speech analysis, is there speech? And by asking that, you are asking is there something that is being communicated and is it protected?

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: Well, your client was saying that providing a cake to a same-sex couple was against his free-expression rights because, and his free-exercise rights, because he cannot celebrate that kind of marriage.

MS. WAGGONER: Mr. Phillips is looking at not the “who” but the “what” in these instances, what the message is.

JUSTICE GORSUCH: Well, actually, counsel, that seems to be a point of contention. The state seems to concede that if it were the message, your client would have a right to refuse. But if it — the objection is to the person, that’s when the discrimination law kicks in. That’s footnote 8 of the Colorado Court of Appeals’ decision. I know you know this. So what do you say to that, that actually what is happening here may superficially look like it’s about the message but it’s really about the person’s identity?

MS. WAGGONER: I would say that in footnote 8, the court applies an offensiveness policy, which allows the state the discretion to decide what speech is offensive and what is not, and it did not apply that in a fair way to Mr. Phillips, which creates Viewpoint Discrimination, as well as a violation of free exercise — the Free Exercise Clause. But what’s deeply concerning is that is not the theory that Respondents (Craig and Mullins) are submitting to this Court today. They believe that they can compel speech, of filmmakers, oil painters, and graphic designers in all kinds of context. If there are no further questions, I would like to reserve the balance of my time.

2Compelled Speech for Everyone

In the exchange with General Francisco, council for the United States, the justices explored the boundaries of the First Amendment. The justices addressed the particular argument advanced by the government that the First Amendment provides “breathing space” (ie, protection) for business owners, including professional artists and those who provide creative and expressive products, to be free to engage in expressive events like a wedding and to be from the compulsion of law to engage in speech which fundamentally offends their religious beliefs and their conscience. Indeed, he pointed out the unique question presented to the Court – The constitutionality of a state law requiring somebody to create speech and contribute that speech to an expressive event to which they are deeply opposed.

At issue is the understanding and recognition that there is a difference between refusing to express an offensive message and refusing to serve an individual based on an identity (such as race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation).

Justice Kennedy commented: “If you prevail, could the baker put a sign in his window, we do not bake cakes for gay weddings?  Would that not be an affront to the gay community?” General Francisco responded that there are dignity issues at stake on both sides, not just for Mr. Craig and Mr. Mullins.

pp. 25-48

GENERAL FRANCISCO: (Council for the United States, as amicus curiae, or “Friend of the Court”) Mr. Chief Justice, and may it — may it please the Court: This case raises an important issue for a small group of individuals; namely, whether the state may compel business owners, including professional artists, to engage in speech in connection with an expressive event like a marriage celebration to which they’re deeply opposed. In those narrow circumstances, we believe the Free Speech Clause provides breathing space –

JUSTICE GINSBURG: How narrow is it? Consider Justice Kagan’s question. I mean, we’ve gotten the answer that the florist is in the same place as the cake-maker, so is the person who designs the invitations and the menus. I don’t see a line that can be drawn that would exclude the makeup artist or the hairstylist.

GENERAL FRANCISCO: Well, Your Honor, that’s, of course, the question that the Court has to answer at the threshold of every Free Speech Case. Is the thing that’s being regulated something we call protected speech? I think the problem for my friends on the other side is that they think the question doesn’t even matter. So they would compel an African American sculptor to sculpt a cross for a Klan service

JUSTICE KENNEDY: But the problem for you is that so many of these examples – and a photographer can be included — do involve speech. It means that there’s basically an ability to boycott gay marriages.

GENERAL FRANCISCO: Well, Your Honor, I think what it boils down to is that in a narrow category of services that do cross the threshold into protected speech — and I do think it’s a relatively narrow category that has protection. For example, I don’t think you could force the African American sculptor to sculpt a cross for the Klan service just because he’d do it for other religious groups.

JUSTICE KENNEDY: If you prevail, could the baker put a sign in his window, we do not bake cakes for gay weddings?

GENERAL FRANCISCO: Your Honor, I think that he could say he does not make custom-made wedding cakes for gay weddings, but would offer most other cakes (non-custom-made cakes) and that would not cross the threshold.

JUSTICE KENNEDY: Do you think that would be an affront to the gay community?

GENERAL FRANCISCO: Well, Your Honor, I agree that there are dignity interests at stake here, and I would not minimize the dignity interests to Mr. Craig and Mr. Mullins one bit, but there are dignity interests on the other side here too.

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: We’ve always said in our public accommodations law we can’t change your private beliefs, we can’t compel you to like these people, we can’t compel you to bring them into your home, but if you want to be a part of our community, of our civic community, there’s certain behavior, conduct you can’t engage in.

GENERAL FRANCISCO: When you force a speaker to both engage in speech and contribute that speech to an expressive event that they disagree with, you fundamentally transform the nature of their message from one that they want to say to one that they don’t want to say. As this Court made clear in the Bob Jones case, the IRS could withdraw tax-exempt status from a school that discriminated on the basis of interracial marriage, but I’m not at all sure that it would reach the same result if it were dealing with a Catholic school that limited married student housing to opposite-sex couples only. I think when you get to this case, if you agree with our test — and I know that I have a little bit of an uphill battle in convincing some of you of that. If you agree with our test, I think the heightened scrutiny standard is particularly easy because they’re the same interests at stake as were at stake in Hurley.  [Hurley v. Irish-American GLB of Boston, 1995.  Facts:  In 1993, the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council was authorized by the city of Boston to organize the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The Council refused a place in the event for the Irish American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston (GLIB). The group attempted to join to express its members’ pride in their Irish heritage as openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals. The Massachusetts State Court ordered the Veterans’ Council to include GLIB under a state law prohibiting discrimination on account of sexual orientation in public accommodations. The Veterans’ Council claimed that forced inclusion of GLIB members in their privately-organized parade violated their free speech. A unanimous Supreme Court held that the State Court’s ruling to require private citizens who organize a parade to include a group expressing a message that the organizers do not wish to convey violates the First Amendment by making private speech subordinate to the public accommodation requirement. Such an action “violate[s] the fundamental First Amendment rule that a speaker has the autonomy to choose the content of his own message and, conversely, to decide what not to say.”]

JUSTICE GORSUCH: So General, what is the line? How would you have this Court draw the line?

GENERAL FRANCISCO: I think there are a couple of ways to draw that line, and this is something that the Court has to struggle with in a lot of cases. I think the first way to draw that line is you analogize it to something that everyone regards as traditional art and everyone agrees is protected speech.

JUSTICE GORSUCH: Like the Jackson Pollock?

GENERAL FRANCISCO: Exactly. And here you have a cake that is essentially synonymous with a traditional sculpture except for the medium used. But I also think that the Second Circuit’s decision in the Mastrovincenzo case provides a good and workable standard when you’ve got something that is part art and part utilitarian. And what the Second Circuit asks is it predominantly art or predominantly utilitarian? And here people pay very high prices for these highly sculpted cakes, not because they taste good, but because of their artistic qualities…. But I think the point is when you cross that threshold into free speech, the question is can you compel somebody to create and contribute speech to an expressive event.

JUSTICE KAGAN: What if somebody comes in, it’s a baker who’s an atheist and really can’t stand any religion, and somebody comes in and says I want one of your very, very special, special cakes for a First Communion or for a Bar Mitzvah. And the baker says no, I don’t do that. I don’t want my cakes to be used in the context of a religious ceremony.

GENERAL FRANCISCO: Well, if it rises to the level of speech, then I think he has a claim just like that same baker (Phillips) and he could refuse to sculpt that cake.

Justices refer to decisions of the Second Circuit looking at various factors when a product is both artistic and utilitarian? Is the product primarily artistic or utilitarian?  Are people paying for the utilitarian side of it or are they paying for the artistic side of it? What about the price? Does the price reflect more the product’s utilitarian feature or its artistic quality?

JUSTICE BREYER: There’s a category of people called artisans. An artisan is a kind of artist. They are in many fields. They are also people who are discriminated against. And we’re in a country of minorities, there are many different groups that have been discriminated against. For many years Congress has passed laws saying, at least to the artisans: You cannot discriminate on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation. If we were to write an opinion for you, what would we have done to that principle?

GENERAL FRANCISCO: Well, Your Honor, none of these Courts’ cases has ever involved requiring somebody to create speech and contribute that speech to an expressive event to which they are deeply opposed. And if I could go back to my example, when you force that African-American sculptor to sculpt that cross for a Klan service, you are transforming his message. He may want his cross to send the message of peace and harmony. By forcing him to combine it with that expressive event, you force him to send a message of hate and division.

JUSTICE KENNEDY: What would the government — what would the government’s position be if you prevail in this case, the baker prevails in this case, and then bakers all over the country received urgent requests: Please do not bake cakes for gay weddings. And more and more bakers began to comply.

GENERAL FRANCISCO: (The case before you) is a case for strict scrutiny because you’d be able to show that the application of the law is narrowly tailored to the government’s interests in ensuring access. Here, of course, you have these products that are widely available from many different sources. And I would submit, just to finish up, that if you were to disagree with our basic principle, putting aside the line about whether a cake falls on speech or non-speech side of the line, you really are envisioning a situation in which you could force, for example, a gay opera singer to perform at the Westboro Baptist Church just because that opera singer would be willing to perform at the National Cathedral. And the problem is when you force somebody not only to speak, but to contribute that speech to an expressive event to which they are deeply opposed, you force them to use their speech to send a message that they fundamentally disagree with. And that is at the core of what the First Amendment protects our citizenry against 

3Mutual Tolerance Is Essential in a Free Society

In one of the most charged exchanges of the day, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy questioned Colorado Solicitor General Frederick Yarger about whether a member of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission who compared Phillips to a racist and a Nazi demonstrated anti-religious bias—and that, if he did so, whether the judgment against Masterpiece should stand.

After disavowing the commissioner’s comments, Yarger argued that the ruling should still stand. But Kennedy returned to the issue again, telling Yarger that “tolerance is essential in a free society. And tolerance is most meaningful when it’s mutual. It seems to me that the state in its position here has been neither tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips’ religious beliefs.”

Kennedy also pointed out there were other cake shops that would have accommodated Charlie Craig and David Mullins, the same-sex couple who requested a cake for their wedding.

In a similar line of questioning, Justice Samuel Alito pointed out that the state of Colorado had failed to demonstrate mutual tolerance when it only protected the freedom of cake artists who landed on one side of the gay marriage debate—namely, the state’s side.

When three religious customers went to cake artists to request cakes that were critical of same-sex marriage, those cake artists declined—yet Colorado did not apply its anti-discrimination statute to punish the artists. But when Phillips declined to create a cake to celebrate a same-sex marriage, Colorado imposed a three-pronged penalty that drove him out of the wedding cake business, causing him to lose 40 percent of his business.

pp. 51-66

MR. YARGER: (Counsel for the Colorado Civil Rights Commission) Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please — please the Court: A decade ago Colorado extended to LGBT people the same protections used to fight discrimination against race, sex and a person’s faith. Masterpiece Cakeshop is a retail bakery that is open to the public and subject to the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act. Yet, Petitioners’ claim that they can refuse to sell a product, a wedding cake of any kind in any design to any same-sex couple.

JUSTICE KENNEDY: The Chief Justice has introduced the question of the Free Exercise Clause in this case. Commissioner Hess says freedom of religion used to justify discrimination is a despicable piece of rhetoric. Suppose we thought that in significant part at least one member of the Commission based the commissioner’s decision on the grounds of hostility to religion. Suppose we thought there was a significant aspect of hostility to religion in this case?”

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: The one biased judge might have influenced the views of the other.

JUSTICE GORSUCH: Mr. Yarger, you actually have a second commissioner who also said that if someone has an issue with the laws impacting his personal belief system, he has to compromise that belief system.

JUSTICE ALITO: One thing that’s disturbing about the record here, in addition to the statement made, the statement that Justice Kennedy read, which was not disavowed at the time by any other member of the Commission, is what appears to be a practice of discriminatory treatment based on viewpoint. The Commission had before it the example of three complaints filed by an individual whose creed includes the traditional Judeo-Christian opposition to same-sex marriage, and he requested cakes that expressed that point of view, and those — there were bakers who said no, we won’t do that because it is offensive. And the Commission said: ‘That’s okay. It’s okay for a baker who supports same-sex marriage to refuse to create a cake with a message that is opposed to same-sex marriage.’ But when the tables are turned and you have the baker who opposes same-sex marriage, that baker may be compelled to create a cake that expresses approval of same-sex marriage.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Maybe you could answer — maybe you could Justice Alito’s question.

JUSTICE KENNEDY: Counselor, tolerance is essential in a free society. And tolerance is most meaningful when it’s mutual. It seems to me that the state in its position here has been neither tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips’ religious beliefs. And because accommodation is, quite possible….  we assume there were other shops. other good bakery shops, that were available.

MR. YARGER: Your Honor, I don’t agree that Colorado hasn’t taken very seriously the rights of those who wish to practice their faith.

JUSTICE BREYER: I’m asking can you do this? Can a baker say do this? Could the baker say, you know, there are a lot of people I don’t want to serve, so I’m going to affiliate with my friend, Smith, who’s down the street, and those people I don’t want to serve, Smith will serve. Is that legal? Would that be legal under Colorado law? That’d be a kind of accommodation, so they get the cake.

MR. YARGER: It would be, Your Honor…. I would say that there’s — there is a possibility that that does not violate the law…

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Does it make a difference that same-sex marriage was not permitted in Colorado at the time of these events?

MR. YARGER: I don’t think it does, Your Honor.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Could he have said I am not going to make a cake for, you know, celebrating events that aren’t permitted in Colorado?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Would Colorado be required to give full faith and credit to the Massachusetts marriage?

MR. YARGER: No it wouldn’t.

JUSTICE ALITO: It did not at the time. This is very odd. We’re thinking about this case as it might play out in 2017, soon to be 2018, but this took place in 2012. So if Craig and Mullins had gone to a state office and said we want a marriage license, they would not have been accommodated. If they said: ‘Well, we want you to recognize our Massachusetts marriage,’ the state would say: ‘No, we won’t accommodate that.’ If the couple had said: ‘Well, we want a civil union,’ the state would say: ‘Well, we won’t accommodate that either.’ And yet when he goes to this bake shop and he says I want a wedding cake, and the baker says, no, I won’t do it, in part because same-sex marriage was not allowed in Colorado at the time, he’s created a grave wrong. How does that all fit together? (pg. 66)

pp. 69-71

JUSTICE GORSUCH: I have a quick question about the Commission’s remedy. As I understand it, Colorado ordered Mr. Phillips to provide comprehensive training to his staff. Why isn’t that compelled speech and possibly in violation of his free-exercise rights? Because presumably he has to tell his staff, including his family members, that his Christian beliefs are discriminatory. This order was ordering him to provide training and presumably compelling him to speak, therefore, and to speak in ways that maybe offend his religion and certainly compel him to speak. And given that, plus the discriminatory language in the Commission’s discussion, it concerns me.

MR. YARGER: It has nothing to do with a particular person’s belief. It has to do with ensuring that the conduct that was found discriminatory, and if that conduct can be regulated consistent with the First Amendment, I think that a training requirement like that can be imposed.

JUSTICE KENNEDY: Part of that speech is that state law, in this case, supersedes our religious beliefs, and he has to teach that to his family. He has to speak about that to his family, who are his employees.

