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Thursday, April 25, 2024
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HomeStatesideFree speech reigns supreme – thanks to Trump

Free speech reigns supreme – thanks to Trump

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WHATEVER one’s view of Donald Trump’s 2017-2021 presidency, the fact cannot be denied that through his appointments to the US Supreme Court he has saved American business owners from compelled speech.

Without Trump’s appointees Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, the Christian website designer Lorie Smith of 303 Creative would not have won her appeal. Last week, the Supreme Court ruled by six to three that the State of Colorado cannot force her to design websites which celebrate same-sex marriage. 

Authored by Justice Gorsuch, the ruling declared: ‘Under Colorado’s logic, the government may compel anyone who speaks for pay on a given topic to accept all commissions on that same topic – no matter the underlying message – if the topic somehow implicates a customer’s statutorily protected trait.’

The neo-Marxist mainstream media in the US were furious and claimed the court was opening the floodgates to discrimination against LGBT customers. But the constitutional lawyer and free speech champion Jonathan Turley told Fox News the court was condoning no such thing. Under US accommodation laws, businesses are still required to serve all customers with pre-made goods and services. The difference with creative products such as cakes with messages on them and website pages is that free speech is at stake. 

‘What the court is saying here is that with these types of creative products it is speech and for those of us in the free- speech community this is an amazing moment,’ he said. ‘This will go down as one of the most important free-speech cases in the history of the court.’

The court also ruled in favour of a Christian couple who own a bakery in Oregon and have been in a ten-year legal battle for their biblical belief in the heterosexual nature of the God-created institution of marriage. In 2013 Aaron and Melissa Klein refused to bake a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding.

The lesbian couple complained. As a result of a ruling against the Kleins by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI), they were fined $135,000 in damages. They had to close their store and operate from home.

Describing their ordeal, Christian Today reported: ‘The Christian couple appealed the BOLI ruling in 2016, with the Oregon Court of Appeals upholding the order in a 2018 ruling. This prompted them to first appeal to the Supreme Court in 2018.

‘In January 2019, the Supreme Court vacated the 2018 ruling against the Kleins and sent the case back down to the state appeals court in light of the then newly-issued Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colorado Civil Rights Commission decision.

‘The Supreme Court had ruled 7-2 in Masterpiece that Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed an unconstitutional anti-religious animus toward Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop when it punished him for refusing to make a cake for a gay wedding.’

Last year, the Court of Appeals in Oregon maintained that the Kleins had unlawfully discriminated against the lesbian couple in 2013, prompting them to go to the Supreme Court again. Fortunately for the Kleins the Oregon court overturned the fine against them.

Their website declares: ‘We here at Sweet Cakes strongly believe that when a man and woman come together to be joined as one, it is truly one of the most special days of their lives.’ It quotes from the New Testament: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3v16).

Any small business owners who have been involved in a legal defence against forces much more powerful than themselves know how punishing the ordeal is. Christians such as Lorie Smith and the Kleins have shown remarkable character and courage.

In the spiritual battle for godly freedom of expression against the forces of compelled speech, these Christians have shown themselves to be great Americans. Like him or loathe him, Donald Trump has played a vital role in their Supreme Court victories.

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Julian Mann
Julian Mann
Julian Mann is a former Church of England vicar, now an evangelical journalist based in Heysham, Lancashire.

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