Sr. Jeannine Gramick, 1,300 Faith Leaders File Brief in LGBT Non-Discrimination Court Case

Protestors oppose Masterpiece Cakeshop’s discrimination

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Though conservatives claim this case is about religious liberty, some 1,300 faith leaders have spoken out, saying it is really about an attempt to legalize anti-LGBT discrimination.

At issue is whether a bakeshop in Colorado, whose owners are Christians who do not affirm LGBT people, should be legally required under the state’s non-discrimination laws to provide a wedding cake to a same-gender couple celebrating their civil marriage. In an amicus brief filed with the court, the 1,300 faith leaders say allowing Masterpiece Cakeshop to discriminate against LGBT clients would create gaping holes in non-discrimination law, paving the way for a “license to discriminate.” Their brief explained:

“It is both morally wrong and not constitutionally required to permit blanket discrimination in the public marketplace for goods and services based on the personal religious beliefs of merchants with respect to same-sex couples’ rights and relationships. Amici believe that, to the contrary, public accommodation laws should be applied on the basis of religiously neutral principles of equal protection under the law.”

Sr. Jeannine Gramick, SL, the Executive Director of the National Coalition of American Nuns and co-founder of New Ways Ministry, was one of the signers of a statement by 1,300 U.S. faith leaders who agree that Masterpiece Cakeshop’s action was discriminatory.  Gramick told Religion News Service:

“‘I am not a lawyer, so I do not know the fine legal arguments of the case; I know only that my faith tells me that discrimination against persons, even those with whom I disagree, is wrong. . .If someone, whose political, social, or religious views I did not share, came to my house, I would surely offer them a cake and a comfortable cup of tea, as Jesus would do. So why would I not sell them the same?'”

Leaders fro DignityUSA, New Ways Ministry, and Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual also signed the statement.

Other Catholics, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Colorado Catholic Conference, the Catholic Medical Association, filed a separate brief in support of Masterpiece Cakeshop. Their claim is that the matter “is about the freedom to live according to one’s religious beliefs in daily life,” reported Crux. The Masterpiece lawyers have also claimed that creating a cake is artistic expression, which is protected free speech under the First Amendment as well.

Finally, there are some Catholics who have voiced concern that the debate over Masterpiece be sufficiently nuanced. Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter took up the claim that the bakers are really artists:

“A cake baker is not an artist but a craftsman. The artist can attend to no other consideration except what his artistic vision and the materials he has chosen demands. A craftsman must entertain other considerations. An artist can make a quilt that is 100 feet long and paper thin, but a craftsman must make a quilt that keeps a person warm and fits the bed. Phillips’ cakes must be tasty, of a certain size, and carry the message the customer wants.”

Winters quotes Dr. Cathleen Kaveny, a professor of theology and law at Boston College, who disagrees with his assessment. She said the baker “is being asked to create something. He views that involvement as a kind of participation in the event itself,” and this should be taken seriously.

While, like Gramick, I am no lawyer, it seems clear that allowing discrimination against the same-gender couple in this case could easily lead to further discrimination against LGBT people that will be legally justified. This attempt to create a “license to discriminate” has been happening at local, state, and federal levels for the last few years, especially after marriage equality was legalized in 2015. U.S. political and judicial circumstances have changed in the past year, but hopefully the court’s majority will continue the U.S. on the trajectory of equality for all people, and not just some.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, December 5, 2017

4 replies
  1. DON E SIEGAL
    DON E SIEGAL says:

    In response to the USCCB brief I wrote the bishops this letter and questions.

    U.S. conference of Catholic Bishops
    Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, President
    3217 4th ST NE
    Washington DC 20017-1104

    Dear Reverend Father DiNardo,

    I have recently read the amicus curia brief of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops et al. in support of petitioners Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd., and Jack C. Phillips.

    I was mortified and deeply offended by this brief in support of discrimination in the market place. I am a Christian in the Roman Catholic Tradition from the Diocese of Fresno (California) located in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley. I also happen to be gay. Of my own free will, I choose to live according to Catholic teachings regarding homosexuality. I am not in a partner relationship, and I am not civilly married. However, none of that would protect me from discrimination if Masterpiece and Phillips prevail in this decision.

    Moreover, an order reversing the decision of the Colorado Appellate Court would endanger religious freedom not protect it. It would allow discrimination of minority unpopular faiths. The San Joaquin Valley is home to many minority faiths such as Muslim, Hindu, Shinto, Daoism, Sheikh, and others.
    Furthermore, there is no such thing as “just” discrimination as supported by this brief. Finally, it would probably violate the anti-establishment clause of the First Amendment as well.

    Both major liturgical protestant denominations—Episcopal and Lutheran—with other protestant bodies wrote an amicus curia brief in support of Respondents. The USCCB should have joined with them. Conversations should always begin with questions. For that reason, I have proposed several theological questions for the Conference.

    Thank you for listening to my concerns.

    Peace of Christ,

    Don E Siegal
    45425 Sierra Dr
    Three Rivers CA 93271

    Reply
  2. DON E SIEGAL
    DON E SIEGAL says:

    Part Two

    The Questions

    Brief: “[T]he USCCB advocates…fair employment and equal opportunity for the under-privileged, immigration, protection of the rights of parents and children, the sanctity of life, and the importance of education.”

    Question: What happened to civil rights and the dignity of every person created in the image and likeness of God? Are they no longer tenants of Catholic social and economic justice?

    Brief: “Values of particular importance to the Conference include the protection of the rights of religious organizations and religious believers under the First Amendment…”

    Question: If the appellees exemption is allowed, it will permit the percussion of unpopular religious minorities thus violating the religious freedoms of the First Amendment. Do you remember the days when Catholics were unpopular?

    Brief: “The Colorado Catholic Conference (CCC) is the public policy voice of the three Catholic dioceses of Colorado…expressed in Catholic social teaching and the consistent life ethic…the promotion of such basic freedoms as religious exercise and speech.”

    Question: Ib. supra

    Brief: “Colorado Civil Rights Commission and the ACLU pursued [Philips] for alleged discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

    Question: That is precisely what it is discrimination against an unpopular group. Where do Catholic social teachings embrace “just” discrimination? In regard to homosexual persons, does the Catechism of the Catholic Church not say all discrimination must be avoided?

    Reply
  3. John Hilgeman
    John Hilgeman says:

    Good to see Jeannine continuing her work of speaking out for the rights of LGBT people.

    All the “concerns” for “religious freedom” fall flat, when the concerns are for people who refuse to serve LGBT people. This is a matter of a business licensed to serve the public, refusing public accommodations to specific groups of individuals. This is a matter of discrimination based on animus masked in a veneer of “religious belief.”

    Reply

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