MR. YARGER: He has to speak about that fact.

4.  Disagreement Does Not Equal Discrimination

Justice Kennedy challenged the state of Colorado and the ACLU on their argument that Phillips discriminates on the basis of identity, rather than his deeply-held religious belief of what constitutes a rightful marriage. In an exchange with the ACLU attorney, Justice Kennedy called the repeated attempts to characterize Phillips as discriminating on the basis of identity as too easy of an accusation. (Kennedy’s term was “too facile”)

During the oral arguments, the court appeared to recognize what is patently obvious from the facts. Phillips welcomes all people into his store, encourages them to buy off-the-shelf items, and will make custom-designed cakes for them provided they don’t ask for items that violate his beliefs. He has served homosexuals for the 24 years his store has been in operation and welcomes their business to this day. He has not discriminated nor does he discriminate against anybody because of their identity.

While the ACLU attorney for Craig and Mullins, Mr. David Cole, continued to compare the conduct by Phillips to the conduct by shopkeepers in the Jim Crow South who sought to keep the races “separate but equal,” the conservative justices suggested the comparison was not sincere but rather part of a smear attack to divert attention from the real issue: Phillips simply disagrees with the state on the issue of marriage and that disagreement stems not from discrimination based on the identity of the individuals but from a view of the legitimacy of the institution as he understands it to be, according to the age old teachings of his faith. Chief Justice Roberts appeared to recognize this when chiding the ACLU for lumping in supporters of traditional marriage with racists, noting that in the Obergefell v. Hodges decision (the gay marriage opinion handed down by the Court in 2015), the Court had said support for traditional marriage is rooted in “decent and honorable” premises and not discrimination against the individual. What the Chief Justice was emphasizing was that the Court had acknowledged that there would, and will be, good-faith disagreements over gay unions based on firmly-entrenched religious doctrine.

Specifically, the key sections of the Obergefell that discuss “decent and honorable” religious opposition to gay marriage include:

“Many who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises, and neither they nor their beliefs are disparaged here….”  (from the majority opinion, written by Justice Kennedy)

“Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.” (from the majority opinion, written by Justice Kennedy)

“This view [the traditional definition of marriage – as between a man and a woman] long has been held—and continues to be held—in good faith by reasonable and sincere people here and throughout the world.”  (from the majority opinion, written by Justice Kennedy)

“Today’s decision, for example, creates serious questions about religious liberty. Many good and decent people oppose same-sex marriage as a tenet of faith, and their freedom to exercise religion is, unlike the right imagined by the majority, actually spelled out in the Constitution.”  (Dissenting opinion, written by Chief Justice Roberts)

“Respect for sincere religious conviction has led voters and legislators in every State that has adopted same-sex marriage democratically to include accommodations for religious practice. The majority’s decision imposing same-sex marriage cannot, of course, create any such accommodations. The majority graciously suggests that religious believers may continue to “advocate” and “teach” their views of marriage. The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to “exercise” religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses.” (Dissenting opinion, written by Chief Justice Roberts)

Finally, the oral arguments revealed the scope of how far the state of Colorado is willing to go to impose its views of marriage on citizens. In one line of questioning from Chief Justice Roberts, both to Mr. Yarger and to Mr. Cole, Colorado admitted that it would force Catholic Legal Services to provide a same-sex couple with legal services related to their wedding even if it violates Catholic teachings on marriage. And in questioning from Justice Alito, the ACLU answered that the state could force a Christian college whose creed opposes same-sex marriage to perform a same-sex wedding in its chapel.

Like many Americans, Jack Phillips seeks to work in a craft that applies his talents and in a manner consistent with his deeply-held religious beliefs, including on marriage. In order to follow his conscience, he has turned down requests for cakes that contain messages expressing certain ideas: Halloween and divorce, anti-American themes, and even anti-gay messages. What he has never done is turn away anyone because of who they are.

pp. 72-92

MR. COLE: (counsel for Craig and Mullins; introductory remarks to the justices) Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court: We don’t doubt the sincerity of Mr. Phillips’s convictions. But to accept his argument leads to unacceptable consequences. A bakery could refuse to sell a birthday cake to a black family if it objected to celebrating black lives. A corporate photography studio could refuse to take pictures of female CEOs if it believed that a woman’s place is in the home. And a florist could put a sign up on her storefront saying we don’t do gay funerals, if she objected to memorializing gay people. Now, both Petitioner and the United States recognize that these results are unacceptable with respect to race. And so they suggest that you draw a distinction between race discrimination and sexual orientation discrimination and the state’s ability to protect it. But to do that would be to constitutionally relegate gay and lesbian people to second class status, even when a state has chosen, as Colorado has done here, to extend them equal treatment.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: When the Court upheld same-sex marriage in Obergefell (The Obergefell v. Hodges case, 2015), it went out of its way to talk about ‘the decent and honorable people who may have opposing views.’ And to immediately lump them in the same group as people who are opposed to equality in relations with respect to race, I’m not sure that takes full account of that concept in the Obergefell decision.

MR. COLE: So, Chief Justice Roberts, the Court in Obergefell did, indeed, say that individuals are free to express their disagreement through speech with the notion of same-sex marriage, but it did not say that businesses who make a choice to open themselves to the public can then turn away people because they are gay and lesbian. All the baker needed to know about my clients was that they were gay and lesbian. And, therefore, he wouldn’t sell them a wedding cake.

(The justices neglected to point out the error in Mr. Cole’s statement here, and hence, his argument. Justice Alito had emphasized earlier in oral arguments that the record is undisputed by all sides that Mr. Phillips did not refuse to provide Craig and Mullins a wedding cake; he explained that he could not “create” one celebrating same-sex marriage).

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Let’s say Craig and Mullins said we would like to have on this wedding cake of ours these words: ‘God bless the union of Craig and Mullins.’ The baker would not put that message on their cake. But he would not put that message (ie, ‘God bless the union of any two males, or any two females) on any other cake either.    (Trying to determine if the discrimination was on the “identity” of the individuals, as homosexuals, or just on the message conveyed in the creation of the cake).

MR. COLE: If he made a cake that said ‘God bless the union of Dave and Craig’ the only difference between the two cakes is the identity of the customer who is seeking to purchase it.

JUSTICE BREYER: Well, you see, all custom goods, all custom goods have an element of expression. An artisan is not quite the same as an artist, but an artisan can be a great artisan and can produce good things. But where the clash is between an important public policy, the policy of opening the doors to everyone, including minorities, in the public commercial area, well, there the speech element of the artisan is not really sufficient to outweigh that. Now, that’s pretty straightforward. And they do have to leave open the instance where the speech goes farther than just preparing a specially-shaped cake. What the Court has done when it’s expressive conduct, because that’s what we have here at most is expressive conduct, we don’t ask is it expressive from the perspective of the baker or is it expressive from the perspective of the — of a customer. We ask what’s the state’s interest in regulating? What is the state doing? And if the state is regulating conduct because of what it expresses, well, now that’s strict scrutiny.

JUSTICE ALITO: Are the words on the cake expressive conduct or are they not speech?

MR. COLE: The conduct, Your Honor, that is regulated by Colorado here is not the words on the cake. The conduct that Colorado regulates is the sale by a business that opens itself to the public, invites everybody in, it’s regulating the conduct of refusing a transaction to somebody because of who they are… It doesn’t matter if it’s speech or it’s not speech.

JUSTICE ALITO: But you just said that someone can be compelled to write particular words with which that person strongly disagrees.

JUSTICE ALITO: There are services, I was somewhat surprised to learn this, but weddings have become so elaborate, that will write custom wedding vows for you and custom wedding speeches. So somebody comes to one of these services and says: You know, we’re not good with words, but we want you to write wedding vows for our wedding, and the general idea we want to express is that we don’t believe in God, we think that’s a bunch of nonsense, but we’re going to try to live our lives to make the world a better place. And the person who is writing this is religious and says: I can’t lend my own creative efforts to the expression of such a message. But you would say, well, it’s too bad because you’re a public accommodation. Am I right?

MR. COLE: What I would say, Your Honor, is that if that case were to arise, it would certainly be open to this Court to treat it differently, but……

JUSTICE KENNEDY: Differently on what basis? On what principle would we use to treat it differently?

JUSTICE GORSUCH: Well, let’s take a case a little bit more likes ours. It doesn’t involve words – just a cake. It is Red Cross, and the baker serves someone who wants a red cross to celebrate the anniversary of a great humanitarian organization. Next person comes in and wants the same red cross to celebrate the KKK. Does the baker have to sell to the second customer? And if not, why not?

MR. COLE: It’s not identity-based discrimination. All Colorado law, and public accommodations law generally, requires is that you not discriminate on the basis of particular protected classes, sexual orientation, race, disability, religion, and the like.

JUSTICE GORSUCH: Well, why is that any different than our case? You say it’s not based on identity, but the baker might well say ‘I despise people who adhere to the creed of the KKK. That’s one way of characterizing it. Another way of characterizing it is saying I disagree with the message of the KKK. So too here. One could make the exact analogy, I would think, that you could either characterize it as: I don’t like people of a certain class OR I have a religious belief against this kind of union. So how do I distinguish those cases?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: I misunderstood your answer to Justice Gorsuch. Did you say you could refuse to sell the identical cake with the red cross?

MR. COLE: If he is not doing it on the basis of the identity — a protected identity. The Ku Klux Klan as an organization is not a protected class. So, yes, the public accommodations law does not say you must treat everybody; it just says you cannot discriminate on the basis of protected categories.

JUSTICE KENNEDY: Well, but this whole concept of identity……   Suppose the baker says: ‘Look, I have nothing against gay people. He says but I just don’t think they should have a marriage because that’s contrary to my beliefs. It’s not their identity; it’s what they’re doing. I think your identity thing is just too facile.  (In other words, Kennedy wasn’t convinced that Phillips engaged in identity discrimination or that the couple’s argument that such conduct by Phillips is identify-based discrimination)

JUSTICE BREYER: Go back to Justice Gorsuch’s hypothetical and substitute a religious group for the KKK. Suppose his religious group, bizarre perhaps, has the same beliefs as the KKK. A baker would have to sell a cake to them, right?

MR. COLE: Yes, he can’t say no because he objects to the message.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Is your answer to my hypothetical about the religious legal services organization the same as Mr. Yarger’s? [Referring to the hypothetical he gave on pp. 47-49 of the Transcript: “There are many different faiths, but Catholic Legal Services provides pro bono legal representation to people who are too poor to afford it and they provide it to people of all different faiths. So let’s say a couple just like Craig and Mullins here (Craig and Mullins) is having a contract dispute with somebody in connection with their marriage, and they go into Catholic Legal Services and say we want you to take this case against Masterpiece Cakeshop. And the lawyers say ‘We can’t offer our services because we don’t support same-sex marriage.’ If a heterosexual couple comes in and says we need particular services in connection with our marriage, they would provide it. Would Catholic Legal Services be in violation of the Colorado law?  They provide their services to all faiths. And there’s nothing in the law that I can see that says it’s limited to for-profit organizations.”  Mr. Yarger responded that under the Colorado law, CLS would be put to the choice of either not providing any pro bono legal services or providing those services in connection with the same-sex marriage.]

MR. COLE: I think — I — I – I (rambles)

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: So, if someone had a problem in connection with their marriage, again, whatever it is, contract dispute, something like that, they would have to provide representative services to someone who had a similar problem in connection with a same-sex marriage? Even though they provide more than just speech. There is expressive conduct involved. Providing representation before a Court involves a lot more than simple speech (simple responses to questions or to answers).  [In other words, the Chief Justice was noting that religious organizations would either succumb to Compelled Speech or shut their doors].

pp. 97-102

MS. WAGGONER: (Rebuttal opportunity) In the context of Masterpiece Cakeshop, this Court has found that corporations have free speech rights, and that closely family-held corporations have free exercise rights. I have three brief points in rebuttal:

First of all, the bias (anti-Catholic religion bias; anti-religion bias) of the Commission is evidenced in the unequal treatment of the cake designers, the three other cake designers who were on the squarely opposite sides of this issue. If the Court looks at the analysis that was provided by the Colorado Court of Appeals, line by line, they take the opposite approach to Mr. Phillips that they do to those who are unwilling to criticize same-sex marriage. The Colorado Court of Appeals said that they could have an offensiveness policy, and they said that those three cake designers were expressing their own message if they had to design that cake. In Mr. Phillips’s case, they said it wasn’t his message, that it was simply compliance with the law. In the other case, they said that the cake designers, because they served Christian customers in other contexts, that that was evidence it was a distinction based on the message, but in Mr. Phillips’s case, they ruled the opposite way. Professor Laycock’s brief provides a good analysis of that as well. It was filed in this case.

Second, the Compelled Speech Doctrine and the Free Exercise Clause is anchored in the concept of dignity and speaker autonomy. And in this case dignity cuts both ways. The record is clear on that. Demeaning Mr. Phillips’ honorable and decent religious beliefs about marriage, when he has served everyone and has a history of declining all kinds of cakes unaffiliated with sexual orientation because of the message, he should receive protection here as well. This law protects the lesbian graphic designer who doesn’t want to design for the Westboro Baptist Church, as much as it protects Mr. Phillips.

Lastly, political, religious, and moral opinions shift. We know that. And this Court’s dedication to Compelled Speech Doctrine and to free exercise should not shift.

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: Counsel, the problem is that America’s reaction to mixed marriages and to race didn’t change on its own. It changed because we had public accommodation laws that forced people to do things that many claimed were against their expressive rights and against their religious rights. It’s not denigrating someone by saying, as I mentioned earlier, to say: If you choose to participate in our community in a public way, your choice, you can choose to sell cakes or not. You can choose to sell cupcakes or not, whatever it is you choose to sell, you have to sell it to everyone who knocks on your door, if you open your door to everyone.

MS. WAGGONER: Justice Sotomayor, I think that the gravest offense to the First Amendment would be to compel a person who believes that marriage is sacred, to give voice to a different view of marriage and require them to celebrate that marriage.

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: Then don’t participate in weddings, or create a cake that is neutral, but you don’t have to take and offer goods to the public and choose not to sell to some because of a protected characteristic. That’s what the public anti-discrimination laws require.

MS. WAGGONER: A wedding cake expresses an inherent message that is that the union is a marriage and is to be celebrated, and that message violates Mr. Phillips’s religious convictions.

Again, all eyes were on Justice Kennedy, the likely swing-vote in this case, to see what the pivotal issue in the case was for him.  The ‘Compelled Speech” argument, Phillips’ strongest argument in this case, may not have been the issue that resonated strongest with Kennedy. Instead, it may have been the outright, targeted hostility to religion by the state of Colorado. As he commented:  The state “has been neither tolerant nor respectful of baker’s religious faith.”

Yet he focused on what might happen if artisans had the freedom not to create products for same-sex weddings. Could there be a virtual boycott of such weddings?

We all think that the Supreme Court, by a 5-4 decision (depending which side Justice Kennedy falls down on) will hand down an opinion either supporting Phillips and Free Speech (and furthering the right of Christians to live according to their beliefs) or supporting Craig and Mullins and the unfettered right of homosexuals not to be discriminated against in public accommodations. But Justice Kennedy’s concerns about the hostility towards Phillips and his religion by the state of Colorado just may leave open the possibility that the Supreme Court could return the case to the commission for a rehearing before an unbiased panel. That prospect actually seemed to intrigue Chief Justice Roberts.

