By Going after Jack Phillips Yet Again, Colorado Is Abetting Harassment and Bigotry

Aug. 17 2018

In July, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop, whose owner Jack Phillips had been fined by the Colorado Civil Rights Division for declining to bake a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding. Twenty-four days later, however, the division issued yet another “probable-cause determination” against Phillips for declining to bake a cake—blue on the outside, pink on the inside—to celebrate a potential customer’s “transitioning” from male to female. Notably, Autumn Scardina, the person requested this cake, did so on June 26, 2017, the same day the Supreme Court announced that it would review the original case. David French comments:

Lest anyone wonder whether this request was made in good faith, consider that this same person apparently made a number of requests to Masterpiece Cakeshop. In September 2017, a caller asked Phillips to design a birthday cake for Satan that would feature an image of Satan smoking marijuana. The name “Scardina” appeared on the caller identification. A few days earlier, a person had emailed Phillips asking for a cake with a similar theme—except featuring “an upside-down cross, under the head of Lucifer.” This same emailer reminded Phillips that “religion is a protected class.” On the very day that Phillips won his case at the Supreme Court, a person emailed with yet another deliberately offensive design request. . . .

With its probable-cause finding, the Colorado Civil Rights Division demonstrates it’s as foolish as it is malicious. It has just launched yet another legal campaign against Phillips based on nothing more than a bad-faith complaint from an angry troll. It hasn’t cured its devotion to double standards. And by seeking to punish Phillips when the expressive message of the proposed cake is crystal clear, the Division has only strengthened his First Amendment claim.

In recent months, we’ve seen that trolling and shaming work all too well when the relevant power is a private corporation. . . . But . . . government officials can’t empower the outrage mob. They can’t engage in viewpoint discrimination, and if they act with actual animus, they can and should be held personally liable for violating a citizen’s core constitutional rights.

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More about: American law, Freedom of Religion, Politics & Current Affairs, Supreme Court

The Reasons for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Staying Power

Nov. 20 2018

This week, Benjamin Netanyahu seems to have narrowly avoided the collapse of his governing coalition despite the fact that one party, Yisrael Beiteinu, withdrew and another, the Jewish Home, threatened to follow suit. Moreover, he kept the latter from defecting without conceding its leader’s demand to be appointed minister of defense. Even if the government were to collapse, resulting in early elections, Netanyahu would almost certainly win, writes Elliot Jager:

[Netanyahu’s] detractors think him Machiavellian, duplicitous, and smug—willing to do anything to stay in power. His supporters would not automatically disagree. Over 60 percent of Israelis tell pollsters that they will be voting for a party other than Likud—some supposing their favored party will join a Netanyahu-led coalition while others hoping against the odds that Likud can be ousted.

Opponents would [also] like to think the prime minister’s core voters are by definition illiberal, hawkish, and religiously inclined. However, the 30 percent of voters who plan to vote Likud reflect a broad segment of the population. . . .

Journalists who have observed Netanyahu over the years admire his fitness for office even if they disagree with his actions. A strategic thinker, Netanyahu’s scope of knowledge is both broad and deep. He is a voracious reader and a quick study. . . . Foreign leaders may not like what he says but cannot deny that he speaks with panache and authority. . . .

The prime minister or those around him are under multiple police investigations for possible fraud and moral turpitude. Under Israel’s system, the police investigate and can recommend that the attorney general issue an indictment. . . . Separately, Mrs. Netanyahu is in court for allegedly using public monies to pay for restaurant meals. . . . The veteran Jerusalem Post political reporter Gil Hoffman maintains that Israelis do not mind if Netanyahu appears a tad corrupt because they admire a politician who is nobody’s fool. Better to have a political figure who cannot be taken advantage of than one who is incorruptible but naïve.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics