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Supreme Court hears case of Colorado baker under fire for marriage view

https://blogs.lcms.org/2017/supreme-court-hears-case-of-colorado-baker-under-fire-for-marriage-view

By Roger Drinnon

Oral arguments were heard Dec. 5 in the case of Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips, sued by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for sexual-orientation discrimination for refusing to make a custom cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony.

The contentious case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission likely will determine whether the government can compel Americans to use their abilities and vocations to perform services that violate their faith and conscience. Arguments were extended from the scheduled 60 minutes to 90 minutes to accommodate both sides of the case.

“I am here at the Supreme Court today because I respectfully declined to create a custom cake that would celebrate a view of marriage in direct conflict with my faith’s core teachings on marriage,” said Phillips at a rally following the oral arguments.

He spoke amid chants of “We got Jack’s back!” from a crowd of supporters.

“For that decision, which was guided by an established set of religious beliefs, I’ve endured a five-year court battle. It’s been very hard on me and my family,” he said. “There have been tears and many difficult days for us.”

Phillips said he and his family have faced death threats and harassment, and he has been forced to stop creating the wedding art that he loves while also losing much of his business, as the family struggles to pay bills and keep the shop afloat.
“It’s hard to believe that the government is forcing me to choose between providing for my family and employees and violating my relationship with God. That is not freedom. That is not tolerance,” Phillips added.

The LCMS joined an amicus brief for the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Phillips earlier this year with seven other organizations advocating for religious freedom in the case. The LCMS brief was one of approximately 50 briefs that included scores of religious organizations filed in support of Phillips.
Download amicus brief

In July 2016, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys and allied attorneys petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case. According to ADF case details, an administrative-law judge ruled in December 2013 against the cake artist, saying that designing cakes for same-sex wedding ceremonies is not speech protected by the First Amendment.
The commission also ordered Phillips and his staff to design cakes for same-sex wedding celebrations; take “corrective action,” including comprehensive staff training; implement new policies to ensure compliance with Colorado anti-discrimination laws; and file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years to show that Phillips has implemented the changes and to document any patrons denied service.
ADF attorneys indicated that when the U.S. Supreme Court rules in this case, it will have a major impact on religious freedom in America, collectively stating, “It could very well be the most important decision in our lifetime” in terms of religious liberty.

ADF also has appealed a related right-of-conscience case to the U.S. Supreme Court. In the case involving Arlene’s Flowers, the Washington Supreme Court upheld a ruling against florist Barronelle Stutzman, who declined to create custom flowers for a longtime customer’s same-sex wedding.

The U.S. Supreme Court could consider this case along with Masterpiece Cakeshop or hold it until its Masterpiece decision is made, and then send the case back to the lower court for reconsideration in light of the new opinion. Last year, the Synod also joined an amicus brief for Stutzman’s case, State of Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers.
Read about Barronelle Stutzman

Although neither Phillips nor Stutzman is an LCMS Lutheran, the outcome of each case may pose significant ramifications for the Synod, its agencies, affiliated institutions and members of LCMS congregations.

“Tolerance should be a two-way street. Phillips gladly serves anyone who walks into his store, but, as is customary practice for many artists, he declines opportunities to design for a variety of events and messages that conflict with his deeply held beliefs. In this case, Jack told the couple suing him he’d sell them anything in the store but just couldn’t design a custom cake celebrating their wedding because of his Christian faith,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner after filing an opening brief with the high court in August.

Waggoner represents both Phillips and Stutzman.

“The First Amendment protects Jack’s right to create artistic expression that is consistent with his core convictions,” she said. “Individuals can support both same-sex marriage and Jack, and people should have the right to disagree on critical matters of conscience. The same government that can force Jack to violate his faith and conscience can force any one of us to do the same.”

The U.S. Supreme Court now must decide, in effect, whether Christians who do not support same-sex marriage have the same liberty as others to live consistently according to their religious beliefs and whether Christians can be compelled to express messages or promote events that violate their faith.

If the high court rules against Phillips (and Stutzman), the ADF says potential ramifications include lawsuits against other creative professionals and Christian business owners who express themselves through their business activities, a rule of law that would not support First Amendment rights for all people.

“I’m profoundly thankful to the Supreme Court of the United States for taking my case. I hope and pray it will affirm the freedom of artists to peacefully express themselves in ways consistent with who they are,” said Phillips.

Last year, the Synod in convention adopted Resolution 14-01 to encourage intentional leadership in matters of religious freedom.