We shall see. I personally don’t believe Phillips will lose this case.

The Alliance Defending Freedom seems confident that the decision will be in Phillips’ favor. Representatives of the ADF met in person with us about an hour after oral arguments and said they were reading through the newsfeed and most attorneys, from both sides, were giving the edge to Phillips.

PHILLIPS CASE (Before the Supreme Court, Dec. 5, 2017) - Jack Phillips leaving the building after oral arguments ended (#5)

V.  WHAT THIS CASE IS ABOUT

David Mullins explains the case this way: “This case isn’t about Jack Phillips and it isn’t about us. It’s about the principle that gay people should be able to receive equal service at businesses open to the public. They shouldn’t have to look for another baker, like we did. The point of this case is that with this law we have in Colorado it is illegal to discriminate against and provide unequal service to gays in public accommodations.” (The Denver Post, Aug. 14, 2017)

Charlie Craig and David Mullins, the ACLU, and indeed, the entire LGBT community would have us believe this is a simple case of discrimination…. The same denial of services that African-Americans endured during the Jim Crow and Civil Rights era.

But this case is much more than that. As Kennedy pointed out during oral arguments: “It’s too facile.”  If it were simply a case of outright discrimination, the case would simply revolve around the words and the legislative intent of the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act.

Individuals are far more than the sum of their actions; they are the product of their conscience. Conduct can be compelled, conformed, but only to a certain extent. To go beyond would be to compel thought and speech in order to conform them as well.

This case is about the security and vitality of the First Amendment to recognize the right of an individual to exercise his or her religious beliefs and his right to express deeply-held views even when that individual leaves his or her home and church and ventures into the marketplace of goods and services, while also recognizing the equally important right of an individual not to be discriminated against based on an immutable or inherent characteristic such as skin color, disability, or biological gender.  No respectable religion would teach its followers to hate based merely on characteristics the good Lord assigned at birth.

This case asks whether we still have the right to live according to our conscience and not be compelled into conduct or speech and expression that violates it.

To repeat myself once more, the case revolves around a man named Jack Phillips. Jack is a very devout Christian. And he is a baker. He makes and decorates cakes, as long as they don’t offend his core beliefs and conflict with his conscience. He has a simple rule: he’ll sell anyone a cake. Gay, straight, transgender, green. Anyone. But he won’t make a custom cake for every event – such as for Halloween (a pagan holiday), celebrating divorce (he doesn’t believe in divorce), having an adult theme (as for bachelor parties), having an anti-American message, celebrating atheism, or intentionally discriminating (such as baking a cake condemning same-sex marriage).  The cakes he takes particular pride in are his wedding cakes. He doesn’t simple bake and decorate a wedding cake; he “creates” them. To him, they celebrate one of God’s most holiest of ceremonies – the joining of a man and a woman in holy matrimony.  As a religious Christian, he sees it as sinful participation, on his part, to make a custom cake celebrating a same-sex wedding.  He’ll sell a same-sex couple a pre-made cake, cookies, or any other product in his store. He’ll bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, but he won’t decorate it as such (no groom-groom wedding toppers, for example). Craig and Mullins wanted a 7-layer cake, in the colors of the rainbow, to symbolize their gay pride. The cake that they envisioned for their reception would be one that made a statement. The couple wasn’t just looking to celebrate their marriage as a union between themselves as individuals; more specifically and to the point, they wanted to celebrate that they married as two homosexual men. In other words, the cake, through its design, conveyed and expressed a very specific message.

Jack Phillips believes it is his Constitutional right to conduct himself, even in his trade, in accordance with the exercise of his religious beliefs. But the Leftists at the Colorado Civil Rights Commission didn’t think so. They don’t believe anyone engaged in business has the right to “hide behind their religion” and not serve customers in an equal manner.

According to the LGBT left, the case isn’t about religious liberty or the rights of conscience. They sum the case up in this way: What Phillips wants is for the law to weight his personal beliefs about a person’s intrinsic identity above that person’s right to access a business. As Sarah Jones wrote in New Republic: “Wedding vendors don’t run ministries. They run businesses that are open to the public. And while business owners do have some legal flexibility over who they do or do not serve, this isn’t a matter of no shoes, no shirt, no service. The action Jack Phillips wants to take is morally equivalent to rejecting a customer because they’re blind or female or black.”

But that argument is exceptionally misleading. The truth is that businesses aren’t really open to the public and they certainly don’t hire without discrimination. Bruce Springsteen, the Dixie Chicks, and other musicians and bands are in the business of providing musical entertainment. Yet they refuse to perform for audiences with whom they disagree with. Bruce Springsteen cancelled a concert in Greensboro, North Carolina, because he had a fundamental disagreement with a law enacted by the state’s legislature – HB2 (the Transgender, or “anti-Transgender,” Bathroom Bill) and he has refused to allow his music to be used by Republican politicians. Famous fashion designers refused to design clothes for Melanie Trump because of opposition to her husband’s administration. Jack Phillips didn’t and doesn’t discriminate based on any immutable characteristics such as skin color, gender, or physical disability and so Jones’ analogy is just liberal nonsense. He politely refuses service when he is asked to design and decorate a cake that makes a statement that is offensive to the core religious beliefs that define his faith. Faith is certainly much more than what an individual does on a Sunday or professes in his prayers. Faith is what provides the foundation for the way one thinks and how one conducts himself in every aspect of life.

In an op-ed that he wrote for USA Today, Phillips explained why he couldn’t bake a wedding cake for same-sex couples:

“What I didn’t say was that I wouldn’t sell them a cake. I’m happy to sell a cake to anyone, whatever his or her sexual identity. People should be free to make their own moral choices. I don’t have to agree with them. But I am responsible for my own choices. And it was that responsibility that led me to decline when two gentlemen came into my shop and invited me to create a wedding cake for their same-sex ceremony. Designing a wedding cake is a very different thing from, say, baking a brownie. When people commission such a cake, they’re requesting something that’s designed to express something about the event and about the couple. What I design is not just a tower of flour and sugar, but a message tailored to a specific couple and a specific event — a message telling all who see it that this event is a wedding and that it is an occasion for celebration. In this case, I couldn’t. What a cake celebrating this event would communicate was a message that contradicts my deepest religious convictions, and as an artist, that’s just not something I’m able to do, so I politely declined.

But this wasn’t just a business decision. More than anything else, it was a reflection of my commitment to my faith. My religious convictions on this are grounded in the biblical teaching that God designed marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Obviously, not everyone shares those convictions. I don’t expect them to. Each of us makes our own choices; each of us decides how closely we will hold to, defend and live out those choices.

The two men who came into my shop that day were living out their beliefs. All I did was attempt to live out mine. I respect their right to choose and hoped they would respect mine. But they did not. And, considering all of the hate mail, obscene calls and death threats my family has received since I was sued, a lot of other people don’t see tolerance as a two-way street, either.

But the Constitution does. The First Amendment defends my right to create custom cake art that is consistent with my faith, while declining requests that ask me to celebrate events or messages that conflict with my faith. As a cake artist, I can live out my faith in my day-to-day life, and make that faith the basis for my creative decisions.

We live in a big, diverse nation. We don’t all have to agree on religion. We don’t have to agree on questions of sexual morality. We don’t even have to agree on the meaning of marriage. What we should be able to agree on is our mutual freedom, as Americans, to live out the ideals that are most important to us. Just as I shouldn’t be able to use the law to force others to design something that promotes my beliefs, others shouldn’t be able to force me to design a cake that celebrates theirs.

That, for me and those at Alliance Defending Freedom who are defending me, is what this case is about. I hope the U.S. Supreme Court affirms that basic freedom. And if those who oppose me would grant me a certain measure of respect — not as someone they agree with, but as a fellow citizen free to stand by my own moral choices, well … that would be icing on the cake.

[Reference:  Jack Phillips, “Here’s Why I Can’t Custom-Design Cakes for Same-Sex Weddings”]

This case is about that slippery slope whereby the very justices who sit on the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, who hold the security of our essential and fundamental freedoms and liberties in their hands but who fail to appreciate the reason for those freedoms and liberties (as we had seen by the 5-4 decisions in the 2008 and 2009 Second Amendment cases of Heller and McDonald, respectively; the four liberal justices refused to recognize the original and historic meaning of the Second Amendment, the most critical of our rights to maintain our liberty) and who fail to even comprehend that people still live their lives completely in accordance to the dictates of their faith. How can religious freedom remain secure when half the Court believes that people “hide behind their faith” to break laws or that faith is merely a pre-text for their otherwise non-conforming conduct. How can religious freedom remain secure when half the Court believes that it is mere lip service when a person claims to have “deeply-held religious beliefs”?  And how can religious freedom remain secure when half the Court believes that religion is an obstacle to social progress and therefore can, and should, be minimized?

The LGBT community and Liberal justices ask the question “Should we allow business owners like Jack Phillips to discriminate by hiding behind his religion” because they themselves don’t know what it is like to have a deeply-held faith, to believe that that faith requires a person to conduct his or her life according to its dictates at all times, at home, in church, in school, in the public arena, and yes, in the workplace, and to suffer in their conscience when they are forced to act against their religious beliefs. To ask such a question or make such a statement evidences a general lack of understanding of what it means to have a strong faith.  And this in and of itself is a very sad state of where our country is.

VI.  PRACTICAL LOOK AT THE CASE

Jack Phillips made it clear from the outset that he, as the owner and the wedding cake designer for Masterpiece Cakeshop, does not discriminate based on the sexual orientation of a prospective customer. He will knowingly, willingly, and happily sell his products to any person, including any gay or lesbian person or couple, who wishes to purchase his baked goods. Nevertheless, Craig and Mullins, without any tolerance for a man who politely and kindly explained his religious beliefs or appreciation for the position he was in, and having already having found a suitable replacement baker and obtaining the very cake they desired, filed a discrimination claim under the CADA and then went to the ACLU to file suit against Phillips.

On December 6, 2012, administrative law Judge Robert N. Spencer handed down his decision: “The undisputed facts show that Respondents [Masterpiece Cakeshop] discriminated against Complainants [Craig and Mullins] because of their sexual orientation by refusing to sell them a wedding cake for their same-sex marriage, in violation of 24-34-601(2), C.R.S.” [ie, the pertinent section of the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, as codified in the Colorado Revised Statutes, or CRS.]  As punishment, he and his employees (his family members) were required to do several things, as explained earlier, including being trained on how to conform with the CADA.

Thus, if Phillips wished to continue baking custom cakes in the State of Colorado, under penalty of fines and, potentially, jail:

  • He was forced to participate in an event that the Colorado constitution explicitly prohibited (at the time).
  • He was required do so against deeply held religious convictions.
  • He must do so despite the fact that there are hundreds of other cake makers in the Denver area. (“Nothing says ‘my beliefs are being violated’ like going out of your way to violate the beliefs of others.” (twitter: @Education4Libs)
  • He was required to train his family (his employees) on anti-discrimination law and practice, which included instructing his Christian family that their religious liberties, rights of conscience, and right to free expression must give way to the demands of the state legislature (As Justice Kennedy said: “He has to tell them that a state anti-discrimination law overrode their religious beliefs”)

Craig and Mullins believe Phillips should have no rights whatsoever to religion or conscience or speech once he opens his door for business, and their ACLU lawyer, David Cole, made the analogy to African-Americans during the Jim Crow and Civil Rights era a big part of their discrimination case, as it does in all cases of discrimination (including the Obergefell case). As Cole asked the justices of the Supreme Court: “What if, for example, someone’s religious principles prohibited interracial marriages? Should that individual be allowed to deny services to an interracial wedding?

Every decent human being, of course, would answer: “Of course not!”  That would be a no-brainer, and should be a no-brainer for the Court.

Here’s why the ACLU’s argument is frivolous and not a legitimate one in this particular case:

  1. No religion practiced in America — indeed, no world religion — has ever banned interracial marriage. That some American Christians opposed interracial marriage is of no consequence. No one assumes that every position held by any member of a religion means that the religion holds that position.
  2. If opposition to same-sex marriage is not a legitimately held religious conviction, there is no such thing as a legitimately held religious position. Unlike opposition to interracial marriage, opposition to same-sex marriage has been the position of every religion in recorded history — as well as of every country and every American state until the 21st century.
  3. The Colorado baker made it clear to the gay couple — as acknowledged by the court — that he would be happy to bake and sell cakes to the homosexual couple any other time they wanted. Therefore, he is not discriminating against people based on their sexual orientation. He readily sells to people he knows to be homosexual. What he is unwilling to do is to participate in an event that he opposes for deeply-held and legitimate religious reasons. These fundamental religious beliefs, by the way, are nothing new and certainly not a surprise to the homosexual community. They have been at the core of almost every organized religion since the earliest days of human communities. Until, at the most, ten years ago, no one would have imagined that a person could be forced to provide goods or services for a same-sex wedding.
  4. If a baker refused on religious grounds to provide the wedding cake for a polygamous wedding, should the state force him to do so? If a baker refused to provide a cake to an atheist couple celebrating an abortion, should the state force him to do so?

As Dennis Prager commented: “In the name of tolerance, the left is eroding liberty in America.”

VII.  ADDITIONAL ISSUES

In discussing the case with friends and former students, and even strangers I happened to talk to as we were leaving the Supreme Court building, several questions were asked. I took note of some of them, and I thought I would include them as a way to start finishing up this article, with an attempt at answer.

QUESTION:  What did Chief Justice John Roberts likely mean, in the context of the case, when during oral arguments he said: “When the Court upheld same-sex marriage in Obergefell, it went out of its way to talk about ‘the decent and honorable people who may have opposing views’”?

ANSWER:  It could mean one of two things, at least.  First, he could have brought that language up simply to make the point that the decision not to bake a custom cake to celebrate the marriage of the same-sex couple was not discrimination on “identity” (discrimination against Craig and Mullins as homosexuals) but merely the reaction of a “good and decent person” who “opposes same-sex marriage as a tenet of faith.” (which were his words in the Obergefell, dissenting opinion). The majority opinion, after all, does recognize the rights of believers: “Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.”

Second, it could indicate that his opinion is that a religious exemption should be made for Phillips and those like him with respect to the CADA (and other state anti-discrimination laws) because of what the Obergefell opinion recognized with respect to the divine precepts of religion and that decent and honorable people firmly adhere to such teachings. Phillips should not be compelled to speak or express a viewpoint that conflicts with his religious beliefs.

During oral arguments, Justice Kennedy said: “Tolerance is essential in a free society. And tolerance is most meaningful when it’s mutual. It seems to me that the state in its position here has been neither tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips’s religious beliefs.”  Tying together this statement with the comments in the Obergefell case about “the decent and honorable people who may have opposing views” (that is, believing that marriage is between a man and a woman), it may be that Kennedy holds a deeply-held belief that a tolerant society must leave room for good-faith dissent based on religious principles, especially when religious liberty is expressly protected and encouraged in our Bill of Rights. It may signal that Kennedy may side with the conservative justices.

QUESTION:  What harm would likely come from allowing a baker like Jack Phillips (and Masterpiece Cakeshop) to decline to bake custom wedding cakes for same-sex couples. That is, what harm in the marketplace would likely result should Phillips be permitted a religious exemption from Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Law (CADA)?

