Masterpiece Cakeshop Case: Freedom of Religion Argument

Instructions:

NOTICE OF ORAL ARGUMENTS BEFORE THE HOUSE OF LORDS
NOTE: Please focus on the main issues between Masterpiece Cakeshop and the couple Charlie Craig and David Mullins, not on the issues involving the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

RULES OF PROCEEDINGS:

  1. Each party/side is given fifteen (15) minutes to argue its case.
  2. The two counsels shall decide the order of their presentation and allocate the 15 minutes between them.
  3. The members of the House may ask questions at any time.
  4. Counsels should argue as if the case has not yet been decided.
  5. Counsels should argue based on the facts as stated in the assigned case and in the context of the applicable laws at the time the case was decided.
  6. Counsels may cite any jurisprudence, except the decision in the case being argued.
  7. Counsels are not limited to the arguments raised by the parties in the actual decision but may raise their own arguments.
  8. Make the case your own case.
  9. Everyone who is not appearing as counsel shall sit as a member of the USLS House of Lords and participate actively in questioning the counsels.

Clarification Re Oral Arguments:
Counsels should argue based on the facts as stated in the assigned case and in the context of the applicable laws at the time the case was decided.

Freedom of Religion

Man is finite, he seeks to subscribe to the Infinite. (Justice Puno in Estrada v Escritor)

Your lordships, Petitioner Jack Philips, a devout Christian Baker, stands before this Court invoking his religious freedom. Couple Craig and Mullins seek to coerce this baker to enforce their right against discrimination based on sexual orientation. How this Court will tilt the scales of justice in this case will not only decide the fate of the Christian baker, but of other believers coming to the Court bearing grievances on their free exercise of religion.

Your lordships, the counsels for the petitioner Masterpiece Cakes have agreed on the divisions of the topics we are to take up. And I’ll now be arguing based on Freedom of Religion.

In Aglipay vs. Ruiz, religion is defined as a profession of faith to an “active power that binds and elevates man to his creator.”

Jack Philipps is a devout Christian and said that his “main goal in life is to be obedient to Jesus Christ and His teachings in all aspects of life, and to honor God through his work at Masterpiece Bakeshop.”

What does the Constitution say?
First Amendment (and Article III Section 5 of the Philippine Constitution) states:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”

This is what we call as the free exercise clause. It is a fundamental right that enjoys a preferred position in the hierarchy of rights – “the most inalienable and sacred of human rights,” in the words of Thomas Jefferson. Man is incurably religious and our institutions presupposes a Supreme Being. For example, we have “in God we trust” in our money, we pledge over the Bible, we invoke God in many of our oaths.

Worship is an exercise of religion. However, worship comes in several forms like singing, praying, listening to Bible messages, submitting to ordinances such as baptisms, communion, and even doing business or working. Therefore, every person has the right to worship according to the dictates of his conscience, his religion, or In Engel vs. Vitale case, any person can choose not to worship God at all.

In Victoriano v Elizalde Rope Workers Union, this Honorable Court said that religious freedom is fundamental right designed to protect the broadest possible liberty of conscience, to profess his beliefs, and live as he ought to live. “no one shall be discriminated for the free exercise thereof… and it shall forever be allowed.” (Ph Constitution Article III Sec 5)

However, this freedom has its limitations. Freedom of religion is not absolute. It must be consistent with the freedom of others….”

But the question in this case is; “Did the baker violate an essential freedom of the gay couple?”

Our answer is no. The gay couple alleged that they were denied “full and equal service” at the bakery because of their sexual orientation. – we do not subscribe.

We understand the contention of the gay couple and we agree that no person shall be discriminated based on their sexual orientation as well as their religious or political leanings in places of public accommodation.

But our response is that the gay couple make it appear that this is about discrimination of their sexual orientation where in fact it is merely an exercise of our client’s religious beliefs – which posits on a higher priority in the hierarchy of rights. We argue that our client did not discriminate them because of their status as gay couple. In fact, he welcomes them to his store, and even wants to sell them his other goods. He even said, “I’ll make your birthday cakes, shower cakes, cookies and brownies, I just don’t make cakes for same sex weddings.”

The right of the couple not to be discriminated against should be supported, but it has limitations. It ends where the right of our client begins. Our client simply denied their request because same-sex wedding goes against the teachings of the Bible where his faith and conscience is bound. For our client, creating such wedding cake will tantamount to personal endorsement of the gay wedding.

We live in a democratic society, and one of the consequences is we are surrounded with various beliefs, religions, political views. But these differences thrive in this paradigm. We further state don’t just welcome, but we celebrate these differences and say this is the beauty of democracy – we can live in unity and harmony despite our differences- such that we named ourselves the United States.

