Freedom of Religion versus Freedom of Speech
The tyranny of the Majority versus The Tyranny of the Minority
On this day, June 4, 1738, George III (June 4, 1738 – January 29, 1820) was born in Norfolk House, St. James’s Square, London, England, Kingdom of Great Britain.
In 1791, George begrudgingly assented to the Roman Catholic Relief Act. The Act relieved Roman Catholics of certain political, educational, and economic disabilities. It admitted Catholics to the practice of law, permitted the legal practice of Catholicism, and the existence of Catholic schools. (On the other hand, there were continued restrictions as well: chapels, schools, officiating priests, and school teachers had to be registered with the government. Assemblies with locked doors, as well as steeples and bells to chapels, were forbidden. Catholic priests could not wear clerical robes or offer Mass in the open air; Protestant children could not be admitted to Catholic schools. Monastic orders and endowments for Catholic schools and colleges were prohibited.)
The Tory Leader, William Pitt the Younger, as well as the rival Whig Leader, Charles James Fox, had pledged full Catholic Emancipation. Amazingly, however, King George III argued that full freedom for Catholics would be a violation of his coronation oath.
It wasn’t until 1766 that true Catholic Emancipation did not occur until the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829. To overcome the vehement opposition of both the House of Lords and King George IV, the Duke of Wellington worked tirelessly to ensure passage in the House of Lords and threatened to resign as Prime Minister if the King did not give Royal Assent.
On June 4, 1870, Maria Elizabeth Hesselblad was born. Hesselblad worked tirelessly at inter-religious dialogue, and against racism. During World War II – and after – she performed many charitable works on behalf of the poor and those that suffered due to racial laws and promoted peace between Christians and non-Christians. The war also saw her save the lives of Jewish people who would have otherwise have perished in the Holocaust had it not been for her direct intervention. Pope John Paul II beatified her on April 9, 2000, and Pope Francis approved her canonization in late 2015. Hesselblad is also recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations due to her efforts in World War II saving the lives of Jewish people during the Holocaust.
On this day, June 4, 1989, the Tiananmen Square Massacre occurred in response to the pro-democracy demonstrations. At the heart of these demonstrations was the lack of freedom in China… no freedom of religion, no freedom of speech, and -certainly on June 4th– no freedom of assembly or petition of grievances.
And today, June 4, 2018, the US Supreme Court announced its decision in Masterpiece Cake v CCRC. Personally, I’m glad I didn’t have to write that decision. I don’t think it’s as simple as either of the two sides think that it is. I think the decision was basically a loud statement of shut up go to your corners and act like adults
As my friend David Stacy said, its perhaps “one of the most intelligent decisions they’ve written in some time… What I think is so brilliant about it is that it’s allowing for a better conversation. SCOTUS set the standard for how government officials treat religious individuals and cases of religious expression outside of the clergy. The fallout will be interesting, for sure.”
I sure hope Dave is correct. but I am nervous about the fact that there were three different concurring opinions. That kind of tells me that they couldn’t agree among themselves, and that’s why they made a narrow decision, not for their altruistic and brilliant reasons that David is hoping for.
Where is that line between religion and speech?
- Would we expect a Muslim cakemaker to put an image of the Prophet Mohammed on a cake? Would a Jewish cakemaker have to create a cake with a swastika on it? Would a Catholic cakemaker have to make a cake with the image of a pope or priest as a pedophile or with condoms?
- On the other hand, would we be comfortable with a cakemaker denying to make a cake for a mixed-race wedding? Or a cake for a marriage between persons of obvious age discrepancy?
What right does a service provider have to limit their services? What right does society have to force services from unwilling service providers? I sure don’t know…
I also think, but I’m not sure how this would be worded in a judicial decision, that there is an issue of access. I’ve heard this issue come up in abortion/women’s reproduction cases. In Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (2016), the Court held that if legislation is crafted in such a way that the access to abortion clinics is essentially eliminated, then that is unconstitutional. So, to a degree, as long as there are fair alternatives to Masterpiece Cake, then the Court perhaps should lean toward protecting the religious freedom of the business owner, however, if there was not a fair alternative, then the Court ought to lean toward protecting the rights of the customer.
Regardless, and as I said to David Stacy earlier today is that, personally, I’m glad I didn’t have to write that decision. I also don’t think it’s as simple as it might seem prima facie. Personally, I think the decision was basically a loud statement of shut up go to your corners and act like adults…