ANSWER:  There are well over 100 bakeries in the Denver area. The likelihood that any harm will result to same-sex couples in their search for a wedding cake is very little to none at all. The solution to allow Phillips the exemption under the CADA is logical, would allow the law to meet a “Strict Scrutiny” standard of review (for constitutionality), and is in line with what the Colorado Civil Rights Commission is already doing – carving out certain exemptions. It is also the solution that honors another fundamental principle upon which our country was founded – a free market economy.  Allowing Phillips and others similarly-situated to step out of the marketplace with respect to certain goods and services creates a market opportunity for another vendor. Let the marketplace – the free market – play out!  And it will!

QUESTION:   Wondering what would have happened if the cake maker had simply said he was booked up solid and wouldn’t be able to get it made. End of story. Find another bakery shop. Why such a big fuss?

Being in the welding business for 30 years I have seen jobs I didn’t want to do and didn’t!  You can’t force me to do a job I don’t want to do nor should a baker be made to make a cake he doesn’t want to make. This whole mess makes no sense to me.

ANSWER:   Then laws would remain in place that target those with deeply-held religious beliefs for discrimination but allow exceptions for other groups to decline services (to discriminate) based on their deeply-held views.  At some point, there would be another Phillip.  Same law; different Christian.

QUESTION:  When the couple found another good baker to make their cake the very next day, why didn’t they just drop it? Why did they go ahead and file suit? Why did they insist on having Masterpiece Cakeshop driven out of business by the state of Colorado? And why did they have members of their community flood Phillips and his family with death threats?! When he lost his cake business, neither he nor his family, or supporters, made death threats on the gay couple?

ANSWER:  One view of the case, as some people see it, is that Jack Phillips discriminated against gay/lesbian couples and no one should be made to feel less than dignified. As Justice Kagan pointed out during oral arguments: “LGBT people have been humiliated, disrespected, and treated uncivilly.”  In this era where gays and lesbians are rapidly seeking equality rights, challenging Phillips’ decision not to bake a custom cake for them on religious grounds would seem like another step forward in trying to establish total equality and in removing obstacles that might stand in the way. Religion, of course, always stands in the way of progressive and unnatural social change.  Of course, what the couple refuses to acknowledge is that Jack had a religious foundation for that discrimination.  And what the couple also refuses to acknowledge is that when Jack explained his position and politely referred them to another excellent baker, they chose to persecute him in court and in his business rather than show tolerance for his wish to honor his religion.

The other view of the case is that the couple is intolerant of Christians. Rather than respect the dictates of his conscience (they are, after all, fully aware of the Biblical teachings on homosexuality), they chose to punish him for it. Unlike Phillips, they showed intolerance without any religious belief system (free exercise). They were simply motivated by the notion that they shouldn’t have been discriminated against. (By the way, the couple filed their discrimination claim against Phillips even before Colorado recognized same-sex marriage, so the question is; What did he actually discriminate against, legally?). I’m not taking one side over the other in this post. I’m merely pointing out what both sides see. But I do notice, by the nature of some of the questions that I’m getting, that the right of conscience (perhaps the most important of our God-Given rights and the one most valued by our founding generations) is apparently the one most under-appreciated and the one most willing to surrender.

QUESTION:  Is it legitimate to compare the plight to overcome same-sex discrimination to the plight to overcome racial discrimination?

ANSWER:  Over-coming same-sex discrimination is not the same as the black Civil rights movement, and the conservative justices acknowledged that. Discrimination on the basis of a dark skin color is discrimination based on a stereotype that arose hundreds of years ago and was continued in this country through its years of slavery and into the Reconstruction era. The discrimination that continued into the Jim Crow era and into the Civil Rights era was the worst kind of discrimination because the malicious and demeaning treatment of persons of the African race was based no longer on the stereotype but rather on the color of their skin, a biological feature that they happened to be born with and were incapable of changing. It’s like treating a midget like less of a dignified human being even though he or she had no control of the defect that resulted in the shorter statute. But the difference between the plight of African-Americans and homosexuals is that since the beginning of organized religion (5000 – 6000 years ago, going back to the laws handed down from God in the Old Testament), the God who created us has taught directly, through scripture, that only a man and a woman can marry and become joined as one. Anyone who has an unshakable and deep faith understands that he or she cannot cherry pick the laws handed down by God. One can’t look at the Ten Commandments and conclude that God only really commands us not to kill. A woman can’t accept the Commandment that says Thou Shalt Not Kill but then rationalize that it is OK to terminate the 4-month-old fetus growing inside her. For those who genuinely, deeply, unquestionably believe God handed down his laws and his rules in order to guide his people to a righteous life and to righteous communities, they believe lock, stock, and barrel in what God commanded through His prophets. And so, Justice Kennedy was genuine and reflective of the American people and the American experience when he wrote in Obergefell that belief in marriage as the union of husband and wife is held “in good faith by reasonable and sincere people here and throughout the world.”  But there has been no religious tenet that taught people here in the United States to hate and demean African-Americans. Society did that. Keeping old stereotypes alive did that.  And so, the plight to over-come same-sex discrimination cannot be equated to the black Civil rights movement because there will always be those who, in good faith, and because of a sincere belief in religious doctrines, cannot accept same-sex marriages. It does not mean that they think any less of the individual, the homosexual or the lesbian, or don’t believe they should be treated fairly and with dignity; it just means that when it comes to the institution of marriage (maybe even the term “marriage”), they have a deeply-held view as to which kind are truly legitimate.

QUESTION:  Why didn’t Jack Phillips just bake the cake in order to spare his bakery and his fellow employees?

ANSWER:  Phillips explains: “It has nothing to do with David and Charlie, it has everything to do with my faith in Jesus Christ and my following the teachings of the Bible….  I have been asked if I honestly hold those convictions, which I do. I have been asked if my actions, my position, really reflect a Christian approach to life?  In situations, I ask myself: ‘What would Jesus do?’  If Jesus were faced with the same situation, this was my answer: ‘Jesus was a carpenter.  I believe he wouldn’t have made a bed for their wedding. He would have never condoned something that he was against. He wouldn’t have acted in direct contradiction to the Bible’s teachings while at the same time instructing others to follow those teachings. But I believe he would have been kind and loving to them just the same.”

QUESTION:  Why didn’t Craig and Mullins just go to a bakery that wants the business of the LGBT community?

ANSWER:  The answer should be that they shouldn’t have to research to find a such a bakery. And again, they shouldn’t have to suffer the indignation of being refused service. But two groups of individuals, the homosexual couple looking to celebrate their same-sex marriage and the Christian, looking to adhere to the religious tenets that bind him to his God and his religion, have competing interests and each has rights. As General Francisco, counsel for the United States, commented during oral arguments: “I agree that there are dignity interests at stake here, and I would not minimize the dignity interests to Mr. Craig and Mr. Mullins one bit, but there are dignity interests on the other side here too.” And as Justice Kennedy said: “Tolerance is most meaningful when it’s mutual.” Neither tolerance nor respect was shown when it came to Jack Phillips’ religious beliefs yet Phillips was expected to show tolerance for a same-sex wedding celebration that conflicts in a very real way with his religious beliefs, just because the same-sex couple happens to be mentioned in a statute and identified as a protected class of patrons.

Mullins and Craig have endured the initial pain and humiliation of being turned away, of being discriminated against, while Phillips has lost most of his livelihood because of religious persecution. He lost 40% of his income by not being able to provide wedding cakes. As Craig explains: “I don’t feel like we asked him for a piece of art,” yet that is exactly what they asked for. Art doesn’t necessarily take the form of a Rodin or a Michelangelo.  A rainbow-layered cake with two men on top is an expressive work of cake art that conveys the specific message that they are celebrating their marriage not only as two men but also celebrating their pride in being gay.

VIII.  A DIFFERENT VIEW OF THE CASE

Respected author and distinguished fellow with The Heritage Foundation, Ryan T. Anderson, believes this case should have never ended up at the Supreme Court. He believes that course could have easily been avoided. Of course, we can assume that the LGBT community and the LGBT lobby WANTED the case to be heard as a discrimination case.

The question he asks is whether the Colorado Civil Rights Commission improperly, or recklessly, interpreted the law.

In his article, “The Christian Baker Need Not Have Ended Up at the Supreme Court,” Anderson asserts that not all disagreements over marriage are “discrimination” in the legal sense and require a legal remedy. He believes this to be an accurate statement based on, of all things, the Obergefell v. Hodges opinion.

       “Phillips argued that making him create a cake that celebrates a same-sex wedding would violate his First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of religion, by forcing him to express a message and to celebrate an event, that runs against his beliefs. If the Court agrees, it will bar Colorado and other states from applying antidiscrimination statutes in such a way.

        But Colorado should never have applied its statute this way to begin with. Indeed, states can avoid First Amendment showdowns by refusing to view support for traditional marriage as ‘discrimination.’

        Part of the problem is that Colorado misunderstood the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015). Colorado claims that the Court held “opposition to same-sex marriage” to be “tantamount to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”  In fact, as Chief Justice John Roberts pointed out during the Masterpiece oral arguments, the Court in Obergefell noted that belief in marriage as the union of husband and wife is held ‘in good faith by reasonable and sincere people here and throughout the world.’ The Court stated in its majority opinion that ‘many who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises, and neither they nor their beliefs are disparaged here.’”

Anderson argues that since the Supreme Court would not disparage well-meaning people who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong based on honorable religious and philosophical grounds, the state of Colorado (and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission) should not have either.

Anderson continues:

      “Sexual-orientation antidiscrimination laws should serve as shields, not swords. They are meant to shield people from unjust discrimination that might prevent them from flourishing in society. They aren’t supposed to be swords used to punish people for acting on their reasonable beliefs.

       You can see this when considering the history of Colorado’s law. Within a two-year span, Colorado citizens voted to define marriage as the union of husband and wife and to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. Many other states, too, simultaneously enacted sexual-orientation nondiscrimination policies while insisting that the traditional understanding of marriage is not discriminatory.”

Justice Samuel Alito pointed to this reality during oral arguments. As pointed out earlier, at the time that Jack Phillips declined to bake a same-sex wedding cake, Colorado wouldn’t issue same-sex marriage licenses (let alone even recognize one already issued somewhere else. [Couldn’t the state of Colorado itself have been guilty under the anti-discrimination statute of discrimination?]  Let the situation that existed back in July 2012 in Colorado sink in……  A same-sex couple did not have the right to get married in Colorado or have a marriage issued elsewhere recognized in the state. And that’s exactly what the reality was for Charlie Craig and David Mullins. Although residents of Colorado, they could not get married there so they went to Massachusetts. When they returned home to celebrate with family and friends, they were still unable to have their marriage recognized. Yet when they walked in the Masterpiece Cakeshop, all of a sudden, they expected that its owner, a resident and businessman in Colorado, should recognize their relationship as a marriage?  How are state citizens expected to recognize a marriage that the State itself refuses to legally recognize?  When Phillips, the baker said he would not bake a cake recognizing same-sex marriage, he may have done so based on his religious beliefs but he could have easily done so based on the law articulated in the state’s constitution. But because he gave the first reason, Colorado condemned him for discrimination and the couple sued.  Justice Alito found the situation hard to make sense of.  As he commented: “So if Craig and Mullins had gone to a state office and said we want a marriage license, they would not have been accommodated….   And yet when he goes to this bake shop and he says I want a wedding cake, and the baker says, ‘No, I won’t do it,’ in part because same-sex marriage was not allowed in Colorado at the time, he’s created a grave wrong.  How does that all that fit together?”

Colorado didn’t have to declare Phillips to be guilty of discrimination and should not have done so.

Anderson explains:

      “We apply other anti-discrimination statutes in a more fair and nuanced way. Bans on religion-based discrimination are not used to force secular organizations to violate their beliefs. Religious antidiscrimination policies have not been used, for example, to force Planned Parenthood to hire pro-life Catholics. And the state of Colorado said it wasn’t religious discrimination when three different bakeries refused to bake cakes with religious anti-gay messages. Religion antidiscrimination laws simply do not seek to impose religious orthodoxy on the country.

       But sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) antidiscrimination policies are used to impose sexual orthodoxy (conformity). They’re used to try to force Catholic schools to employ people who undermine their sexual values and to coerce Evangelical bakers to lend their artistic talents to messages about marriage with which they disagree. SOGI laws are used to punish people of good will who simply seek the freedom to lead their lives in accordance with their beliefs about human sexuality.”

During oral arguments, swing-Justice Anthony Kennedy appeared to reject the ACLU’s key argument that “opposition to same-sex marriage is discrimination against people who identify as gay.” He understood Phillips’ position. He understood that Phillips genuinely has no animus against gay people; He just doesn’t believe they can be united in marriage because of the core tenets of his faith. “It’s not their identity,” Kennedy explained to his fellow justices. “It’s what they’re doing.”

       “United States has reached compromises on similarly difficult moral and cultural issues before. Following Roe v. Wade, Americans refused to use sex antidiscrimination law as a sword to punish pro-lifers. In 1993, in Bray v. Alexandria Women’s Health Clinic, the Supreme Court resolutely rejected the argument that pro-lifers are inherently discriminatory: ‘Whatever one thinks of abortion, it cannot be denied that there are common and respectable reasons for opposing it, other than hatred of, or condescension toward (or indeed any view at all concerning), women.”

The same is true when it comes to marriage as the union of husband and wife: There are common and respectable reasons for supporting it that have nothing to do with hatred or condescension. But this is not true when it comes to opposition to interracial marriage — and this is where the analogies to racism break down. When the Supreme Court struck down bans on interracial marriage, it did NOT say that opposition to interracial marriage was based on ‘decent and honorable premises’ and held ‘in good faith by reasonable and sincere people here and throughout the world.’ It did not say it, because it could not say it.

Opposition to interracial marriage is discrimination based on the identity of the individual, on the immutable characteristic of race and skin color.  It was intellectual and judicial dishonesty to agree with the petitioners (gay couple, Jim Obergefell and John Arthur, and other same-sex couples) in the Obergefell case that their plight for marriage equality was akin to those seeking the right to marry as an inter-racial couple.

        “Opposition to interracial marriage developed as one aspect of a larger system of racism and white supremacy, as part of an effort to hold a race of people in a condition of economic and political inferiority and servitude. It was based on the idea that contact with African Americans on an equal plane is wrong.

        That idea, and its premise of the supposed inferiority of African Americans, is the essence of bigotry. Bakers who declined to bake cakes for interracial weddings also declined to treat African Americans equally in a host of circumstances. Racists did not simply object to interracial marriage; they objected to contact with African Americans on an equal footing.

         By contrast, marriage as the union of husband and wife has been a universal human practice until just recently, regardless of views about sexual orientation. This vision of marriage is based on the capacity that a man and a woman possess to unite as one-flesh, create new life, and unite that new life with both a mother and a father. Whether ultimately sound or not, this view of marriage is reasonable, based on decent and honorable premises, and disparaging of no one.

        A lack of disparagement also explains why bakers like Jack Phillips have been serving gay customers faithfully for years.

