James Gottry

James Gottry, an attorney with ADF and one of their leading propagandists, is promoting his latest nonsense via The Federalist. Who knew that compelling people to obey nondiscrimination laws created a war zone? The notion that doing so imperils their ability to think freely is spectacularly preposterous. Gottry writes:

Our First Amendment freedom is functionally meaningless when it is reduced to the “right” to express government-approved views. Throw in a simultaneous prohibition on all expression that hasn’t received the government’s stamp of approval, and you have the makings of George Orwell’s “1984,” where even beliefs are controlled.

It is not just the hyperbole that insults my intelligence. The intellectual dishonesty is appalling. This requires a reality check. Requiring service by public accommodations does not restrict anyone’s right of expression in any way whatsoever. Nor does doing so suggest that the government is requiring approval of anything or that the government is somehow controlling what people believe.

This Christian Identity Church in Arkansas has been around for some time. Indeed it was founded in 1946 by the Klan as the Church of Jesus Christ – Christian by the current minister’s father. It seems to operate without government approval in spite of its un-American ideology:

Kingdom Identity Ministries is a Politically Incorrect Christian Identity outreach ministry to God’s chosen race (true Israel, the White, European peoples).

It is the ministry of Dr. Wesley A. Swift (if he has a real Ph.D. I’ll eat my keyboard). Yet, if Swifty owns a restaurant in  some locales he has to serve Jews, blacks, Catholics et al in spite of his religious convictions.

Gottry continues:

Indeed, to forbid people from articulating beliefs and peacefully acting consistently with those beliefs is, at its core, an attempt to forbid the beliefs themselves. As the Supreme Court has held, “First Amendment freedoms are most in danger when the government seeks to control thought…The right to think is the beginning of freedom, and speech must be protected from the government because speech is the beginning of thought.”

The Supreme Court has also said that there are no religious exemptions to laws (Employment Division v. Smith). ADF has a case that reached the Court (Elane Photography v. Willock). The Court refused to hear the case allowing a judgment to stand against a discriminatory New Mexico photography company. The idea that nondiscrimination laws prohibit anyone from articulating their beliefs is absurd to the extreme.

Now we get to Gottry’s attempted point:

In 2015, Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski launched a business based on their shared passions for Christ, painting, hand-lettering, and calligraphy. As their website states, they seek to “announce and commemorate life’s important moments,” which include weddings. As Christians, Joanna and Breanna seek to create art that is consistent with their beliefs, which includes the belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.

The two are free to believe anything that they want but the City of Phoenix requires them to comply with a nondiscrimination ordinance. Gay people pay taxes. We help to fund that fire and police departments that protect a business. We help pay for the roads that bring people to the business and infrastructure that makes it possible to have a business in the first place.

Surely their omnipotent god would forgive them. Surely he or she knows that they are required to serve gay couples. I would bet that there is even a biblical passage about obeying the law. 1 Peter 2:13-17 seems to get there. No, I am not going to quote scripture. Gottry rattles on:

Shortly after launching their expressive enterprise, Breanna and Joanna learned that a law in Phoenix requires them to create artwork expressing messages that violate their sincerely held beliefs. This includes artwork celebrating and promoting a same-sex marriage.

These people are obsessed with their own importance (or lack of gravitas which is really the case). Designing invitations doesn’t celebrate or promote anything. It is a standard business transaction. The customer pays, they provide and no one dies. What they really want is the right to demonstrate their disapproval. By now that have probably alienated a good chunk of Phoenix. Perhaps they should focus on actually running a business.

While Breanna and Joanna gladly serve all individuals regardless of their sexual orientation, the pair believe that only marriage between a man and a woman is consistent with God’s plan for marriage and, therefore, they cannot in good conscience promote a same-sex marriage through their own artistic expression. The problem is, according to the Phoenix law they must.

The are free to believe in the magic of peanut butter if they want. ADF keeps trotting out this losing argument. It is comparable to saying “I serve Jews all the time but I draw the line if they want me to serve an interfaith Jewish-Christian wedding.” No one would question why that is anti-Semitic. Not even ADF. You would think that by now, with all their losses, they would stop using the anti-gay version of this rhetoric.

The law not only seeks to compel Joanna and Breanna’s expression, by forcing them to create art celebrating same-sex wedding ceremonies, it also forbids them from expressing their own beliefs. Specifically, the law prohibits the art studio from publishing any “notice or communication which states or implies…that any [person]…because of…sexual orientation …would be unwelcome, objectionable, unacceptable, undesirable or not solicited.”

It is not “art” that any court would recognize or has recognized as such. Every ADF client is an artist. Bakers absurdly become cake artists. That moronic florist in Washington State is now a floral artist. Gottry is a lawyer and he went to a good law school. He knows perfectly well that the law is banning de facto discrimination. If you put up a sign at the door of your restaurant saying that “All Kikes will burn in Hell” that is comparable to refusing service. This part of nondiscrimination laws has been valid for at least a half century. It is just common sense.

I am skipping over some fluff and redundancies:

This logic is completely contrary to the purpose of the First Amendment. As the Supreme Court noted in the 1989 flag-burning case, Texas v. Johnson, the First Amendment exists to protect unpopular speech: “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.”

Logic? Sexual harassment in the workplace is an excellent example of de facto discrimination. It competes with the First Amendment rights of the harasser to express himself. Texas v. Johnson does not address anything comparable. See Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson. The Court ruled that a claim of “hostile environment” sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that may be brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Again it is de facto discrimination and there are competing free speech issues.

Joanna and Breanna, represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, asked an Arizona court to protect their religious freedom and freedom of expression. They also asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction banning enforcement of the law while the case moves forward. In September, the court refused to suspend the law. Brush and Nib has appealed, but for the time being, Breanna, Joanna, and others like them face a two-fold denial of freedom of expression.

Joanna and Breanna are nothing but attention seekers. No one asked them to create a wedding invitation for a same-sex marriage and now no one ever will. It’s just a goddamned invitation and these women aren’t Picasso. Get a grip on reality.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.