“Religious Exemptions Aren’t Special Privileges”

Some astute writing from Stephanie Barclay of the Becket Fund, as published at The Witherspoon Institute [emphasis added]:

The Supreme Court has consistently held that a government’s desire to protect people from emotional harmdoes not constitute a compelling government interest…The Court has protected speech deeply hurtful to the dignity of others, including protesters at the funeral of a Marine killed in action with signs that say things like “God Hates Fags”…

The Court has correctly explained that any other result would “effectively empower a majority to silence dissidents simply as a matter of personal predilections.”

These are not simply hypothetical thought experiments. After the recent neo-Nazi demonstrations in Charlottesville, a swarm of businesses reacted by refusing to continue providing services to white supremacist organizations (including Google, Airbnb, Uber, and PayPal). And in Masterpiece, the Colorado Commission allowed three bakers (including LGBT business owners) to refuse a religious customer’s request to create custom cakes with religious messages criticizing same-sex marriage.

The Commission also admitted that a baker could decline to create a cake with a design or symbol that was “offensive,” including “a white-supremacist message for the Aryan Nations church,” or “a religious group’s request for a cake denigrating the Koran.”

If one thinks that any of these businesses are justified in denying their services to groups or events to which they object, then one must acknowledge that the government does not have an unassailable interest in coercing any product or service that is already offered to the public.