The holiday season should be a time of joy and introspection, in which Americans bask in the innumerable freedoms that we enjoy. Yet, right after Christmas, three activist judges desecrated two of our most hallowed constitutional rights: the right to religious freedom and the right to freedom of expression.
Recently, an appellate court ruled that Melissa and Aaron Klein, the former owners of a bakery, had violated the law, and upheld an unconscionable $135,000 fine they had been ordered to pay by Oregon labor commissioner Brad Avakian. Their crime? In deference to their religious beliefs, they had refused to bake a wedding cake for lesbians getting married. Since then, the Kleins and their young children have received death threats, and they have been targeted by gay rights activists hellbent on punishing anyone who would prefer not to celebrate or participate in homosexual weddings.
It is unclear whether Commissioner Avakian, “a champion of the LGBTQ community,” is related in any way to Bob Avakian, the chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist organization. But the humiliation the left-wing commissar inflicted on the Kleins simply for practicing their Christian faith — and his vindictive decision to sacrifice their small business on an altar of political correctness — are brutally reminiscent of the War on Religion waged in Stalin’s Soviet Union, “the first state to have as an ideological objective the elimination of religion.”
Because of Commissioner Avakian’s persecution, the husband and wife have been forced to shut down their family-owned business. In addition, the government has “wiped out their bank accounts.” In effect, “[t]heir American dream died.”
With duplicity rivaling anything seen in Orwell’s 1984, liberals claim that the colossal injustice that the Kleins—and other Christian bakers—have suffered is actually a form of social justice. The Kleins, we are told, supposedly discriminated by offering to bake wedding cakes for heterosexual couples but not providing their cakes for same sex weddings. But this liberal argument is wrongheaded and absurd.
Many of the government-persecuted bakers “sell brownies and tortes and anything else in [their] pastry case to gay customers.” They, therefore, aren’t discriminating against gays because of who they sleep with. They do, however, draw the line at baking goods for weddings or other occasions (e.g., divorces) that are inconsistent with their deeply-held, religious values.
It is not illegal for people to refuse to provide services for ceremonies they disagree with. But if Christian bakers must provide services for gay weddings, should gay bakers (or feminists) also be compelled to bake cakes for Islamic fundamentalists who teach that homosexuality is a sin? Should a photographer who supports our nation’s border laws be forced to work at a La Raza event praising illegal immigrants? Or should a female doctor be required to examine the prostate of any male patient who demands she do so or risk being penalized for supposedly discriminating against men?
No U.S. court would punish the Colorado baker who refused to bake a Bible-shaped cake decorated with an image of two grooms covered by a red X, plus the words “Homosexuality is a detestable sin. Leviticus 18:22.” That baker refused a customer’s request because of her moral beliefs. For the government to rule that her decision was acceptable, but the Kleins’ decision is illegal constitutes viewpoint discrimination that is unlawful and unconstitutional.
Some may be quick to overlook this tragedy since the victims are Christians whose values seem outdated in an era in which Kim Kardashian may have more followers than the Blessed Virgin Mary. But they should remember that, “A government able to bankrupt people for standing by their deepest [religious] beliefs is a government of unbridled power and a threat to everyone’s freedom.” They should also remember Martin Niemöller’s haunting words about the Nazis: “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Authors Jonah Goldberg and Ben Shapiro have correctly warned that “liberal fascists” are “bullies” who seek to harness the fearful power of the government to force everyone to think the way they want us to. These “social justice warriors” will punish, bankrupt, or criminalize anyone who disagrees with them. Recently, they bullied a woman into killing herself because she did not want to have sex with men who had shot gay porn. In California, they have made it a crime to refer to a person born a male as a “he” if that’s not what “she” wants. If Americans truly value our liberties and our independence, we can’t stand by idly while activist judges strip Christians of their constitutional rights and protections. If we do, history teaches we will be their next victims.
Nick James is the nom de plume of a trial attorney in the D.C. area who formerly worked for the United States Department of Justice as an award-winning federal prosecutor.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.