Why the First Amendment Protects the Right Not to Bake a Cake

Today the Supreme Court will hear the case of Jack Philips, the Colorado baker who declined to provide a cake for a gay couple’s wedding reception. While some have argued that, even if the state of Colorado overreached by charging Philips with unlawful discrimination, baking a cake is not considered speech for First Amendment purposes, Robert P. George and Sherif Gergis disagree:

Colorado’s order that [Philips] create same-sex wedding cakes (or quit making any cakes at all) would force him to create expressive products carrying a message he rejects. That’s unconstitutional.

Some fear a slippery slope, arguing that anything can be expressive. What if someone refused to rent out folding chairs for the reception? Or what about restaurant owners who exclude blacks because they think God wills segregation? If we exempt Mr. Phillips, won’t we have to exempt these people from anti-discrimination law? . . . [But] unlike folding chairs or restaurant service, custom wedding cakes are full-fledged speech under the First Amendment. Creating them cannot be conveniently classified as “conduct, not expression” to rationalize state coercion.

After all, the aesthetic purpose of wedding cakes—combined with the range and complexity of their possible designs—makes them just as capable of bearing expressive content as other artistic speech. Mr. Phillips’s cakes are admired precisely for their aesthetic qualities, which reflect his ideas and sensibilities. A plaster sculpture of the same size and look would without question be protected. That wedding cakes are edible is utterly beside the point. Their main purpose isn’t to sate hunger or even please the palate; it is aesthetic and expressive. They figure at receptions as a centerpiece and then part of the live program, much like a prop in a play. And no one denies that forcing artists to design props for plays promoting a state-imposed message would be unconstitutional. . . .

At some level, Colorado itself gets it. Three times the state has declined to force pro-gay bakers to provide a Christian patron with a cake they could not in conscience create given their own convictions on sexuality and marriage. Colorado was right to recognize their First Amendment right against compelled speech. It’s wrong to deny Jack Phillips that same right.

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Read more at New York Times

More about: American law, Freedom of Speech, Gay marriage, Politics & Current Affairs, Supreme Court

 

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela