Understanding the Supreme Court’s Latest Case about Religious Conviction and Same-Sex Marriage

This week, the Supreme Court heard the case of 303 Creative, a small Colorado-based web-design business whose owner, out of religious conviction, does not wish to produce wedding websites for same-sex couples. The company currently refrains from creating any wedding websites, lest it run afoul of the state’s anti-discrimination laws, but it has taken to the courts to challenge the law on First Amendment grounds. As Michael A. Helfand observes, the Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling in the very similar case of Masterpiece Cakeshop was so narrowly defined that it leaves much room for further litigation. He explains what is at stake:

In taking on 303 Creative v. Elenis . . . the Court chose to limit its inquiry to the free-speech questions raised by the case, leaving to the side questions of religious liberty. . . . The most essential question underlying 303 Creative’s free-speech claims is whether making this sort of wedding website ought to be considered speech. If it is speech, then a law requiring someone to design a particular wedding website, under threat of financial penalty, would presumably run afoul of the “compelled speech” doctrine.

But while this sort of inquiry might normally be quite challenging, the current case may have less than meets the eye. . . . If all parties agree creating the website and graphics are expressive, then creating wedding websites is a form of speech, and requiring 303 Creative to make such a website for a same-sex couple would amount to compelling speech in violation of the First Amendment.

Where does this leave us? It might mean we’ll end up with a relatively narrow opinion, [but] this isn’t to say such a result wouldn’t have real impact. When it comes to questions of religious discrimination, for example, web designers and artists who make custom—and expressive—products could potentially refuse to sell services on the basis of religious affiliation. A Christian web designer could potentially refuse to make a wedding website for Jews, or a Jewish web designer could refuse to make a wedding website for an interfaith couple.

Read more at Forward

More about: Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, Gay marriage, Supreme Court

Saudi Arabia Should Open Its Doors to Israeli—and Palestinian—Pilgrims

On the evening of June 26 the annual period of the Hajj begins, during which Muslims from all over the world visit Mecca and perform prescribed religious rituals. Because of the de-jure state of war between Saudi Arabia and the Jewish state, Israeli Muslim pilgrims—who usually number about 6,000—must take a circuitous (and often costly) route via a third country. The same is true for Palestinians. Mark Dubowitz and Tzvi Kahn, writing in the Saudi paper Arab News, urge Riyadh to reconsider its policy:

[I]f the kingdom now withholds consent for direct flights from Israel to Saudi Arabia, it would be a setback for those normalization efforts, not merely a continuation of the status quo. It is hard to see what the Saudis would gain from that.

One way to support the arrangement would be to include Palestinians in the deal. Israel might also consider earmarking its southern Ramon Airport for the flights. After all, Ramon is significantly closer to the kingdom than Ben-Gurion Airport, making for cheaper routes. Its seclusion from Israeli population centers would also help Israeli efforts to monitor outgoing passengers and incoming flights for security purposes.

A pilot program that ran between August and October proved promising, with dozens of Palestinians from the West Bank traveling back and forth from Ramon to Cyprus and Turkey. This program proceeded over the objections of the Palestinian Authority, which fears being sidelined by such accommodations. Jordan, too, has reason to be concerned about the loss of Palestinian passenger dinars at Amman’s airports.

But Palestinians deserve easier travel. Since Israel is willing to be magnanimous in this regard, Saudi Arabia can certainly follow suit by allowing Ramon to be the springboard for direct Hajj flights for Palestinian and Israeli Muslims alike. And that would be a net positive for efforts to normalize ties between [Jerusalem] and Riyadh.

Read more at Arab News

More about: Israel-Arab relations, Israeli Arabs, Palestinians, Saudi Arabia