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

The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy