Justice Department Sides With Baker Who Refused To Make Wedding Cake For Gay Couple

Original Article

By Robert Barnes

In a major upcoming Supreme Court case that weighs equal rights with religious liberty, the Trump administration on Thursday sided with a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

The Department of Justice on Thursday filed a brief on behalf of baker Jack Phillips, who was found to have violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act by refusing to created a cake to celebrate the marriage of Charlie Craig and David Mullins in 2012. Phillips said he doesn’t create wedding cakes for same-sex couples because it would violate his religious beliefs.

The government agreed with Phillips that his cakes are a form of expression, and he cannot be compelled to use his talents for something in which he does not believe.

“Forcing Phillips to create expression for and participate in a ceremony that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs invades his First Amendment rights,” Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey B. Wall wrote in the brief.

Plaintiff in landmark Supreme Court case says: ‘One person can change the world’
The Post’s Steven Petrow sits down with Jim Obergefell, the main plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court case, Obergefell v. Hodges, and talks about gay marriage, equality for the transgender community and his late husband John.(Video: Erin Patrick O’Connor/Photo: Maddie McGarvey/The Washington Post)

The DOJ’s decision to support Phillips is the latest in a series of steps the Trump administration has taken to rescind Obama administration positions favorable to gay rights and to advance new policies on the issue.

But Louise Melling, the deputy legal counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the couple, said she was taken aback by the filing.

“Even in an administration that has already made its hostility” toward the gay community clear, Melling said, “I find this nothing short of shocking.”

Since taking office, President Trump has moved to block transgender Americans from serving in the military and his Department of Education has done away with guidance to schools on how they should accommodate transgender students.

The DOJ also has taken the stance that gay workers are not entitled to job protections under federal anti-discrimination laws. Since 2015, the Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission has taken the opposite stance, saying Title VII, the civil-rights statute that covers workers, protects against bias based on sexual orientation.

Federal courts are split on that issue, and the Supreme Court this term might take up the issue.

Indeed, lawyers for Jameka Evans, who claims she was fired by Georgia Regional Hospital because of her sexual orientation and “nonconformity with gender norms of appearance and demeanor,” on Thursday asked justices to take her case.

Citing a 1979 precedent, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit rejected her protection claims.

Taking that case, along with Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, would make the coming Supreme Court term the most important for gay rights issues since the justices voted 5 to 4 in 2015 to find a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry.

The case of Phillips, a baker in the Denver suburbs, is similar to lawsuits brought elsewhere involving florists, calligraphers and others who say providing services to same-sex weddings would violate their religious beliefs. But these objectors have found little success in the courts, which have ruled that businesses serving the public must comply with state anti-discrimination laws.

Mullins and Craig visited Masterpiece Cakeshop in July 2012, along with Craig’s mother, to order a cake for their upcoming wedding reception. Mullins and Craig planned to marry in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriages were legal at the time, and then hold a reception in Colorado.

But Phillips refused to discuss the issue, saying his religious beliefs would not allow him to have anything to do with same-sex marriage. He said other bakeries would accommodate them.

The civil rights commission and a Colorado court rejected Phillips’ argument that forcing him to create a cake violated his First Amendment rights of freedom of expression and exercise of religion.

The court said the baker “does not convey a message supporting same-sex marriages merely by abiding by the law.”

Anti-LGBTQ+ Pastor Adds TV Screen Outside His Harlem, Manhatten Church To Air Sermons

Original Article

By Ayana Harry

HARLEM, Manhattan — A controversial Harlem pastor known for his anti-gay sentiments added a TV to the message board outside his church so his sermons can be seen and heard by pedestrians.

James David Manning, pastor of  Atlah World Missionary Church, came under fire in recent years after he posted messages implying that people who support LGBT individuals should be “cursed” with cancer, HIV, syphilis, stroke and madness. He’s now hoping to use the TV to get his message out in a new way.

“It ain’t going nowhere,” Manning said about the TV. “They don’t have the right to tell me how to preach.”

Pastor Manning noted that a picture is worth a thousand words and, in a neighborhood that’s rapidly changing, it’s important for him to stand his ground and share his message.

“The TV gives an opportunity to do live and living color,” he said.

But residents have begged the pastor to take the messages down.

“Some of the message that you see here are disturbing,” said Isseu Campbell, a local who walks by the church every day. “I think it should be a positive place with positive energy.”

Anglican Church Welcomes Transgender People

The Church of England is set to offer special services to welcome transgender people to the Anglican faith after its ruling body backed a motion seen as a symbol of acceptance of an often marginalized community.

The General Synod, meeting in York, voted in favour of the move by 284 votes to 78. It was the second time in two days that it gave overwhelming support to motions seen as positive towards LGBT people, suggesting to some a significant change of mood.

The motion said transgender people should be “welcomed and affirmed in their parish church”, and that bishops consider whether special liturgies “might be prepared to mark a person’s gender transition”.

Proposing the motion, Chris Newlands, from Blackburn, Lancashire, said: “I hope that we can make a powerful statement to say that we believe that trans people are cherished and loved by God, who created them, and is present through all the twists and turns of their lives.”

He told the synod of the son of two members of a big evangelical church, who he called Nathan. At the age of five, after medical advice, Nathan became Natalie, and returned to school “much happier … and with very little fuss from staff, pupils and parents”.

Not all members of the church were as supportive, however, with some offering only “grudging acceptance”. Newlands said he hoped the debate at synod “will help to inform that church, and many other churches, of the challenges children with gender dysphoria face”.

Citing data from the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, he said that in 2010, 97 children in the UK were referred to gender identity clinics, but by 2016 the number had risen to 1,400.

He said: “Across the world, trans people have been subjected to appalling violence against them. In the UK, transphobic hate crime has risen by 170% in the last year.”

According to figures from the LGBT campaign group Stonewall, 48% of trans people under the age of 26 said they had attempted suicide.

Some speakers in the debate drew attention to the symbolic message that passing the motion would send. “It’s about opening our arms to the trans community, a community that so often feels excluded,” said Lucy Gorman, from York.

Bishop of Worcester John Inge said: “Our response needs to be loving and open and welcoming and the passing of this motion would be a very important factor in that.”

A background paper to the motion urged bishops to consider providing “liturgical materials which may be used in parish churches and chaplaincies to provide a pastoral response to the need of transgender people to be affirmed following their long, distressing and often complex process of transition”.

It acknowledged that clergy could not be required to perform such a service if they “cannot in good conscience offer support in a liturgical marking of a person’s transition”.

Some Christian traditionalists say gender – male or female – is assigned by God and cannot be changed. Such a view was not expressed in the 75-minute debate, which was overwhelmingly supportive of a positive pastoral response to the transgender community and those undergoing the process of transition.

Sunday’s vote came less than 24 hours after the synod decisively backed a motion condemning conversion therapy as unethical and potentially harmful, and calling on the government to ban it.

After hearing two of its members describe their experiences as spiritual abuse, the synod agreed that the practice had “no place in the modern world”.

Conversion therapy is usually described as an attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Some churches in the C of E and other denominations have encouraged LGBT members to take part in prayer sessions and other activities to rid them of their “sin”.

Jayne Ozanne – who underwent conversion therapy resulting in two breakdowns and two spells of hospitalisation – said the practice was “abuse from which vulnerable adults need protecting”.

It was “discredited by the government, the NHS, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Royal College of General Practitioners and many other senior health care bodies,” she said.

But some synod members expressed concern that the motion would limit the church’s ability to offer pastoral care and prayer for people struggling with issues of sexual desire and orientation.

Some saw the vote as a sign of a greater acceptance by the church’s ruling body of LGBT people.

David Ison, dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, said the absence of major opposition showed that “the mood in synod overall is shifting somewhat towards acceptance and realisation of the damage that has been caused” to LGBT people.

However, on the divisive issue of same-sex marriage, the synod was told that a working group to review the church’s teaching on marriage would not report back until 2020 at the earliest. Some synod members accused the bishops of stalling.

Church of England Rejects LGBT Conversion Therapy and Affirms Transgender People

Original Article

The Church of England is making major overtures to affirm transgender and LGBT people and rejecting any notion that gender transition or same-sex sexual orientation could be understood as sin.

On Sunday, the church’s general synod voted 284 to 78 in favor of a motion to affirm transgender people in parish churches and offer special liturgy services to mark their gender transition.

Reverend Christopher Newlands opened the debate on the motion saying he hoped to make a powerful statement. “We believe that trans people are cherished and loved by God, who created them and is present through all the twists and turns of their lives,” he said.

The synod also voted to denounce what it calls “conversion therapy” for those struggling with same-sex attraction.

The motion was moved by Jayne Ozanne who called the therapy “harmful” and “dangerous” saying “people may be able to alter their behavior but they can never alter their innate desire.”

Those who opposed the motion noted that it could limit ministry to those struggling with same-sex attraction. The Guardian reports that some synod members expressed concern that it would constrict those in the church seeking to provide pastoral care and prayer for sexual minorities.

Conservatives in the Church of England have been concerned about its pro-LGBT movement for years and started the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in 2008 to “retain and restore the Bible to the heart of the Anglican Communion.”