We further argue by giving some examples. Suppose someone goes to New York and went inside a Jewish restaurant. Let’s say he is an atheist and he eats pork. In that restaurant, he orders a porkchop and the waiter said “Oh sir, we don’t serve pork here because of the owner’s religious beliefs.” Can that person claim discrimination and compel the Jews to serve pork? Certainly no. This is violative of the “principle laid down in Imbong v Ochoa which is “principle of non-coercion”

Or supposed you’re a speech writer of Biden or Obama, and someone comes to your office and requires you to write a speech in favor of Trump. You declined and what if that person argues, “I have equal access to your services or your artistry. or else, I’ll cry discrimination.”

If you don’t like that idea, you should not like the idea either of forcing a baker to create a cake in a way that violates his beliefs and principles.

Presuming there is a conflict between Free Exercise of Religion and the State’s interest on anti-discrimination. Questions:

  1. What should prevail? What is the test to determine what should prevail between Freedom of Religion and the State?

The proper test is called the Compelling State Interest test. Also called strict scrutiny test or Sherbert test because it came from Sherbert vs Verner case. This test means that the only thing that can prevail against the fundamental right to Freedom of Religion is a matter that’s so compelling to the State.

The reason behind this is simple: If the State’s existence is endangered, there will be no entity that can ensure freedom of religion. (—- If the state’s interest won’t be upheld, then the violation will erode the very fabric of the state that also protects freedom of religion.—-)

Therefore, the only act that is allowed to prevail against religious liberty is the one that will endanger the interests of the state.

Under the Sherbert test, the government can infringe freedom of religion if:

  1. The state’s interest is at stake, or
  2. There are no other alternatives but for the State to impose infringement of religion.

We contend two things:

  1. There is an alternative for the gay couple
    • The alternative is simple: Go to another baker. Simple as that. This is America. This is Free market. This is an element of democracy and reality is there are infinite tendencies when a seller could refuse his services to a buyer. It’s not only religious conditions.
      • For example:
        • In the Philippines, what if you are a talent of ABS-CBN, and let’s say a politician who voted against the grant of franchise comes and hires you as host for his private party? Do you have not the right to decline? What if he coerce you and demands his right against political discrimination?
        • What if you are an Coke-loyalist and you found out that your favorite restaurant is an exclusive Pepsi dealer? Don’t you have the right to switch to other restaurants? Of course yes.
        • This is the essence of the Free Market – the alternative that Sherbert test is talking about – that there is an available alternative to the gay couple, and therefore the State should not infringe the baker’s right to free exercise of his religion.
  2. There is absolutely no compelling interest when the baker denied them a wedding cake

The state’s existence is not endangered because of the denial. Therefore the right of the gay couple should not be made to prevail against the right of the baker to freely exercise his beliefs
– Exercise of Religion is not a threat to the State’s existence. This has been the failure of world empires in the past – for example, Nero blaming the Christians and burning them as lamp posts in his palace, Nebuchadnezzar throwing people to the lion’s den because those who don’t bow down to his golden image are a threat to the state.

- Religion may be blamed as the culprit in this case. Many opponents of religion and atheists would use this argument, that discriminations, murders, wars happened because of religion. 
    - We say this is incorrect and lacks prudent thinking. 
    - Yes, wars may have used the name of the religion to justify their conquests. Inquisitions, crusades. 
    - But they missed a big part of history where religion has been a bastion of hope for nations:
        - Martin Luther King, inspired by his Christian beliefs, wrote the immortal speech "I have a dream" and became a martyr, a world figure for black's civil rights.
        - The Pilgrims, they are the Founding Fathers of America - The New World, they were religious refugees from Europe
        - The Monks and Convents who preserved literatures and books during the dark ages
    - If religion is being blamed, why not revisit history and look at what happened to dictators who attempted to erase religion to achieve a utopian society? Greater crimes have been done. Millions were murdered:
        - Polpot's Cambodia
        - Stalin's Soviet Union
        - Mao Zedong's China 

And let me end with the thoughts of Justice Puno in Estrada versus Escritor:
The Court recognizes that state interests must be upheld so that religious freedom may be enjoyed. But in this area of religious exercise, man stands accountable to an authority higher than the state. This freedom must be preferred. So in the absence of a compelling state interest, man must be allowed to subscribe to the Infinite.

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by Bryan Villarosa

by Bryan Villarosa

Bacolod City-based Marketing Services Provider | Licensed Financial Advisor

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