Photo courtesy of Alliance Defending Freedom
By Autumn Leva, Director of Policy & Communications
Jack is a small business owner from Colorado. He’s a cake artist who has loved art all his life. And, he’s a Christian who wants to live out his faith in the way he runs his business—and every aspect of his life. You could be Jack. I could be Jack.
Today, Jack is at the Supreme Court defending his freedom and faith, and the decision in his case will likely be the most anticipated Court ruling in the summer of 2018—similar to the ruling on Obamacare in 2012, the Hobby Lobby religious freedom case in 2014, and the decision on same-sex marriage in the Obergefell case in 2015.
Jack has been defending these rights ever since he told a same-sex couple he couldn’t design their wedding cake. The couple filed a complaint against him with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, forcing Jack to defend his faith, freedom, art and family business in a long legal battle.
But, what most people don’t know about this case is why Jack is in Court in the first place.
Here are the top 3 reasons:
- Colorado’s Legislators Passed a Bad Law.
The law putting at risk Jack’s religious and artistic freedom was passed by Colorado legislators in 2008. Simply put, the law adds the classifications of “Sexual Orientation” and “Gender Identity” to the state’s civil rights code, giving those classifications the same level of protection as race, disability, and national origin. This is often called a “SOGI” law.
When Colorado legislators were debating this law, they received lots of warnings from groups like Focus on the Family and Family Policy Alliance (under its former name, Focus on the Family Action) that the law would harm freedom for all Coloradans. But, the majority of Colorado legislators and then-Governor Ritter decided to sacrifice religious and artistic freedom for the sake of a progressive agenda—harming family businesses like Jack’s.
- Colorado’s Liberal Civil Rights Commission Failed to Protect Religious & Artistic Freedom.
The Colorado Civil Rights Commission determined that Jack’s decision to follow his conscience by not designing a same-sex wedding cake was unlawful, even though a person’s “religion” is a protected classification in Colorado, freedom of religion and expression are protected in the Colorado Constitution, and freedom of religion and expression are protected in the United States Constitution.
The liberal Commission ordered Jack to design all wedding cakes (or stop designing them altogether, losing 40% of his business), to educate his staff that living by his beliefs was wrong, and to report to the state government every time he declined a business order for a cake.
Does this seem outrageous to you? The Colorado Civil Rights Commissions, like similar bodies in most states, is made up of members who aren’t even elected by you –the voters—yet they have the power to pick and choose which civil rights to protect (or fail to protect), to require business owners to “educate” their employees on how living out their faith is wrong, and to dictate even which cake orders to fill.
- Colorado’s Legislators Didn’t Protect Jack.
Colorado legislators could’ve passed a law to protect Jack—and other business owners and artists in the state like him. They’ve had an opportunity every year since the SOGI law passed in 2008 to clarify that religious and artistic freedom are protected in Colorado.
In fact, that’s what they should be doing, rather than standing by while family businesses are harmed in the state. The legislative body is charged with making laws—not the judiciary. Using their law-making power (and taxpayer resources) to protect freedom should be lawmakers’ top priority.
Instead, Jack was forced to turn to the courts to protect his freedom through a long legal process where nine Justices, primarily Justice Kennedy, will decide how he can run his business in his state.
And here’s why Jack’s story matters to every family:
Maybe you’re thinking: Yes, I could be Jack, but my state would never do what Colorado did.
Check out our map below.
- States in blue are states with laws already in effect similar to the law that harmed Jack.
- States in red are states where liberal activists would love to pass a SOGI law and claim a victory in 2018. In fact, in many of those states, a SOGI bill like the one that harmed Jack was introduced at the Capitol this year!
In other words, if you live in a state marked in blue or red, you or your loved ones could face a situation similar to Jack’s because of your faith.
And what about Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission with unelected members who aren’t accountable to the public? Yes, most states have a similar administrative body, and they almost always lean liberal—meaning they’ll tend to favor a liberal agenda over protecting religious and artistic freedoms.
With liberal activists fighting hard to influence state lawmakers and administrative bodies like Civil Rights Commissions, families in most states may see their lawmakers passing bad laws or failing to protect freedom and families.
So what can we do about it together?
My team and I at Family Policy Alliance don’t believe you, me, Jack, or anyone else should have to go to court to protect their freedoms. The first stop for protecting freedom should always be with the people we elect to represent us and pass good laws—whether at the local school board level, in the state government, or at the U.S. Capitol in D.C.
So, we invite you to partner with us as we work with our state allies in 2018 to (1) advocate for legislators to pass good laws that protect freedom for people like you, me and Jack when most state legislatures get back to business in January; and (2) elect the right people who will pass good laws that protect freedom in November.
You can help in two ways right now.
- Know your state & work together!
We work hard to know what’s going on in each state that will impact freedom and your family. We’re making more maps like the one above to help you know where your state is at on each issue, and we work with our local ally in your state. But, we can’t send you special alerts about your state and if your legislators are trying to pass a SOGI law like the one that harmed Jack without knowing your district. Please take a moment to enter your zip code. And, passing laws that protect freedom and holding legislators accountable for the laws they pass needs the help of the whole Body of Christ. Please encourage your friends in your state (or in other states) to know their own state & enter their zip codes as well.
- Prepare for 2018!
As we prepare for 2018, please support Family Policy Alliance with a year-end gift! Your partnership will equip families to understand each state’s laws and hold each state’s lawmakers accountable for protecting freedom. Thank you in advance!