        Sparing people such as Phillips from the sword does not undermine the valid purposes of antidiscrimination law — eliminating the public effects of anti-gay bigotry — because support for conjugal marriage isn’t anti-gay. Protecting freedom here sends no message about the supposed inferiority of those identifying as gay; it sends no message about sexual orientation at all.  It does say that citizens who support the historic understanding of sex and marriage are not bigots. It ensures their equal social status and opportunities. It protects their businesses, livelihoods, and professional vocations. And it benefits the rest of society by allowing these citizens to continue offering their services, especially social services, charities, and schools.”

During oral arguments, Chief Justice Roberts asked the solicitor general of Colorado how the state would apply its antidiscrimination law to the particular case of a pro-bono Catholic legal organization serving the poor.  He asked what its fate would be under the law if it withheld services for same-sex couples that they would provide for husbands and wives.  “So Catholic Legal Services would be put to the choice of either not providing any pro-bono legal services or providing those services in connection with the same-sex marriage?” The Solicitor General replied: “I think the answer is yes, your honor.”

Anderson concluded in his article with these thoughts:

        “Catholic Legal Services, Catholic Charities, Catholic adoption agencies — and the faith-based social services of any religion that believes we are created male and female, and that male and female are created for each other — are at stake. A line of questioning on the comparisons to interracial marriage brought up the case of Bob Jones University, a school that lost its nonprofit tax status because it prohibited interracial dating and marriage. But do we really want to live in a country where acting on a belief about marriage that people have held throughout all of recorded history — that it’s a union of male and female — is treated as the functional and legal equivalent of racism?

        All of us should work to prevent such an outcome. Which is why Phillips need not have ended up in court. We must refuse to use antidiscrimination laws as swords to impose sexual orthodoxy on the nation. As Americans continue to disagree about sex, we must refuse to weaponize the redefinition of marriage. Even Justice Kennedy seemed alert to this this in oral arguments for Masterpiece. ‘Tolerance is essential in a free society,’ he said. But, he continued, ‘It seems to me that the state in its position here has neither been tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips’s religious beliefs.’

        Anti-gay bigotry exists and should be condemned. But support for marriage as the union of husband and wife isn’t anti-gay. Just as we’ve combatted sexism without treating pro-life medicine as sexist, we can combat anti-gay bigotry without treating Orthodox Jews, Roman Catholics, Muslims, Evangelicals, and Latter-day Saints as bigots.

         Not every disagreement is discrimination. And our law shouldn’t say otherwise.”

[Reference:  Ryan T. Anderson, “The Christian Baker Need Not Have Ended Up at the Supreme Court”]

IX.  CONCLUSION

Matt Walsh wrote in a DailyWire article (“The Gay Couple In The Masterpiece Cakeshop Case Are Vindictive Bullies, Not Victims”) on the day of oral arguments:

      The First Amendment is on trial, not Jack Phillips. If Phillips loses, free speech is effectively finished in this country. If a Christian business owner can be forced by the state to create something that goes against his deeply held religious beliefs — beliefs shared by a majority of the world, by the way — then what function does the First Amendment really serve?

      Phillips doesn’t need the First Amendment when he makes a birthday cake. He doesn’t need it when he cooks a batch of brownies. He doesn’t need it when he’s doing innocuous things that no one — not even the LGBT lobby — could possibly find offensive or upsetting. He needs it precisely when he’s faced with the dilemma that Mullins and Craig presented. He needs it when he makes a decision, grounded in his religious convictions, which will be upsetting to a powerful group like the LGBT lobby. If he doesn’t have it then, he doesn’t have it at all.

      If the Supreme Court decides in favor of the gay lobby, what next?  If gays have a mystical right to force their fellow citizens to participate in their gay weddings, where does that right end? I’ll tell you: it doesn’t. If Phillips goes down, the churches will be next. And why not? If we’ve just established that gays are a special and superior class of human beings, and their desire for a cake decorated a particular way now must supersede everyone else’s First Amendment rights, why should the churches be exempt? Indeed, if Phillips doesn’t have the right to withhold his cake, why should the local priest have the right to withhold his church? He doesn’t, in that case. He won’t. Mark my words.

       Phillips is not claiming any special rights. He is simply saying that he, like anyone, is entitled to use his artistic abilities in a way consistent with his personal and religious convictions. He doesn’t want to advance a message he doesn’t believe. It is his fundamental human right — not his Christian right, or his baker’s right, or any other kind of right — to refrain. It is his First Amendment right.

       When First Amendment rights are pitted against LGBT rights, First Amendment rights should always win.

      Mullins and Craig, on the other hand, are saying that a special exception must be made for them, specifically, because they’re gay. Notice how nobody is challenging (for now) Phillips’ right to continue turning down Halloween cakes and divorce cakes and lewd bachelorette party cakes, etc. Mullins and Craig are arguing that their situation is different because they’re gay. Whereas a man’s love for Halloween does not entitle him to special privileges and protections, a man’s sexual attraction to other men does. That’s the argument. It’s deranged, arbitrary, and un-American.

      Let’s be clear about the real victim in this situation. Phillips — the decent, hardworking Christian business owner, who employed members of his community and provided a valuable service — is the victim. He did not seek out this notoriety. He did not want to be at the center of a national controversy. He just wanted to make his cakes and live his life. He was a decent, normal man, living a decent, normal, inconspicuous life. Until Mullins and Craig walked in the door. Their behavior is this case has been truly despicable.

      There were many bakeries they could have chosen. They just so happened to walk into the one bakery run by an openly devout Christian, asking for a flamboyantly decorated cake for their impending gay wedding. Was this just a coincidence? Did these two gay men accidentally stumble into the one bakery in Colorado that would refuse to make their cake?

      Well, if that’s the case, then their response to Phillips can only be described as psychotic. If all they wanted was a cake, and their request was completely innocent, and they truly did not expect to be turned away, then their behavior over the following five years is inexplicable and deranged to an unbelievable extreme. They have, by this version of events, spent half a decade angrily exacting revenge on a man because he didn’t want to put gay-themed decorations on a dessert pastry. They have put their whole life on hold to pursue legal penalties against the guy who politely declined to adorn a cake with a rainbow and two plastic grooms. It’s vengeful and spiteful to an unfathomable degree. These are possibly the pettiest human beings to have ever walked the face of the Earth.

     OR, this was all calculated. They sought out Jack Phillips hoping to get exactly the response he gave them, and then they proceeded to use him as a pawn to advance their political agenda and destroy the rights of Christians in America. They are activists parading themselves around as an aggrieved and innocent married couple. I think this is the more accurate characterization. And it is entirely in keeping with how the gay lobby usually operates.

The LGBT community and the LGBT advocacy Left believes that religious freedom is a true threat to their “so-called” rights and it makes sense that they need to destroy the traditional notion that an individual has the right and the freedom in this country to exercise his or her religious beliefs outside of his or her home or church and even into the public square and marketplace. We all know that tolerance has never operated in both directions in the LGBT community.

Ben Shapiro wrote: “Freedom lives in the spaces where we acknowledge that we have no right to another’s labor or approval.” Freedom also lives in those spaces where we have no right to coerce one’s conscience, to silence one’s speech, or to require viewpoint compulsion. “Tyranny grows when we refuse to acknowledge those spaces.”

Shapiro makes a dire prediction depending on the outcome of this case.  “If Masterpiece Cakeshop goes the wrong way, the country will only grow more polarized. That’s because religious people across America will be compelled to leave states in which anti-religious anti-discrimination regulations are promulgated, and move instead to red states. Red states will grow redder; blue states will grow bluer. The divide throughout the country will grow. And religious observance — and freedom of speech — will continue to wither on the vine.”

If the Court renders an “opinion” that upholds the decisions of the lower courts and requires that Christians refrain from their deeply-held beliefs when it comes to products and services in the marketplace, then we have an America without freedom of speech or the free exercise of religion. Our once precious “Freedom of Religion,” enshrined in the very first guarantee listed in the Bill of Rights, will be whittled away to mean only that individuals have the right to exercise their religion only while confined to their home and to their place of worship — that’s all. And our absolute essential “Right of Free Speech,” the very cornerstone of a free society and the most essential of tools to alert one another to abuses of government, will mean nothing more than speech that the government allows. We all know that if we are compelled by government to violate our conscience, and particularly the religious values that shape our lives and as we understand will further our communion with our Creator, and set us up for life eternal, then we live a life burdened by that conscience. America was founded on the very freedom to prevent that from happening. The Pilgrims and the Puritans settled Massachusetts on that very ideal.

Jack Phillips petitioned the Supreme Court for validation of our nation’s founding principles. He believes that in America, a man like himself has the right to freely practice his religion (Free Exercise), the right to have his conscience shaped by his beliefs (the Right of Conscience), the right to live his life according to the dictates of his conscience, and the right to be free from government-compelled speech (Free Speech). He believes these rights are the cornerstone of our liberties. And he wants the Supreme Court to acknowledge and remind us – all of us – of this. The question is, will the Supreme Court agree with his vision of America.

Matt Walsh wrote: “Jack Phillips is an innocent man fighting for his right to live and work in peace, and in accordance with his faith. May his cause prevail, for his sake and ours.”

- 2018 (new hair styke, March 8, 2018)

 

References:

Ryan T. Anderson, “The Christian Baker Need Not Have Ended Up at the Supreme Court,” National Review, Dec. 7, 2017.  Referenced at:  http://www.nationalreview.com/article/454423/christian-bakers-refuse-bake-gay-wedding-cake-are-not-bigots   [Ryan T. Anderson is the William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow at The Heritage Foundation and the co-author of Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination]

Phillips v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Petition for Certiorari –  http://www.scotusblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/16-111-cert-petition.pdf

Transcript of Oral Arguments, Supreme Court –   https://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/2017/16-111_f314.pdf

Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2584 (2015) –  https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/576/14-556/opinion3.html

Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2584 (2015), dissenting opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts –  https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/576/14-556/dissent4.html

Jack Phillips, “Here’s Why I Can’t Custom-Design Cakes for Same-Sex “Weddings, USA Today, Dec. 4, 2017.  Referenced at:  https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/12/04/supreme-court-masterpiece-why-jack-phillips-wont-custom-design-cakes-same-sex-weddings-column/917631001/

Dennis Prager, “Tolerance Now Means Government-Coerced Celebration,” Real Clear Politics, Dec. 17, 2013.  Referenced at:  https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2013/12/17/tolerance_now_means_government-coerced_celebration__120970.html

Robert Barnes, “The Spurned Gay Couple, the Colorado Baker and the Years Spent Waiting for the Supreme Court,” The Denver Post, Aug. 14, 2017.  Referenced at:  http://www.denverpost.com/2017/08/14/colorado-gay-wedding-cake-case/

Emilie Kao, “4 Highlights from Christian Baker’s Wedding Cake Case at Supreme Court,” The Heritage Foundation, Dec. 6, 2017.  Referenced at:  http://www.heritage.org/religious-liberty/commentary/4-highlights-christian-bakers-wedding-cake-case-supreme-court

Jack Phillips video (In his own words) –  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qssajSYRPGU

Stephen A. Miller and Leigh Ann Benson, “Masterpiece Cakeshop v. CCRC: A Difficult Balance for Justices,” The Legal Intelligencer,” Jan. 11, 2018.  Referenced at:  https://www.law.com/thelegalintelligencer/sites/thelegalintelligencer/2018/01/11/masterpiece-cakeshop-v-ccrv-a-difficult-balance-for-justices/?slreturn=20180123122736

Ben Shapiro, “One Of The Most Important Cases In Recent Supreme Court History Will Be Argued Tomorrow. Here’s What You Need To Know,” DailyWire, Dec. 4, 2017.  Referenced at:  https://www.dailywire.com/news/24267/one-most-important-cases-recent-supreme-court-ben-shapiro

Matt Walsh, “Walsh: The Gay Couple In The Masterpiece Cakeshop Case Are Vindictive Bullies, Not Victims,” DailyWire, Dec. 5, 2018.  Referenced at:  https://www.dailywire.com/news/24333/walsh-gay-couple-masterpiece-cakeshop-case-are-matt-walsh

Adam Liptak, “Justices Sharply Divided in Gay Rights Case,” NY Times, Dec. 5, 2017.  Referenced at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/05/us/politics/supreme-court-same-sex-marriage-cake.html

Speech on College Campuses: Free or Censored?

FREE SPEECH - and Snowflakes (college campus)

by Diane Rufino, February 4, 2018

Parents, take notice. If your children are heading to college, you’ll want to know what crazies they might encounter – and I’m talking about college professors and college administrators !

My daughter is currently in her last year at UNC-Greensboro, arguably a very liberal college. It has a history of suppressing conservative speech while encouraging the most extreme of liberal speech. She is taking a course on how to communicate ethically and they are now talking about the First Amendment and Free Speech. To address that topic, the professor assigned a chapter out of a book to read about “Free Speech on College Campus” which argues that freedom of speech is important but that people want to limit it on campuses to respect the feelings of certain people and certain groups. The assignment is for students to write a paper to articulate their opinion on what position the college should take. She called me last night to talk about the First Amendment. She knew I would enjoy that conservation !!

First of all, as I told my daughter, I believe any course on such a topic should start off by discussing what the First Amendment recognizes, what it means to have the right of “Free Speech,” and why this right is so important in a free society. This alone is a very important civic lesson. She agreed.

We talked for awhile and then she hung up to work on her paper. A short while later, she texted me to review some of the points she made in her paper:

If we limit speech so as not to hurt people’s feelings then it isn’t really “free speech,” is it? And if a college limits it, then it teaches a bad lesson – that it doesn’t respect the First Amendment’s guarantee.. that freedom is not alive and thriving on that campus. There are other bad messages implied in limiting speech on college campuses: A campus that does so doesn’t treat it’s students as mature; it treats them as children. Also, it doesn’t help prepare its students for their place in the real world. Colleges can’t call themselves bastions of learning when they don’t allow students to listen to all opinions, articulate their responses, apply lessons and information they’ve learned, and push the bounds of their viewpoints. A person can never really know deeply they hold an opinion until they hear all other views and are forced to talk about it and defend it. An open forum provides this.

I am so proud of the fact that she “gets it,” and that she isn’t so fragile that she needs the speech that reaches her ears to be limited and those who want to speak to have to self-censor themselves. She is confident in herself, in what she believes, and in her ability to discern that most speech, in fact, is intended for other reasons other than to hurt someone’s feelings. I am proud that she is not a snowflake.

In a country so obsessed with civil liberties, how are even entertaining this absurd notion that speech on college campuses should be limited to protect feelings?

Ben Shapiro and UC-Berkeley Stand Up for Free Speech

BEN SHAPIRO - at UC Berkeley

by Diane Rufino, September 22, 2017

Ben Shapiro and UC-Berkeley took on the enemies of Free Speech and America is grateful !!

When conservative Ben Shapiro spoke at Berkeley in 2016, there was little fanfare. What changed in one year?  Could it be that Donald Trump hadn’t been elected at that time, and in fact, even the thought of him as a serious candidate was laughable. In February, mere weeks after Trump took office (and after the inappropriately- named “Women’s March,” which was clearly a vehement anti-Trump rally, on any and all issues that folks had or have with him), 150 masked individuals, likely some from the group Antifa, descended upon the Berkeley campus ahead of a scheduled Milo Yiannopoulos appearance, causing mayhem and destruction that left six people injured and damage in the six figures. Milo had to be cancelled. At a pro-Donald Trump march in March, 7 people were injured and 10 arrested.  And just last month, about 100 black-clad and masked anarchists (Antifa) circumvented police barricades and attacked at least five people from what was a peaceful protest.

