Baptists and others say religious liberty is protected by recognizing diversity of religious beliefs and providing commercial goods and services on equal basis

December 5, 2017
Media contact: Cherilyn Crowe / ccrowe@BJConline.org / 202-544-4226 / Cell: 202-670-5877

The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty filed a brief in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission on behalf of the state of Colorado, explaining that a commercial baker should not be able to refuse service to a same-sex couple based on the baker’s sincerely held religious belief about marriage.

The brief explains how nondiscrimination laws like Colorado’s protect religious liberty in the commercial marketplace. The United Church of Christ, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Chicago Theological Seminary also joined the brief.

Holly Hollman, general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee, released the following statement in response to this morning’s oral argument at the U.S. Supreme Court:

“Religious liberty is a fundamental principle, protected in a variety of ways, including by state public accommodation laws. Colorado’s law ensures equal treatment in the marketplace without regard to religion and other characteristics. That protection is good for religious liberty. 

Of course, within the Christian community, there are many different views about marriage. No one should doubt that the baker’s religious objection is sincere. But the assertion of a faith-based objection cannot be enough to justify an exemption from a nondiscrimination law. Such a rule would put religious liberty at greater risk.  

No customer should fear being denied goods or services by a business that is open to the public simply because of the business owner’s religious views. While this case involves a same-sex couple, the baker’s free exercise argument would open the door to rejections of interracial or interfaith couples by all kinds of businesses.  

Our brief explains that protecting religious liberty in a pluralistic society requires a delicate balance. The Colorado statute strikes an appropriate balance by ensuring access to the commercial marketplace without unlawful discrimination. Houses of worship and other institutions principally used for religious purposes are not affected by this law.

It is essential to protect all of our churches and their members’ diverse religious beliefs about marriage while — at the same time — recognizing as citizens and Christians that we should treat all equally and without regard to religious differences in the commercial marketplace.”

The Baptist Joint Committee’s brief and additional resources are available at BJConline.org/Masterpiece.

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Based in Washington, D.C., the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty is an 81-year-old religiously based organization working to defend religious freedom for all people and protect the institutional separation of church and state in the historic Baptist tradition. Learn more at BJConline.org.