Resources:

To learn more about what the Synod is doing regarding religious liberty, visit its “Free to be Faithful” webpage.

To read about other amicus briefs the LCMS has joined, go to lcms.org/board/amicusbriefs.

Roger Drinnon (roger.drinnon@lcms.org) is director of Editorial and Media Relations for LCMS Communications.

Posted Dec. 6, 2017

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The Wittenberg Project

“The Wittenberg Project is about Gospel ministry,” said LCMS missionary Rev. David Mahsman, managing director of the International Lutheran Society of Wittenberg.

Tremendous progress is happening with the renovation of the 450-year-old Old Latin School in Wittenberg, Germany. The Old Latin School is the home base for The Wittenberg Project, a special venue where Lutherans from around the world can come to learn the true story of the Reformation, and from which Lutherans will reach out with the Gospel to those in the region who do not know Jesus.

Much of the exterior work on the new education and outreach center has been completed as the May grand opening draws closer. You can see the progress and follow the changes taking place because of people’s generosity through photographs and news updates at www.thewittenbergproject.org.

If your congregation is already supporting the project, thank you. If not, we want your congregation, school or group to play a vitally important part in this exciting and historic mission effort.

Below is a resolution for you to personalize and use to join the “Reformation 500 Club,” a special community of 500 congregations and schools that commit to raising $500 or more in the next year to help complete the renovation of the Old Latin School ahead of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017. Members of the Reformation 500 Club also will have their gifts matched dollar-for-dollar by a special friend of the project, up to a total of $250,000.

We’re well on our way to having the Old Latin School ready for its May 3, 2015, dedication. We want you to be part of this exciting project!

RESOLUTION

To Support The Wittenberg Project through
membership in the Reformation 500 Club

WHEREAS, on Oct. 31, 1517, Dr. Martin Luther sparked the Reformation when he posted 95 Theses against the abuse of indulgences on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany; and

WHEREAS, God used Dr. Martin Luther, the Reformation and Wittenberg to restore the pure and saving Gospel of Jesus Christ to His Church and to the world; and

WHEREAS, we give thanks to God for preserving His Gospel and for calling us into His kingdom through it; and

WHEREAS, it is our joyful privilege as Christians to share the Good News about Jesus with those who have not heard it, at home and throughout the world; and

WHEREAS, it is also our joyful privilege as Christians to grow in our own faith through the study of God’s Word and to make it possible for others to grow in faith as well; and

WHEREAS, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, Concordia Publishing House and Germany’s Independent Evangelical—Lutheran Church are working together through “The Wittenberg Project” in the very birthplace of the Reformation to nurture and strengthen the faith of Christians and to introduce the Christian faith to non-Christians; and

WHEREAS, The Wittenberg Project is renovating Wittenberg’s historic Old Latin School of 1564 as a Christian education and outreach center that will attract students and visitors, promote confessional Lutheran theology, and open doors to Gospel outreach and works of mercy; and

WHEREAS, The Wittenberg Project will provide a place and opportunity for planting a Lutheran congregation in a city and region where only 15 to 18 percent of the residents even profess to be Christian; and

WHEREAS, The Wittenberg Project will provide a regular gathering point for education and encouragement to faithful Lutherans worldwide to confess clearly the Gospel of Jesus Christ, even in the face of opposition and challenges; and

WHEREAS, the 2013 convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod voted by acclamation to “encourage all congregations and individuals within the Synod to support The Wittenberg Project prayerfully and financially” (2013 Res. 1-07B); and

WHEREAS, Lutheran congregations, schools and church groups are invited to provide such support through membership in the “Reformation 500 Club”; therefore be it

Resolved, that (name of congregation, school or church group) accept the invitation to join the Reformation 500 Club, pledge to raise at least $500 for The Wittenberg Project and pray regularly for God’s blessing upon the project; and be it further

Resolved, that members be kept informed of The Wittenberg Project’s progress; and be it finally

Resolved, that all thanks and praise be to God for the precious Good News proclaimed by Dr. Martin Luther and the Reformation that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone.


To learn more about The Wittenberg Project and the Reformation 500 Club, explore www.thewittenbergproject.org. Once there, visitors may download the Reformation 500 Club enrollment form and flier, view videos about The Wittenberg Project and follow fundraising and renovation progress. For more details, contact Patty Mainer at LCMS Mission Advancement at 800-248-1930, Ext. 1661 or patty.mainer@lcms.org.

LCMS office of the President

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