But last week, on September 14, Berkeley college Republicans were finally successful in having Shapiro speak on campus. It cost at least $600,000 for security (half paid by the university), which included over 500 police, it witnessed the usual protesters, and resulted in a few arrests. But all in all, the event was a success. Now, there was a restriction on the event…. the school would only allow the college Republicans to fill the auditorium to half capacity – unlike the restriction on other (liberal) speakers. Perhaps it was a safety precaution?  Hmmm. Anyway, we learned that Freedom isn’t free, and in fact, the cost is not cheap at all.  But no matter the cost, no matter the inconvenience, no matter the vile words and insults, no matter what the threats are, and no matter what the consequences are, Speech must remain free and  available to open ears. Freedom of thought and speech are the cornerstones of our free society and without them, all others are meaningless and without a secure foundation.

For those that don’t want to hear any views other than their own, there are options…  there is cotton for your ears, earplugs, safe-spaces, institutions, libraries (where you can read Hillary’s latest book or Mein Kampf or The Communist Manifesto), or even your own legs and cars. – to take you anywhere else other than where the so-called “offensive speech” is being delivered.  Deny yourself the freedoms that hundreds of years of brave activists sought to protect if you so choose, but keep away from OUR freedom.  We’ve seen what a nation would look like if we should loose our freedom to speak freely, for we’ve seen YOU, and we know that we could nor will never tolerate it.

Thank you Ben Shapiro for your voice, thank you UC-Berkeley college Republicans for not giving up on your mission to bring conservative views to your school, and thank-you UC-Berkeley for your commitment to Free Speech.

[The following is reproduced from PJmedia.com: Tyler O’Neill, “Ben Shapiro Stormed Congress and Blew the Left’s Argument Against Free Speech to Smithereens”]

On July 27, Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro testified about free speech on college campuses before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. In less than five minutes, he dissected and destroyed the Left’s argument against free speech.

“Free speech is under assault because of a three-step argument made by advocates and justifiers of violence,” Shapiro declared in his opening remarks. “The first step is they say that the validity or invalidity of an argument can be judged solely by the ethnic, sexual, racial, or cultural identity of the person making the argument.”

This “intersectionality” argument — that society structurally oppresses people of ethnic, sexual, racial, or cultural identities and therefore only those who have been oppressed can speak about certain issues — is the ground of the “microaggression” culture stifling speech on campuses, the Daily Wire editor argued.

“The second step is they claim that those who say otherwise are engaged in what they call verbal violence,” Sharipo added. “The final step is that they conclude that physical violence is sometimes justified in order to stop such verbal abuse.”

In order to understand how college campuses shut down speech — often but not always conservative speech — Americans must understand the philosophy of “intersectionality.” Shapiro argued that this philosophy dominates college campuses and “a large segment of today’s Democratic Party.”

Intersectionality “suggests that straight white Americans are inherently the beneficiaries of white privilege and therefore cannot speak on certain policies, since they have not experienced what it’s like to be black or hispanic or gay or transgender or a woman.”

This philosophy, Shapiro declared, “ranks the value of a view not based on the logic or merit of the view but on the level of victimization in American society experienced by the person espousing the view.” An LGBT black woman is automatically considered more correct than a straight white male, before any speech exits either of their mouths.

“The next step is obvious: If a straight white male, or anyone else who ranks lower on the victimhood scale, says something contrary to the viewpoint of the higher ranking intersectionality identity, that person has engaged in a microaggression,” the editor declared.

He quoted NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who defined microaggressions as “small actions or word choices that seem on their face to have no malicious intent but that are thought of as a kind of violence nonetheless.” Here’s the key — “You don’t actually have to say anything insulting to microaggress. Somebody merely needs to take offense.” In other words, an offended person who fits the “oppressed” identities of intersectionality has the power to dub any speech from someone “less oppressed” a “microaggression.” This word means not merely an insult. As Shapiro noted, “Microaggressions are the equivalent of physical violence.”

To watch Ben Shapiro’s remarks at UC-Berkeley, go to:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ae4VZTVEFC4

 

References:

Tyler O’Neill, “Ben Shapiro Stormed Congress and Blew the Left’s Argument Against Free Speech to Smithereens,” PJ Media, July 27, 2017.

Ben Shapiro Speaks at UC-Berkeley (Full Speech), September 14, 2017:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ae4VZTVEFC4

Speech Isn’t Free Anymore

SNOWFLAKES - good one

by Diane Rufino, May 20, 2017

George Washington once warned: “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”   Indeed, the first and most essential principle of a free society is allowing its citizens to have a free flow of words in an open forum.

The First Amendment

The First Amendment –  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The first phrase of the amendment controls the language of the entire amendment:  “Congress shall make no law….

Then it explains how Congress cannot regulate five things:

  • Religion (It cannot make a law establishing an official national, government-sanctioned religion, NOR can it pass a law prohibiting the free exercise of one’s religion
  • Speech
  • Press
  • Assembly (peaceful assembly)
  • Petition government

These 5 things are considered essential to individual liberty and to a free society (“Ordered Liberty”)

Now, Liberty is understood by our Founders to be the extent to which one can freely exercise his or her rights – without burdening another’s free exercise in his or her rights.

The Bill of Rights were proposed and sent to the states by the first session of the First Congress, which convened in New York City in March 1789.  The anti-Federalists forced James Madison to provide a Bill of Rights to amend the US Constitution that was drafted at the Philadelphia Convention in 1787 and adopted in 1788 by the requisite number of states – 9 (as per Article VII).  The Bill of Rights (our first 10 amendments to the Constitution) was later ratified on December 15, 1791 and had, as its primary purpose, to provide express limits to government power as it relates to the individual. In fact, the preamble to the Bill of Rights (which everyone should read and memorize) reads:

“In order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of government powers, the Conventions of a number of the States, at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire to add further declaratory and restrictive clauses. Such further restrictions will increase public confidence in the federal government and will best insure the beneficent ends of that institution.”

****  This is why we say that the Bill of Rights doesn’t grant us our rights; it protects them. The federal government is one of limited powers and on top of that, it is prohibited from legislating or otherwise regulating the fundamental rights and civil rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

The purpose of free speech is to encourage individuals to contribute their ideas and opinions to others – to put them out there in the so-called “marketplace of ideas.”

The metaphor “marketplace of ideas” is based on a market economy – on free exchange in the market. In such a market, many products are available and we, as rational (and hopefully, fairly informed and intelligent) consumers, choose freely what we want from among those available after careful comparison and after careful weighing of their relative quality. 

Free Speech makes every person who wishes to convey a thought, an idea, an opinion a competitor in the marketplace of ideas. Each speaker – whether it is vocal, visual, on paper, or on the internet, bids for the minds of men in the market place of ideas.  The true test of the thought or idea or opinion is how strongly it is accepted in that marketplace.

Because the contribution to the marketplace of ideas is considered so important, we don’t want to inhibit peoples’ right to do so. How else are we able to discuss what our government is doing and determine if it is bad or good… Right or wrong?  How else are we able to determine which candidates are best able to serve us in government?  And that’s why we have the First Amendment’s Guarantee of Free Speech and a Free Press.

Not all speech, however, is protected. There are basically 9 categories of speech NOT protected by the First Amendment:

  • Obscenity
  • Fighting words
  • Defamation (including libel and slander) ***
  • Child pornography
  • Perjury ***
  • Blackmail
  • Incitement to imminent lawless action
  • True threats
  • Solicitations to commit crimes
  • Some experts add treason

***  You’ll notice that speech that is not truthful is not protected by the First Amendment. Untruths add nothing to the “marketplace of ideas” that the First Amendment was established to create.  (See Defamation and Perjury)

You may have heard folks on the left claim that “Hate Speech” isn’t protected.  Most notably, you may have heard this in the last month or so by one-time presidential candidate Howard Dean. But this is false. “Hate Speech” may sound like something that isn’t protected by the Constitution but the category doesn’t actually exist – at least in first amendment jurisprudence. It is an amorphous term that means one thing to one person and something else to another person. It is a term that is capable of constantly being enlarged, and in fact, if you look at the growth of the snowflake movement, you can see how easily it is to offend a liberal. How quickly do you think it will take this current group of thin-skinned emotional basket-cases to label speech that insults them as “hate speech”?

To be clear….  You have every right to say mean and hurtful things.

It is no coincidence that Speech is addressed in the first of the amendments to the Constitution. It was deemed to be critical in a free society. Speech is important because with speech and press, we are able to alert our fellow citizens when our rights and civil liberties are under attack. It is our first line of defense when government becomes corrupt and tyrannical.  We exercise the first amendment to criticize and protest government so that we don’t have to exercise the second against it!!

College Campuses and Snowflakes

Years ago, college campuses were popular havens for free speech. Students and speakers could freely express and exchange ideas, even ones that were unpopular. Berkeley was once seen as the home of the Free Speech movement, if you can believe it.

So, what happened?  What happened to Free Speech?

Back in February, Berkeley students covering themselves in black face masks went berserk when conservative commentator Milo Yiannopoulos was set to speak. They caused over $100,000 in damage to the campus and promoted the university to cancel the event.

Last month, Ann Coulter was set to speak there. First she was invited, then uninvited, and then invited again – as long as she could be scheduled on a day when students didn’t have any actual classes on campus. When the school told her they could not assure her safety, even though her safety was at risk, she was forced to cancel her visit.

Berkeley students successfully shut down conservative speech. By violence. By intimidating. By threats.

Nowadays, it is fairly common for college students to shout over and shout down even moderate-leaning speakers. If they don’t like the message or the speaker, they aren’t going to let them speak. This is happening all over the country.  You have to ask yourself why we call these students Progressives, even thought that is the movement to which they belong. They certainly aren’t for the progression of civilized thought and conduct. They are not for the progression of freedom and liberty. Rather, they are for its regression.

Today’s liberal college students require safe spaces, trigger warnings, and days off from class in order to deal with their feelings. Our universities, bastions of liberal thought, have developed these concepts to help students deal with feelings rather than prepare them to deal with facts and articulation. Couple this with the constant smearing of any intellectual or political opponent as “racist” or “bigoted” or “homophobic,” etc, and they are succeeding in producing a generation of closed-minded individuals who are increasingly intolerant.  They are increasingly hostile to the notion of tolerance when it comes to views that are different from theirs. It is if they cannot intellectually or emotionally deal with opposite views. I guess you can say that today’s students are becoming increasingly intolerant of tolerance.

And we all know that the intolerance essentially comes from one side. Imagine if Tucker Carlson shouted down a guest on his show simply because he didn’t agree with the opposing viewpoint or imagine if Dinesh D’Souza refused to answer a question from someone in his audience who disagreed with him. They’d be labeled “hypocrites” and “intolerant.”

Today’s generation – and mainly those on college campuses – are treated like babies…  and that’s because that’s how they act.

We call the young liberal generation a bunch of snowflakes and there is a reason we call them this. “Snowflake” is a term that refers to fragility. These young people have an inflated sense of their self-worth and are therefore offended easily. They are so fragile that when they hear the slightest thing that causes them discomfort or uneasiness or that insults them, they melt. They have a melt-down. They are too easily offended and hence need “safe spaces” to retreat to. In these safe spaces, they are surrounded by those who think exactly like they do. [In the real world, we are told by the government that we have no right to be surrounded by only those who think like ourselves; we must be diversified!]  These young liberals have been coddled probably most of their lives, or at least indoctrinated by their parents or pandered to by society. And now they are ill-equipped intellectually and emotionally to face the real world. They are certainly unable to face life’s challenges (such as the 2016 election) and unable to confront opposing opinions with any amount of dignity.

To see how bad this situation has become, look at how this term “snowflake” has morphed in its definition. Back in May 2016, when Donald Trump was campaigning and all of a sudden it appeared that people all over the country were able to connect with him and were articulating very convincingly why he should be president, the term “snowflake” was defined as “an overly-sensitive person who is incapable of dealing with any opinions that differ from their own.”  It was used mainly in describing a liberal.. a Democrat. It was used to describe those who would show up and protest Trump rallies and do nothing but shout insults. After Trump was elected and the progressive protest-fest ensued, the definition was modified. Now it means “Any entitled millennial progressive tard who runs to her ‘safe space’ to play with stress toys and coloring books’ when triggered by various innocuous microaggressions.”  In other words, it describes a person incapable of dealing with persons who don’t think exactly like they do.

Universities becoming safe havens for snowflakes serves no good purpose, except I suppose for keeping young people blindly indoctrinated. What is being stolen from today’s college students is the ability to learn how to think about complex issues while in an educational setting (a relatively safe, coddling environment) so that they can be equipped to engage with the diverse array of ideas in the real world. And that type of diversity (the diversity of ideas and the diversity of thought) is far more important practically than the type of diversity that colleges love to brag about – the diversity of their student body based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, etc.

An open and robust discussion with a wide array of ideas and opinions is how we expand our knowledge and deepen our understanding. This is how we figure out what we believe in and how strongly we believe it. We don’t strengthen what we believe in by silencing or shaming or defaming those we don’t agree with.

The Right of Free Speech is Almost Absolute –

The right of Speech and Expression is almost absolute. We absolutely have the right to protest…   It’s one of the very reasons for the First Amendment in the first place.  In fact, the standard by which we gauge how strongly we embrace our right of free speech is how well we safeguard and respect people’s right to engage in unpopular speech.  We have the right to use our speech to counter someone else’s speech. What we DON’T have is a right to SILENCE someone else by using violence or intimidation.  We have the right to use Hate Speech, it’s true, but we shouldn’t.  And let me explain why.

When you use violence and intimidation – and even hate speech, it has a “chilling effect” on free speech. It results in self-censorship. People – candidates, politicians, writers, speakers, bloggers, radio and TV personalities – begin to watch what they say and keep their commentary “safe.”  This doesn’t serve the “marketplace of ideas” at all.  We in the conservative community and the Tea Party movement know all too well about self-censorship. We lived in fear for years under President Obama when he was using the IRS to target our “viewpoint” for audits and harassment.

Violence and intimidation quiets a speaker who simply would rather not deal with the threats and the smears and the protests. Where would our country be now if great men and women felt it was best to self-censure?

I think we all need a refresher course on what the First Amendment means and what its purpose is in our Constitution.  The First Amendment is about prohibiting the federal government – the government capable of consolidating and consuming the individual States – from passing any laws that affect free speech. It has absolutely nothing to do with the speech or expression of a private person and whether that speech or expression offends the sensibility of another person or group of people.

If you are offended by someone’s speech – by his or her ideas or opinions, then you have the right to counter with more compelling speech, with better ideas, better opinions, better arguments. That’s what you SHOULD do.  This is what universities should be teaching our students. This is what they should be preparing them for. They shouldn’t be teaching them to be emotional snowflakes and intellectual cowards.

As mentioned earlier, the standard by which we gauge how strongly we embrace our right of free speech is how well we safeguard and respect people’s right to engage in unpopular speech.  Judging according to this standard, today’s college students have no respect for the First Amendment and would just as soon allow the right of free speech to be doomed…..  except as it applies to themselves, of course.

