An Arizona appeals court ruled last week that you can discriminate against a Christian wedding vendor just five days after the Supreme Court said you can’t.
So, in essence, the Arizona court told the Supreme Court to pound sand. We don’t like your opinion, and so we’re gonna ignore it.
In the Jack Phillips’ Masterpiece Cakeshop case the Supremes said that Jack Phillips, a devout Christian, could not be forced against his will to produce speech that violated his conscience and his deeply held religious convictions. This was true, said the Court, even though Mr. Phillips did not actually write anything on the cakes. The mere artistry involved in producing a wedding cake was a form of speech that the Constitution must respect.
In Arizona, the case involves two women who produce wedding invitations. So everything they produce has a written message on it. This isn’t just a form of speech, it is speech itself. But the court ruled that Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, owners of Brush & Nib Studio, and devout Christians just like Phillips, did not have First Amendment protections. They could be forced, against their will and in violation of their religious convictions, to produce work in the service of the radical homosexual agenda.
As Tammy Bruce pointed out some time ago, this implicates the appeals court of Arizona in both slavery (being forced to work against your will) and tyranny (being forced to violate your conscience). And not only was the court involved in both slavery and tyranny, it was doing so in blatant disregard of the Supreme Court precedent established just days prior in Mr. Phillips’ case.
So the Supreme Court says a Christian vendor has First Amendment rights that must be protected; he cannot be compelled to produce speech that violates his religious scruples. The Arizona appeals court, on the other hand, told the Supreme Court to take a hike. “If we want to enslave and tyrannize, and stick our thumb in the eye of the Supreme Court while we’re at it, we’re gonna go right ahead and do it. Just try and stop us.”
This judicial hubris gives the lie to the idea that Supreme Court precedent has some hallowed stature in contemporary jurisprudence. No, it only has weight if it serves the regressive political agenda. If it upholds the conservative principle, Supreme Court precedents can be shredded at will.
This is what Justice Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion in the Phillips’ case: "The (Colorado Civil Rights) commission's hostility was inconsistent with the First Amendment's guarantee that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion."
(The Supreme Court came perilously close to establishing thought crimes as a whole new category of criminality here. In the eyes of the Court, it wasn’t what the Colorado commissioners did but what they were thinking when they did it. If they had made exactly the same ruling but had been thinking less acrimonious thoughts, it would apparently have been just fine with the Supremes. This, of course, opens the door to courts everywhere to discriminate with abandon against people of Christian faith as long as they hide their enmity and lie about it when asked. But as Thomas Jefferson said, “the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions.”)
Did the Arizona appeals court apply the Constitution in a “neutral” manner toward religion? Of course not. Their ruling plainly favors the homosexual agenda over and against Christian faith. Ms. Duka and Ms. Koski were flatly and unceremoniously denied their explicit constitutional right to the free exercise of religion. The court found against the Christian plaintiffs and for the radical homosexual lobby. That is not neutrality toward religion, that’s outright hostility. This, despite the plain and simple fact that religious rights are guaranteed right there in the very first Amendment, while special rights based on sexually aberrant behavior can’t be found anywhere in the entire Constitution.
Well, perhaps the Arizona court has shown America the way. If you find a Supreme Court “opinion” (that’s what they issue, even in their own words) offensive, you are free to simply ignore it and substitute your own judgment.
The practical outworkings of taking the Arizona appeals court model would mean that state governments can simply ignore the Obergefell opinion and reinstate their state constitutional amendments which define marriage as the union of one man and one woman (31 states still have such amendments on their books). What’s good for the goose (Arizona) is good for the gander (everybody else).
If judicial independence is fine for one state, then it’s got to be fine for every other state in the Union. If it’s not, then Arizona better get busy correcting its mistake.