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.

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

 

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy