No matter what you believe, you should be concerned. Religious freedom, the cause for which this country was founded, is being challenged – and the impact will be felt by everyone.
The issue that brings this up again is the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which is being heard by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). The liberal mainstream media would have you believe this is about Christians discriminating against gays but it’s really about so much more.
When cases like this one get lots of media attention it’s easy to conclude that religious freedom is about Christians who are intolerant of cultural trends. But religious freedom affects everyone and the court dockets reflect that.
Luke W. Goodrich, a lawyer with The Becket Fund, represented Hobby Lobby and The Little Sisters of the Poor in their religious freedom cases that won victories from SCOTUS. He has studied the history of religious freedom cases and writes of his findings in a recent article in The Wall Street Journal.
Goodrich and Rachel Busick conducted a study examining more than 10,000 federal cases decided in the last five years. They report the following findings:
- Religious freedom cases represent only 1% of all federal cases
- Half of those 1% involve inmates challenging prison policies or asylum seekers claiming religious persecution in their native countries
- Religious freedom cases involving nonincarcerated citizens are less than 0.5% of all federal cases
Furthermore, successful religious freedom claims are even rarer. Many claims are dismissed on procedural grounds before a ruling on the merits of the claim. Of those that remain, most lose.
The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals decided both the Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor cases in favor of the plaintiffs. But of 10,000 cases decided in the past five years, only four others were victorious in their claims of religious freedom. Here’s the surprise – none of these four involved Christian issues.
The four victories were for:
- Muslims challenging an anti-Sharia law
- Native Americans challenging a ban on killing eagles
- Reality TV stars challenging a ban on polygamy
- Atheists challenging a Ten Commandments monument
Even more surprising is the disproportional share of religious freedom cases brought by non-Christian minorities. Here are examples:
- Hindus brought cases 5 times their share of the population
- Native Americans brought cases 10 times their share of the population
- Muslims brought cases 17 times their share of the population
In contrast, Christians were involved in only one-fourth as many cases as their share of the population.
Goodrich summarizes his findings: “That means that religious freedom protections remain especially important for non-Christian minorities. But it also raises a question: Why is there so much hand-wringing about a handful of religious-liberty cases brought by Christians?”
He explains that the political left is applying a double standard. If religious freedom is invoked by a favored minority, it is legitimate. But if it is invoked by a Christian with traditional moral views, it is seen as an excuse for hate. Progressives engage in culture-war bullying when religious liberty would stand in the way of their social views.
This is much like the double standard applied on our college campuses. Freedom of speech is worth defending if your views agree with those on the left, who represent the majority on most campuses. But when conservatives want to present their views in a similar fashion their speech is intolerable and condemned.
The proof of this double standard is evident in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. One of the Colorado state commissioners called the Christian baker’s religious freedom claim “one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use – to use their religion to hurt others.”
But the essence of religious freedom is the right to live according to your beliefs even when others may think you are wrong.
“So when Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, stands before the Supreme Court Tuesday, he may have some unlikely allies rooting for him: non-Christian religious minorities. Those groups know better than anyone that religious liberty protects the “right to be wrong.” They have been the main beneficiaries of religious liberty victories in the past, and they will be in the future. You might say a victory for Masterpiece Cakeshop would be a victory for everyone.”