The Supreme Court Should Make It Clear That Businesses Can’t Use Religion To Discriminate

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission – an important case that will have significant implications on nondiscrimination laws that protect everyone, regardless of religious beliefs, sexual orientation and more – on Tuesday, Dec. 5.

Here’s how the case got to the Supreme Court: A Colorado state court said that a suburban Denver bakery, Masterpiece Cakeshop, violated Colorado’s anti-discrimination law – which bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation – when it refused to bake a wedding cake for Charlie Craig and David Mullins, a same-sex couple, for their wedding reception. The court ruled that neither the bakery nor its owner had a religious-freedom right to violate the law. Americans United filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, arguing that religious freedom is not an excuse to discriminate against others.

The owner of the shop asked the Colorado Supreme Court to hear the case, but it declined. His attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Religious Right legal group that often defends people who want to discriminate in the name of religion, then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the matter.

Essentially, what ADF is arguing is that religious beliefs trump nondiscrimination laws, which is plain wrong and dangerous. Public business should be open to all, and religious beliefs are not an excuse to discriminate.

Americans United filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to agree with us that religious freedom is about fairness, not ignoring nondiscrimination laws and discriminating against customers because of their sexual orientation. Businesses should not treat LGBTQ people like second-class citizens because the owner’s beliefs are different than theirs. 

Businesses should be open to everyone. 

“That religious discrimination against customers and employees may be premised on the religious beliefs of business owners has not deterred the lower courts from concluding that antidiscrimination laws ought to be enforced,” AU’s Masterpiece brief asserts. “Neither should it deter this Court.”

In addition to fighting in the court to ensure that religion isn't used as an excuse to discriminate, we're mobilizing people to fight for fairness and equality.

That’s why prior to the oral arguments, we’ll be waking up early Tuesday and joining allies and activists outside the Supreme Court at 8 a.m. to say businesses should be #OpenToAll. 

If you can make it to the rally, we hope to see you there. If you can’t, you can still join our efforts by pledging to stand up for religious freedom, fairness and equality. You can also follow @AmericansUnited on Twitter to keep up with the action and use the hashtag #OpenToAll to educate others on why the Supreme Court should rule that business cannot use religion as an excuse to discriminate in the Masterpiece case.

To learn more about how we fight against discrimination in the name of religion, check out our Protect Thy Neighbor project.