There are two important cases in the U.S. Supreme Court with major implications for our First Amendment rights of free speech and the free exercise of religion.
One involves a Christian florist in the state of Washington who would not design a floral arrangement to celebrate the wedding of a homosexual couple. On Tuesday the Supreme Court began hearing a case involving a Christian baker from Colorado asked to design a specialty cake celebrating the wedding of a gay couple with messages he said violated his religious beliefs.
In both cases the shop owner did not refuse to serve these couples in other situations and offered to sell them wedding products without anything endorsing same-sex marriage. This did not stop local state courts from levying heavy fines against the shop owners for sexual discrimination.
During his campaign for president in 2008, in an interview at Saddleback Church in California, Barack Obama stated, "I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me, for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. God's in the mix."
Since then, he has stated his beliefs have evolved. His aide, David Axelrod, said he lied.
In either case, these two shop owners, as well as many Christians, still believe, as President Obama stated, "that marriage is the union between a man and a woman ... as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. God's in the mix." This belief guides their actions and their decisions.
As Americans, we have a long history of accommodating religious beliefs even when they are out of step with the beliefs of the majority. After much persecution, the courts finally ruled that because of their religious beliefs Jehovah's Witnesses did not have to pledge allegiance to the flag even when required to do so in schools and in public places.
We have permitted conscientious objectors who, for religious reasons, refuse service in the armed forces, even when others are called on to serve our country in time of war. There are many other cases where the religious rights of the minority were protected even when it violated laws intended for the majority.
The LBGT movement rivals the NRA in its zeal to enforce its agenda on others. These business owners are being persecuted not because of discrimination but because their beliefs are the same as President Obama's 2008 statement that "marriage is the union between a man and a woman."
Even the ACLU, which has previously supported the free-speech rights of groups such as the American Nazi Party and the Ku Klux Klan, is supporting the government in denying these Christians their civil liberties of free speech and the free exercise of religion as guaranteed by the First Amendment.
In the Old Testament book of Exodus, while Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments, the people pressured his brother Aaron to use his ability as a goldsmith to make an idol for them to worship. Aaron gave in to the pressure to go along with the crowd. Because of his actions, Aaron and those who worshiped this idol were not allowed to enter the promised land.
Because of their religious convictions, these two Christian business owners are being forced into a situation similar to Aaron's. Unlike Aaron, they have said they must obey God rather than men.
Whether you support same-sex marriage or oppose it, you should be alarmed by the way this case has been prosecuted. If the courts can persecute and bankrupt these people because of their beliefs, they can do it to anyone.
In our nation, if one person does not enjoy freedom of speech and religion, no one does.
Ron West, Ph.D., of Little Rock is a retired math professor and missionary who lived in Asia for 30 years.
Editorial on 12/08/2017
Print Headline: Rights at stake