“Freedom of Speech:” The Supreme Court’s Convenient New Garbage Can

    Regarding the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court siding with the baker who turned away a gay couple, refusing to create their wedding cake, for quite some time, while awaiting the Court’s decision, I felt that the baker was actually justified on legitimate religious grounds.  In fact, if he and his lawyers had claimed that by forcing him to create the wedding cake, the state was forcing him to participate in a ceremony expressly forbidden by his religion, I would have had no problem with the eventual decision.  However, examining the case more closely, I find the decision “correct” but for the “incorrect” reason. The baker claimed that it was his freedom to express his “religious” opinion, an infringement on his freedom of speech that bothered him, or more accurately, his freedom not to speak, that is not to express his artistic talents in the form of creating a wedding cake.  As an old mentor of mine used to quote Shakespeare’s palace guard: “There’s something screwy in Denmark” here.

    Now, both the protection of “freedom of religion” and protection of “freedom of speech” are both included in the First Amendment, but they are not the same thing or they would not have been differentiated separately in the amendment.  It seems that again and again, the First Amendment has been used by a “conservative” supreme court as a sort of garbage bag for any concept that is too politically soiled to call by its rightful name. Thus, the Citizens United decision claims that there is no quid quo pro involved in offering candidates millions of dollars in political donations or threatening not to donate the money if they don’t vote in the donors’ interest.  Paying enough for control of a candidate may be a type of expression of opinion, but it is also immoral and was considered illegal for many years, that is until a “conservative” court was moved by clearly political considerations to legalize massive bribes as speech.  In fact, the Roberts Supreme Court became the laughing stock of jurists and even average citizens worldwide with the Citizens United decision. No one respects our Supreme Court, especially not the Senate, not even those who like its decisions, knowing so many of them will end up being overturned someday by more honorable justices.

    Remember, currently it is radical right wing Christianity that has the court’s ear, screaming for their “religious freedom,” which somehow consists of officially either converting everyone to their religious tenets or forcing everyone to live by their religious values by controlling all of the houses of government, including the courts.  They will stoop to whatever it takes, keeping “undesirable” citizens from voting, gerrymandering state districts, using their own company’s voting machines, cheating Merrick Garland out of a fair shot at a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, extorting favors from elected officials, to maintain power. They will stop at nothing, just as their predecessors did some two thousand years ago, sacrificing the best of their own ranks as well as anyone and anything, mothers, babies, families...

    The problem is that dredging up “religious freedom” as an excuse for terrorizing people of various beliefs is a double edged sword.  When people eventually get tired of listening to the inane demands of those on the far right and far left, they may begin to consider the religious implications for the millions and millions of people that are not radical right wing Christians, people whose religions already have certain parameters for termination of pregnancy and especially for contraception (by far the best way to prevent abortions).  What is needed is for even casual practitioners to study their own religions and mount a massive campaign denouncing the arrogance of these religious terrorists and their total lack of respect for every other religion but their own.

    The baker’s case should have been decided on basis of his religious freedom, not his inability to express his opinion or those of religious tyrants intent on forcing their specific views on the rest of society.  He is free to shout it from the rooftops and to anyone else who listens- as he did, by the way, to the involved gay couple, and he shouldn’t be forced to participate in their “ritual’ if it is forbidden by his church.  But, he really ought to stop whining about how his freedom of speech was violated and the  conservatives on the Court should take his complaint out of the fetid garbage bag where it is stored with the other phony “free speech” excuses until they need to use it for their next dark session.

Al Finkelstein, 7/10/18