I think we all need a refresher course on what Free Speech is and what the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech means. It secures a place not only in the Bill of Rights, but it is the subject of the very first of those essential amendments. The First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech is about prohibiting the federal government – the government capable of consolidating and consuming the individual States – from passing any laws that affects or burdens an individual’s freedom of speech and expression. Together with the guarantee of religious liberty, the First Amendment was added to the Constitution to prevent the government from establishing an absolute tyranny over the conscience and the thoughts and expression of We the People and our ability to comment critically on our government.  Thought control and the control of information is the tool of a tyrannical government.  Maximilien Robespierre, who manned the guillotine during the French Revolution, said: “The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.”

President Harry Truman spoke similar words in an address to Congress in 1950: ““Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”

Tens of thousands of brave Americans, motivated by the words and sentiments expressed in the Declaration of Independence, fought and died to break the chains of British tyranny so that those sentiments could flourish here. These freedoms and these foundations are endangered when Americans are ignorant as to our founding and are otherwise unwilling to engage in the discussion necessary to keep our First Amendment vibrant and intact.

References:

Everson v. Board of Education of Ewing Township, 330 U.S. 1 (1947).  Referenced at:  https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/330/1

Professor Daniel Dreiisbach, “Origins and Dangers of the Wall of Separation Between Church and State,” Imprimis (Hillsdale College), Volume 35, Number 10 (Oct. 2006).  Referenced at:  https://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/origins-and-dangers-of-the-wall-of-separation-between-church-and-state/

Bill Fortenberry, “What Did Jefferson Mean By the Phrase ‘Wall of Separation’?“ The Federalist Papers (blog), November 1, 2013.  Referenced at:  http://thefederalistpapers.org/current-events/what-did-jefferson-mean-by-the-phrase-wall-of-separation

Charles C. Cooke, “Howard Dean is Peddling Hate Speech Hogwash,” The National Review, April 21, 2017.  Referenced at:  http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/446941/howard-dean-hate-speech-not-protected-first-amendment

Dave Rubin, “Ann Coulter’s ‘Hate Speech’ is Protected by the First Amendment, The Rubin Report.  Referenced at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2Fm9z4LGDs

The IRS Scandal: A Study in Government Tyranny

JEFFERSON - When the People Fear Government, there is Tyranny by Diane Rufino, April 19, 2017

“The Obama administration and its fronts in the Senate accomplished what Richard Nixon wasn’t able to accomplish, which was the suppression of an entire movement against him. That’s how you steal an election; you make sure your political opponents can’t open an office.”  —  Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, which has sued the IRS to obtain documents related to the controversy

From 2010 until 2013, the IRS, under President Barack Obama, intentionally targeted Tea Party and other conservative groups applying for 501(c) tax-exemption by delaying the processing of their applications, requesting burdensome information from them that was later deemed unnecessary, and by intimidating them into withdrawing their applications. The scheme was intended to intimidate and/or stop Tea Party and other conservative groups from engaging in political activity in the 2012 presidential election and in subsequent mid-term elections. The abuse by the IRS was orchestrated in response to the growing Tea Party/ conservative/ grassroots movement (which all of a sudden were applying in great numbers for tax-exempt organization status and which were donating in large amounts to Republican candidates and elections). The actions of the government, spearheaded by President Obama, were a clear example of government tyranny – using terror and intimidation (the full resources of the federal government) to silence political opposition.

As Rep. Darrell Issa and Rep. Jim Jordan of the House Oversight Committee explained in a letter to IRS Commissioner John Koshinen: “This revelation that the IRS sent 1.1 million pages of nonprofit tax-return data — including confidential taxpayer information — to the FBI confirms suspicions that the IRS worked with the Justice Department to facilitate the potential investigation of nonprofit groups engaged in lawful political speech.”

To date, and there is no surprise here, the IRS and its officials, have escaped justice and punishment. Its aggressive 3-year campaign against conservative grassroots organizations to suppress their first amendment rights of speech, expression, and assembly, and its illegal leaking of private tax information for political purposes, and its turning of the executive branch of the federal government into a thug ring for the Democratic Party has been explained away as mere incompetency and a lack of proper oversight.

The fact that Lois Lerner escaped prison, that records were destroyed in a campaign to obstruct justice and allow other guilty parties to escape punishment, and that John Koskinen retain his job as the IRS commissioner are scandals in and of themselves. Last fall, House Republicans took steps to have John Koskinen removed by impeaching him for his role in covering up Lerner’s crimes, his misleading a congressional investigation, his obstruction of Congress (defying a subpoena), and outright lying to Congress. Unfortunately, on December 6, House GOP leaders managed to derail impeachment, forcing the debate back to a committee for more study, where it silently died when Congress adjourned at the end of the year.

While most believe the scandal and the government abuse subsided in 2013 when the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration released an audit report concluded that the IRS had in fact used inappropriate criteria to identify, target, and then harass Tea Party and other conservative organizations in their applications for 501(c) tax-exempt status, the fact is that the IRS continued to improperly use its power to influence the 2016 presidential campaign and apparently still has hold-over rogue elements from the Obama administration who are secretly trying to undermine Donald Trump’s presidency. How else could Donald Trump’s tax returns have been leaked?  How else was it possible that Trump’s 1995 tax information was leaked during the 2016 presidential election season to Clinton’s team, just in time for the presidential debates? How can we forget her accusation and then the ensuing political pressure from the media for Trump to release his tax returns.  Remember what she said in the September 2016 debate;  “You’ve gotta ask yourself, why won’t he release his tax returns? And I think there may be a couple of reasons. First, maybe he’s not as rich as he says he is. Second, maybe he’s not as charitable as he claims to be. Third, we don’t know all of his business dealings, but we have been told, through investigative reporting that, he owes about $650 million to Wall Street and foreign banks. Or maybe he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes. Because the only years that anybody has ever seen, were a couple of years where he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license. And they showed he didn’t pay any federal income tax.”

And how was it that an “anonymous” package with Trump’s 2005 tax return and tax info was mailed to the New York Times in early March?  [See my article “How Quickly Trump’s Tax Return Story Has Disappeared,” April 23, 2017].  Someone at the IRS, apparently still having the capability of treating it as a rogue agency, committed a felony. And Rachel Maddow of MSNBC, who received the tax returns from the Times and who was salivating over the chance to humiliate Trump, chose to insinuate that our President was the criminal and not the felon from the federal government.

Why do I suggest that the “leaked” tax information during the presidential campaign season and the anonymous package to the NY Times containing Trump’s 2005 tax return came from a rogue element still entrenched in the IRS?  Oh geeeezz, let me see…   All one needs to do is recall the 2012 targeting of Tea Party and other conservative groups by the IRS for the purpose of reelecting President Obama.  The thought of someone at the agency doing a similar favor for Obama’s successor doesn’t seem so far-fetched. The tendency to hold on to power is natural.  Machiavelli explained this to us. The link between the IRS and Trump’s leaked tax returns is persuasive.

Furthermore, the history and modus operandi of both Hillary Clinton and Lois Lerner, head of the Exempt Organizations Unit of the IRS and mastermind of the Tea Party targeting scandal, appear very similar similar….  break rules, skirt the law, and then destroy evidence by deleting emails and destroying hard drives and servers. It’s a Democrat thing.  They benefit from the lawbreaking but escape justice by destroying evidence, which is itself a crime. Both used their positions in government not to genuinely and constitutionally serve the legitimate interests of the American people in general, but rather to advance personal and/or political goals. Lerner targeted the Tea Party. And Hillary collected lots of money by making personal deals while as Secretary of State to enrich her presidential campaign.  And then she had officials of the government “provide” her with ammunition (Trump’s tax returns) to beat Donald Trump.  Both “lost” or destroyed the emails that would have proven their crimes.

The New York Times says “someone” sent the documents to a reporter so it has no criminal liability in publishing it. Constitutional law is fairly firm on this point. But as a lawyer, I find that at times it fails to pass the “smell test.” In other words, the policy sometimes stinks!!  How is an ordinary citizen supposed to reconcile this reality:  “If a private citizen receives stolen property, they go to jail.  But if a reporter receives stolen documents, they receive the Pulitzer Prize.”  [Daniel John Sobieski, “Rogue IRS Felons Vindicate Trump.” American Thinker]. To the very end, the Obama administration, through the officials he put in place, used the power of the federal government for strictly political purposes – for the purpose of assassinating the character of a presidential candidate, helping Hillary Clinton win the election, and to further entrench the agenda of the Democratic party in government. The IRS had never ceased serving as the nefarious arm of the political left to target conservatives and lessen their chances in the political arena. And even as a new administration is taking over the federal government, Obama officials still in remaining at the agency are using the same power to obstruct the efforts of a legitimately-elected president of another (an opposing) political party.

Think about this –  Hillary Clinton, as a candidate for president, continued to receive the highest levels of support from the government (including control of the media and access to illegally-disclosed confidential information) even after she had abused that government’s power and prestige and had clearly broken many of the laws put in place to provide transparency to the American people. And, the President of the United States and the Democratic Party (the party having full control and power in government) co-opted all the functions, resources, and instrumentalities of t government, and their influence/pressure as well, in order to help her and to interfere in the campaign of a presidential candidate that threatened their power. It wasn’t the Russians. It was the Obama administration itself.  If this isn’t the definition of government tyranny or the definition of government corruption, I don’t know what is.

It’s about time the American people learned the true extent to which the government had turned on them, had violated their precious liberties, sought to target and silence them, and threatened their voice in government.  This investigation is necessary so that We the People, and conservative watchdog groups, can seek protections to make sure it never happens again.

We exercise the First Amendment so that we don’t have to exercise the Second !!

INTRO — 

We all know how fundamental the rights of conscience, religion, and speech are.  The rights of conscience and religion are the beginnings of thought.  Speech is how we express that thought.

More than that, from a liberty point of view, it is our first amendment right that protects all the others by giving voice and publication when government violates them. It alerts the People to weigh for themselves how much they value their rights and liberties. And then it is the second amendment that ultimately secures all other rights from tyranny in government.

In the IRS scandal, we had the Obama administration using the IRS as a tool of terror, of intimidation to silence the Tea Party –  his party’s political opposition. In theory and practice, it was much like Hitler and his gestapo. Political speech was frozen by government action, first and foremost, and then there were the Tea Party groups and folks who self-censored for fear of having the IRS target them, audit them, and god-forbid come up with some trumped-up charge to make their lives a living hell, fine them, or imprison them.

Why?  Because he was working to win the 2012 election for himself and his party and to win mid-term elections.  In fact, documents released just last week by Judicial Watch confirm that President Obama’s IRS improperly targeted conservatives in order to help him win the 2012 presidential election.

On April 14, 2015, Judicial Watch announced it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the IRS seeking “any and all records” related to the selection of both individuals and organizations for audits based upon applications filed requesting nonprofit tax status.

Political speech and expression is the most protectable form of speech; it was intended to help We the People flesh out ideas, assess honestly and fully what the government is doing, figure out which candidates are best to govern on our behalf, and to see that government operates as best and as responsibly as possible from our end. Our Founding Fathers appreciated the importance of protected political speech from the lessons taught throughout the colorful history of England. We can never forget that the government is OUR government and not the government of a political party. It operates on us, as individuals, in our lives, our property, our revenue, our liberty, and in our ability to live freely. Political parties are merely political organizations looking for power, not human results.

THE IRS and TAX-EXEMPTION

US federal tax law, specifically Section 501(c)(4) of the IRS code (26 U.S.C. § 501(c)), exempts certain types of nonprofit organizations from having to pay federal income tax. The statutory language of IRC 501(c)(4) generally requires civic organizations described in that section to be “operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare“. Treasury regulations interpreting this statutory language apply a more relaxed standard, namely, that the organization “is operated primarily for the purpose of bringing about civic betterments and social improvements.” As a result, the IRS traditionally has permitted organizations described in IRC 501(c)(4) to engage in lobbying and political campaign activities if those activities are not the organization’s primary activity.

TIMELINE of the IRS SCANDAL —

(1)  On January 21, 2010, the Supreme Court decided Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010) is a U.S. constitutional law and corporate law case dealing with the regulation of campaign spending by organizations. The United States Supreme Court held (5–4) that freedom of speech prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by a nonprofit corporation. The principles articulated by the Supreme Court in the case have also been extended to for-profit corporations, labor unions and other associations.

All of a sudden, non-profit groups could spend money to engage in political activity and to influence elections. At the time, the Tea Party movement had just taken off, and:

  • Most of the applications to the IRS for tax-exempt 501(c) status were conservative groups, and
  • Most of the money pouring into TV and radio ads to influence elections were from conservative groups to benefit Republican candidates

(2)  Beginning in March 2010, when the Tea Party movement was the rage, the IRS more closely scrutinized certain organizations applying for tax-exempt status under sections 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code by focusing on groups with certain words in their names. IRS staffers began flagging applications from groups with politically themed names like “We the People” and “Take Back the Country.” Staffers also targeted groups whose names included the words “Tea Party,” “patriots,” and “912” (a movement started by Glenn Beck). Those flagged applications were then sent to specialists for a more rigorous review than is typical. (This info, this timeline, came from a draft report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, May 2013).

In May 2010, some employees of the “Determinations Unit” of the Cincinnati office of the IRS, which is tasked with reviewing applications pertaining to tax-exempt status, began developing a spreadsheet that became known as the “Be On the Look Out” (“BOLO”) list.

The list, first distributed in August 2010, suggested intensive scrutiny of applicants with names related to a number of political causes, including names related to the Tea Party movement and other conservative causes. Eventually, IRS employees in Ohio, California, and Washington, DC applied closer scrutiny to applications from organizations that:

  • referenced words such as “Tea Party“, “Patriots”, or “9/12 Project“, “progressive,” “occupy,” “Israel,” “open source software,” “medical marijuana” and “occupied territory advocacy” in the case file;[34][35]
  • outlined issues in the application that included government spending, government debt, or taxes;
  • involved advocating or lobbying to “make America a better place to live”;
  • had statements in the case file that criticized how the country is being run;
  • advocated education about theConstitution and the Bill of Rights;
  • were focused on challenging thePatient Protection and Affordable Care Act—known by many as Obamacare;
  • questioned the integrity of federal elections.

Over the two years between April 2010 and April 2012, there was an increase of applications for 501(c) tax-exempt status – from 1,500 applications to more than double that amount, 3,400.  The government (controlled by Democrats) took notice.  The IRS essentially placed on hold the processing of applications for 501(c)(4) tax-exemption status received from organizations with “Tea Party”, “patriots”, or “9/12” in their names. While apparently none of these organizations’ applications were denied during this period, only 4 were approved. During the same general period, the agency approved applications from several dozen presumably liberal-leaning organizations whose names included terms such as “progressive”, “progress”, “liberal”, or “equality.  Only 3 groups were targeted had the word “occupy” in their name.

Tea Party groups targeted by the IRS for scrutiny and delay were forced to provide such information as:

  • Names, addresses, and emails of all their members
  • Names, addresses, and emails of everyone who has ever attended any of their meetings
  • The names of the donors, contributors, and grantors. If the donor, contributor, or grantor has run or will run for a public office, identify the office. If not, please confirm by answering this question “No”.
  • The amounts of each of the donations, contributions, and grants and the dates you received them.
  • How did the group use these donations, contributions, and grants. Provide Details.
  • A copy of every presentation given by every speaker at their meetings
  • A copy of the flyer or announcement for each meeting
  • Copies of all materials passed out at all meetings
  • Biographies of every speaker at their meetings
  • “Provide the following information for the income you received and raised for the years from inception to the present. Also, provide the same information for the income you expect to receive and raise for 2012, 2013, and 2014.”
  • Copies of any contracts the group is a party to
  • Copies of all training materials the group has used or will use with the Koch Foundation
  • Copies of stories and articles that have been published about the organization and/or any of its members.

