Masterpiece Cakeshop, 303 Creative and conflict between religion, gay rights

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

Fifty-one percent of American adults think a person’s “religious beliefs and values” shouldn’t influence their business decisions, while 48% think they should, according to recently published data of the Faith in America survey, which was conducted by The Marist Poll in partnership with Deseret News.

Factors such as partisanship, age and personal faith seemed to shape people’s response to the poll question. The shares of Republicans (68%) and Americans 60 or older (59%) who said religion should play a role were about double the shares of Democrats (35%) and Americans under the age of 30 years (31%) who shared the same point of view. .

“Christians (58%) and those who practice a religion (69%) believe that someone’s religion should play a role in their business decisions, while 65% of those who do not practice a religion are not ‘agreed,’ the researchers noted in the investigation report.

The new data comes at a time when communities nationwide are locked in a dispute over how to apply religious freedom protections in the commercial context. Americans disagree on whether marriage-related business owners who have religious objections to same-sex marriage should be exempt from LGBTQ non-discrimination laws and allowed to operate according to their beliefs.

The Supreme Court took up this question in 2017 in a case called Masterpiece Cakeshop. It pitted a gay couple – Charlie Craig and David Mullins – against a Christian baker named Jack Phillips, who for religious reasons refused to design custom cakes for same-sex weddings.

In June 2018, the court ruled for Phillips without addressing how to balance religious freedom and LGBTQ rights. The decision instead focused on how Colorado officials had treated the baker as his discrimination case unfolded; the judges said even unpopular religious beliefs must be respected.

“When the Colorado Civil Rights Commission considered this case, it did not do so with the religious neutrality required by the Constitution,” Judge Anthony Kennedy wrote in the newspaper. majority opinion.

In February, nearly four years after making that decision, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a closely related case. In 303 Creative LLC v. Elenisto be debated this fall, judges will decide whether a website designer who opposes same-sex marriage can refuse to design websites for LGBTQ couples.

Graphic designer Lorie Smith “doesn’t want to design websites for same-sex marriages, and she wants to post a message on her own website explaining that. But a Colorado law prohibits businesses open to the public from discriminating against gay people or discriminating against them. ‘announce their intention to do so’, SCOTUSblog reported earlier this year.

As these cases and others like them made their way through the legal system, Congress debated expanding the list of companies covered by the federal nondiscrimination law.

In February 2021, the United States House of Representatives passed the Equality Act for the second time. The measure, which is backed by President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party, would add LGBTQ rights protections to the 1964 Civil Rights Act and significantly expand the public housing section of that law.

Members of the LGBTQ community “often face discrimination in access to public accommodations – including restaurants, senior centers, stores, places or establishments that provide entertainment, health care facilities , shelters, government offices, youth service providers, including adoption and foster care providers, and transportation,” the Equality Act bed. “This discrimination prevents the full participation of LGBTQ people in society and disrupts the free flow of commerce.”

Proponents of the bill say the Equality Act would ensure gay and transgender Americans are treated the same as their neighbors. Its opponents, meanwhile, say the bill would force believers, including owners of religious businesses, to choose between honoring their faith and entering the public square.

“He’s trying to push the clerics back behind a locked door and say, ‘Don’t come out,'” Mary Rice Hasson, a lawyer and policy expert, said during a Senate Judiciary Committee on the Equality Act in March 2021.

Previous research has shown that a large majority of Americans (79%) support LGBTQ non-discrimination laws and only a third (33%) believe that small business owners should be able to refuse to supply products or services for homosexuals or lesbians.

“The majority of almost all major religious groups oppose denials of service based on religion,” Public Religion Research Institute reported in March, noting that support for religious business owners is highest among Latter-day Saints, white evangelical Protestants and Orthodox Christians.

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

The survey also found that few Americans turn to faith for help with purchasing decisions. More than 6 in 10 (61%) said religion plays “no role” in their choice of stores or businesses to visit.

Deseret’s Faith in America survey 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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