Masterpiece Cakeshop, 303 Creativity and Conflict Between Adulation and Gay Rights

As tensions rise over the rights of religious business owners who oppose same-sex marriage, research shows Americans are divided on the role faith should play in professional choices.

51% of American adults believe that someone’s “religious beliefs and values” should not influence their business decisions, and 48% believe they should, according to recently released Faith in America poll conducted by The Marist Poll in partnership with Deseret News.

Factors such as party affiliation, age, and personal faith seemed to determine how people responded to survey questions. The proportion of Republicans (68%) and Americans aged 60 and over (59%) who said religion should play a role was about twice that of Democrats (35%) and Americans under 30 (31%) who adhered to the same point of view. .

“Christians (58%) and those with a religion (69%) believe that someone’s religion should play a role in their business decisions, while 65% of those with no religion disagree” , the researchers note in the survey report.

The new data comes at a time when communities across the country are in conflict over how to apply religious freedom protections in a business context. Americans disagree on whether bridal business owners who object to same-sex marriage for religious reasons should be exempted from LGBTQ non-discrimination laws and allowed to act in accordance with their beliefs.

The Supreme Court raised this issue in 2017 in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. In it, a gay couple – Charlie Craig and David Mullins – ran into a Christian baker named Jack Phillips, who, for religious reasons, refused to create custom-made cakes for same-sex weddings.

In June 2018, the court ruled in favor of Phillips without considering how to balance religious freedom and LGBTQ rights. Instead, the decision focused on how Colorado officials treated the baker when his discrimination case was played out; the judges said that even unpopular religious beliefs must be respected.

“When the Colorado Civil Rights Commission heard this case, it did not maintain religious neutrality as required by the Constitution,” then-Judge Anthony Kennedy wrote, in line with the majority opinion.

In February, nearly four years after the decision was made, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a closely related case. In 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, to be debated this fall, judges will decide whether a website designer who opposes same-sex marriage can opt out of designing websites for LGBT couples.

Graphic designer Laurie Smith “doesn’t want to create websites for same-sex weddings and she wants to post on her own website to explain it. But Colorado law prohibits companies that are open to the public from discriminating against gay people or from announcing their intent to do so,” the SCOTUS blog reported earlier this year.

As these and similar cases moved through the legal system, Congress debated expanding the list of businesses covered by the federal anti-discrimination law.

In February 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Equality Act for the second time. The measure, backed by President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party, would add protection for LGBTQ rights to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and greatly expand the public accommodations section of that law.

Members of the LGBTQ community “generally experience discrimination in accessing public places, including restaurants, retirement centers, shops, entertainment venues or establishments, medical facilities, shelters, government agencies, youth service providers, including adoption and patronage education. and transport,” says the Equality Act. “This discrimination prevents the full participation of LGBTQ people in society and disrupts the free flow of trade.”

Supporters of the bill say the Equality Act will ensure that gays and transgender people are treated the same as their neighbors. His opponents, on the other hand, say the bill would force believers, including religious business owners, to choose between honoring their faith and going out into the public square.

“He’s trying to get religious people back behind a locked door and say, ‘Don’t come out,'” said Mary Rice Husson, an attorney and political pundit, during a March 2021 Senate Judiciary Committee on the Equality Act.

Previous research has shown that the vast majority of Americans (79%) support anti-LGBTQ laws, and only one-third (33%) believe that small business owners should be able to refuse goods or services to gays or lesbians.

“Most of almost every major religious group oppose religious denials,” the Public Religion Research Institute reported in March, noting that support for religious business owners is highest among Latter-day Saints, evangelical white Protestants and Orthodox Christians.

In addition to asking whether a general “someone” should base their business choices on faith, the Deseret-Marist poll asked respondents whether they personally base most of their business decisions on faith. Only a third of American adults (32%) said yes.

The survey also showed that few Americans turn to faith for help in making purchasing decisions. More than 6 in 10 (61%) said religion “doesn’t play any role at all” in choosing which shops or businesses to visit.

The Deseret Faith in America poll was conducted in January among 1,653 American adults. The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

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