Organizations were told that if the information was not provided, they would not be certified as “tax-exempt.”  And even if all the information was provided, the IRS would scrutinize it and further delay the application by following up with probing questions. For example, The Coalition for Life of Iowa, a pro-life group, was asked to “Please explain how all of your activities, including the prayer meetings held outside of Planned Parenthood are considered educational as defined under 501(c)(3). Please explain in detail the activities at these prayer meetings. Also, please provide the percentage of time your group spends on prayer groups as compared with other activities of the organization.”

(3)  In June 2011, Lois Lerner, Director of the director of the Exempt Organizations Unit of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), reportedly became aware of what was going on and directed staffers to change to how they vetted nonprofit applications.

(4)  By the spring of 2012, so many conservative groups had complained about the IRS harassing them that Republicans in Congress took notice. Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) sent the IRS a letter asking why it was targeting Tea partiers, and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) held a hearing in which he grilled then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, a George W. Bush appointee, over the agency’s treatment of conservative groups. Shulman denied that his agency was targeting conservatives, and the controversy remained quiet until Lerner’s apology (in May; see below).

(5)  In early May 2013, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, Michael McKenney, released a preliminary audit report confirming that the IRS used inappropriate criteria to identify potential political cases, including organizations with Tea Party in their names. The final report would be released on May 14.

(6)  On May 10, in advance of the public release of the audit findings, Director of the IRS Exempt Organizations division of the IRS, Lois Lerner, “apologized” for what she termed were “absolutely inappropriate” actions by the IRS. She would then blame the actions on lower-ranked employees out of a Cincinnati office.

(7)  On May 12, Republican and Democratic lawmakers called for a full investigation of the IRS. At a  press conference the next day, President Obama called the charges “outrageous” if true, and said those responsible should be held accountable.  On May 14, Attorney General Eric Holder ordered the Justice Department to begin an investigation as to whether the conduct amounted to criminal behavior.

(8)  The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found gross violations. His investigation found that of the 296 total conservative non-profit applications reviewed in the audit conduct in December 2012, no work at all was conducted on them for at least 13 months. Of those 296 applications, 108 had been approved, 28 were withdrawn by the applicant because of frustration and seeming harassment, none had been denied, and 160 were left open – without moving them forward – for more than three years and spanning two election cycles, During that time, the organizations were hit with burdensome questions and numerous requests for more information.

Clearly, the IRS was abusing its power.  Clearly, the Obama administration was abusing its government power to silence political opposition.

(9)  In early May, following the Inspector General’s report, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-OH), began an investigation into the IRS. Additionally, the House Committee on Ways and Means expanded its ongoing 2011 investigation into possible IRS political targeting.

On May 22, 2013, in her opening statement to the Oversight Committee, Lois Lerner stated: “I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations. And I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee.” Lerner then invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to testify.

House Republicans dismissed Lerner’s invocation of the Fifth Amendment as ineffective, with chairman Issa (R- OH) stating: “You don’t get to use a public hearing to tell the public and press your side of the story and then invoke the Fifth.”  Democrats characterized the contempt proceeding as a “witch hunt” geared toward the 2014 midterm elections.

(10)  In June 2013, the IRS revealed that it had selected political groups applying for tax-exempt status for intensive scrutiny based on their names or political themes. In other words, they were intentionally targeting conservative groups – particularly ones with the name “Tea Party” or “Patriot” or “912” in their name. It admitted that it improperly frustrated and held up their applications. Judicial Watch has recently confirmed (thanks to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act) that the targeting began in 2010.

(11)  In August 2013, Democratic congressman Chris Van Hollen (Md) filed suit against the IRS seeking to overturn a rule that had been on the books since 1959 which allowed social welfare groups to engage in political activity. For 54 years, the IRS has respected that rule and has allowed 501(c)(4) groups to engage in political activity, as long as it wasn’t their primary mission. That rule has been widely interpreted as allowing such tax-exempt groups to spend 49% of their money on politics — without disclosing where that money came from.

It was this 1959 IRS rule that was at the center of Tea Party scandal.

However, more insidiously, the law suit had a lot to do with the greater flexibility granted to groups to engage in political expression with the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision.. This case overturned many previous restrictions on political campaign spending and allowed nearly unlimited and often anonymous spending by corporations and other groups to influence elections. Some Tea Party leaders began forming political action committees as offshoots of their 501(c)-tax-exempt organizations –  501(c)(4) groups – to spend money to influence elections or at least to become politically involved.

So, in 2012, Obama won re-election, although very narrowly.  Tea Party groups were actively speaking out against Obamacare and his bail-out policies, and everything else. And now they have been empowered to continue being active, by the Citizens united decision. Tea Party groups started raising money and pouring money into what is called “anonymous politics” –  not being part of the Republican or Democratic parties. Ordinary citizens, exercising their right of political expression in groups (where there is more power than being exercised at the individual level).

In September 2010, it was reported by The New York Times that almost all of the biggest players among third-party groups, in terms of buying television time in House and Senate races since August of that year, have been 501(c) organizations, and their purchases have heavily favored Republicans….     Remember, the Tea Party movement essentially started in 2009 – 2010.  [CNBC’s Rick Santelli was on the floor of Chicago’s mercantile exchange in Feb. 2009, ranting about the government’s bail-out policy and announced: He urged all capitalists to join him to start a new Tea Party movement].

Between 2010 and 2012, the number of applications the IRS received each year seeking 501(c)(4) certification doubled, many being Tea Party groups and other conservative groups. Democrats became worried. By early 2012, House and Senate Democrats started pressuring the IRS to scrutinize 501(c) non-profit applications and make sure they aren’t seeking the status to engage in political activity.

Van Hollen, who was chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, by filing the lawsuit sought to force the IRS to draft new rules requiring that the tax-exempt 501(c)(4) groups strictly comply with the section of the IRS code that requires such groups to be “operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.”  Van Hollen and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sought to limit conservative 501(c) non-profit groups from pouring money into political campaigns.

Apparently, Van Hollen didn’t like how Democrats were responding to the emerging scandal which had just broken 2 months earlier and was hoping to emphasize the point that under the Obama administration, the IRS was merely trying to resolve the legal issues surrounding political activities by tax-exempt groups and return to the intention of the IRS code for tax exemption – to further social work.

Jay Sekulow and his American Center for Law & Justice, represented 41 Tea Party groups and sued the IRS over what he called “Political Targeting.” He said that Van Hollen’s agenda raises “serious First Amendment issues.”

Sekulow said: “Political speech is protected by the First Amendment.  Anonymous pamphleteering is as old as our country, and deserves just as much constitutional protection.”  He also said: “If Van Hollen wants to change the code, he should do that through the legislative process” and not try to by-pass the rightful branch, the legislative branch, by going to the improper branch, the judicial branch (or the federal courts).

(12)  On January 15, 2014, the FBI announced that it had found no evidence warranting the filing of federal criminal charges in connection with the affair. The FBI stated it found no evidence of “enemy hunting” of the kind that had been suspected, but that the investigation did reveal the IRS to be a mismanaged bureaucracy enforcing rules that IRS personnel did not fully understand. The officials indicated, however, that the investigation would continue.

Disturbingly, in February, while the investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) was ongoing, President Obama stated there was “not a smidgeon of corruption” at the IRS.

(13)  On April 9, the House Committee on Ways and Means voted to send a letter to the Department of Justice referring former IRS Exempt Organizations Division Director Lois G. Lerner for criminal prosecution. The Committee’s nearly three-year investigation uncovered evidence of willful misconduct on the part of Ms. Lerner.   In particular, the Committee found that Ms. Lerner used her position to improperly influence IRS action against conservative organizations, denying these groups due process and equal protection rights under the law.  The Committee also found she impeded official investigations by providing misleading statements in response to questions from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.  Finally, Lerner risked exposing, and it was actually alleged (even in a lawsuit) that she did expose, confidential taxpayer information, in apparent violation of IRS section 6103 by using her personal email to conduct official business.

(14)  Two months later, on June 13, the IRS notified Republican congressional investigators that it had lost Lerner’s emails from January 2009 to April 2011 because of a mid-2011 computer crash.  The emails were under subpoena as part of the congressional investigation. June 19, the IRS said that the damaged hard drive containing Lerner’s missing emails had been disposed of more than two years prior.

On July 9, 2014, Republicans released an April 13, 2013 email from Lerner in which she cautioned colleagues to “be cautious about what we say in emails.”

(15)  On September 5, the IRS said it lost additional emails of five workers under congressional investigation, blaming computer crashes. These five workers include two people based in Cincinnati who worked on Tea Party cases.  According to the IRS, the crashes all predate congressional investigations and had occurred between September 2009 and February 2014.

(16)  On September 5, 2014, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released its report on the scandal, finding that inappropriate screening criteria were definitely used but concluded that there was no intentional wrongdoing or political bias in the use of the criteria.  A few months later, in December, Chairman Issa released a new report that found that “the IRS’s inability to keep politics out of objective decisions about interpretation of the tax code damaged its primary function: an apolitical tax collector that Americans can trust to treat them fairly.”

(17)  In January 2015, the US Senate requested that the White House produce all communications it has had with the IRS since 2010.

(18)  On August 5, 2015, the Senate Finance Committee released a report that concluded that management at the IRS had been “delinquent in its responsibility to provide effective control, guidance, and direction over the processing of applications for tax-exempt status filed by Tea Party and other political advocacy organizations” and that it was only guilty of poor planning and oversight.

(19)  In October 2015, the Justice Department notified Congress that there would be no charges against the former IRS official Lois Lerner or against anyone else in the IRS. The investigation found no evidence of illegal activity or the partisan targeting of political groups and found that no IRS official attempted to obstruct justice. The DOJ investigation did find evidence of mismanagement and Lerner’s poor judgement in using her IRS account for personal messages but said “poor management is not a crime.”

(20)  Four days after the Justice Department closed its investigation, 19 members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee led by the Committee’s Chairman, Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), filed a resolution to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. Those sponsoring the impeachment resolution to remove Koskinen from office accused him of failing to prevent the destruction of evidence in allowing the erasure of back-up tapes containing thousands of e-mails written by Lois Lerner, and of making false statements under oath to Congress. In a statement released by the Committee, Chaffetz said Koskinen “failed to comply with a congressionally issued subpoena, documents were destroyed on his watch, and the public was consistently misled. Impeachment is the appropriate tool to restore public confidence in the IRS and to protect the institutional interests of Congress.”

(21)  Last month, as part of an ongoing investigation into the IRS scandal and an ongoing inquiry by Judicial Watch, the government released names of 426 organizations which had been improperly targeted by the IRS because of their politics. Another 40 were not released as part of the list because they had already opted out of being part of the class-action suit. That total is much higher than the 298 groups the IRS‘ Inspector General identified back in May 2013, when investigators first revealed the agency had been subjecting applications to long and potentially illegal delays, and forcing them to answer intrusive questions about their activities.

(22)  Courts have already ruled against the IRS.  For example, in 2016, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals did so and noted in its ruling: “501(c)(4) groups may not collect tax-deductible donations, but they may engage in relatively unfettered political advocacy, including election advocacy. 501(c)(4) groups range from national organizations—including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Rifle Association, and the Sierra Club—to local neighborhood associations.”

(23)  There has been a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch and its investigation into the scandal continues. It has just received almost 700 pages of documents (61% redacted) under the Freedom of Information Act which proves the scheme by the Obama administration to target Tea Party groups into silence and inactivity in political elections. Its current lawsuit is seeking at least 7000 pages of documents related to the IRS scandal that have been hidden from Congress and the American people. The IRS, under the Obama administration, intentionally sought to restrict Tea Party activity and especially in political elections.

Responding to the lawsuit, Thomas Kane, Deputy Assistant Chief Counsel for the IRS, wrote in a sworn declaration that Lerner’s Blackberry was “removed or wiped clean of any sensitive or proprietary information and removed as scrap for disposal in June 2012.”   In a USA Today opinion column, James S. Robbins wrote, “For a scandal that is frequently derided as ‘fake,’ it is amazing how often real evidence disappears. The disappearing act is so frequent, it is reasonable to wonder whether it is really a systematic attempt to destroy evidence of abuse of power.”

(24)  The current US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has been asked by Congressional Republicans to re-evaluate the evidence against the IRS and against Lois Lerner and re-open the investigation.  At present, Sessions seems noncommittal on the matter.  Taxpayers deserve to know that the DOJ’s previous evaluation was not tainted by politics. 

TARGETING POLICIAL OPPOSITION IS TYRANNY –

The IRS scandal was egregious and conservatives should be enraged. I would say all Americans should be enraged but judging from the conduct of Democrats, they seem to be fine with anything that shuts up a conservative – even if it means denying their basic constitutional rights.  But an assault on the rights of one group in the end will be an assault on everyone’s rights down the road. Looking the other way while the government violates the rights of certain citizens is a dangerous thing. Allowing the government to get away with it is worse.  Allowing the government to silence political opposition is to put our free society at risk.

As President Harry Truman once warned: “Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”  [In a Special Message to the Congress on the Internal Security of the United States, August 8, 1950]

References:

Audit Report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, “Inappropriate Criteria Were Used to Identify Tax-Exempt Applications for Review.”  Referenced at:  https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/auditreports/2013reports/201310053fr.html

Diane Rufino, “How Quickly Trump’s Tax Return Story Has Disappeared,”  Forloveofgodandcountry blog, April 23, 2017.  Referenced at:  https://forloveofgodandcountry.com/2017/04/23/how-quickly-the-trump-tax-return-story-has-disappeared/

IRS Targeting Controversy, Wikipedia.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IRS_targeting_controversy

“The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals: Another Court Ruling Confirms IRS Illegally Targeted Tea Party and Conservative Groups,” CEI.org, November 21, 2016.  Referenced at:  https://cei.org/blog/another-court-ruling-confirms-irs-illegally-targeted-tea-party-and-conservative-groups

Andy Kroll, “The IRS Tea Party Scandal Explained,” Mother Jones, November 21, 2013.  Referenced:  http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/05/irs-tea-party-scandal-congress-nonprofit-obama

Stephen Dinan and Seth McLaughlin, “House Republicans Derail Impeachment Effort Against IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen, IRS Commissioner,” The Washington Times, December 6, 2016.  Referenced at:  http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/dec/6/john-koskinen-irs-commissioner-spared-impeachment-/

David Barstow, Russ Bruettner, Susanne Craig, and Megan Twohey, “Donald Trump Tax Records Show He Could Have Avoided Taxes for Nearly Two Decades,” The New York Times, November 2, 2016.  Referenced at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/02/us/politics/donald-trump-taxes.html

Adam Liptak, “Is It Illegal to Publish a President’s Tax Returns,” The New York Times, March 15, 2017.  Referenced at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/15/us/politics/trump-tax-returns-legal-precedent.html

Daniel John Sobieski, “Rogue IRS Felons Vindicate Trump,” American Thinker, March 16, 2917.  Referenced at:  http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2017/03/rogue_irs_felons_vindicate_trump.html