Feature: An interview with Jim Campbell, the senior legal counsel with “Alliance Defending Freedom”, on a US Supreme Court case about whether a Christian baker can be punished for declining to make a custom wedding cake for a same-sex wedding.
In the news..
Progress on palliative care: A federal private member’s bill on palliative care is set to become law today, amid a new push for expanded Palliative Care services in Ontario.
Day Care availability: Cardus is out with a new study on the availability of day care spaces in B.C. The results may surprise you.
Flowers for politicians: This week, we look at a campaign by a local ARPA chapter in Alberta, which delivered flowers to local politicians for an entire month.
Bill C-277 is expected to become law today. This is the “Framework on Palliative Care in Canada Act”, first put forward as a private member’s bill by Sarnia-Lambton MP Marilyn Gladu. The bill calls for the development of a national palliative care strategy. It passed the House of Commons with all-party support earlier this year, and it cleared the Senate last Friday. Royal Assent is set to happen today.
Meanwhile, there’s also a push underway in Ontario to expand palliative care services. Sam Oosterhoff, the MPP for Niagara West-Glanbrook, has introduced a private member’s bill called the “Compassionate Care Act”, to create a specific palliative care framework and strategy for his province. He says when the legislature debated provisions to enact a framework for doctor-assisted suicide, there was a general recognition that the province also needed improved palliative care services: “We need to make sure people have the choice to die in palliative care; that they’re [not] forced into these situations where they feel they need to perform assisted suicide just due to the nature of their illness.”
He says Ontario has a chronic shortage of palliative care services. “There’s so much to do,” Oosterhoff says. “In Ontario, we have 341 palliative care beds, when we need more than 1,300 based on our population.”
The bill Oosterhoff has put forward would force the health minister to release a report to the Legislature within 6 months of the act passing, and then follow up with updates on any recommendations made in that report. The bill has the support of the Ontario Medical Association and the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario. Oosterhoff says the NDP has also signalled that it will be supporting the legislation, and the focus now is on getting at least some members of the governing Liberal Party on board.
The bill is slated for first reading this Thursday, the final day before the Ontario legislature rises for the Christmas break. The hope is that it will make it through Committee stage and final passage before the next provincial election.
Cardus Families is out with a new report on day care vacancy rates in British Columbia. There’s a narrative in BC that says there’s a “crisis in day care” because of a lack of available spaces, but Cardus Families Director Andrea Mrozek says statistics from the government don’t actually bear that out.
“The data shows that there are vacancies, and that those vacancy (rates) can get up to 50% depending on where you are in the province.” During the provincial election campaign in BC earlier this year, the NDP campaigned on providing “$10-dollar-a-day” day care, and the Green Party wanted to make it free. Mrozek says those promises seem to be based on ideology rather than on hard data. “Sometimes I wonder whether politicians know about this data. It is government data; it’s a government report that shows the low utilization rates.”
However, she says, there are people out there who believe that the only way to care for children is to allocate spaces in institutional day cares. “There are some sectors who believe that any child of day-care age needs to have space available to them, and until that happens, they will claim there’s a shortage.” Mrozek says that’s clearly a “pretty ideological viewpoint.”
Cardus did a report earlier this year based on Ontario government statistics which found that the availability of day care spaces in Toronto was also considerably higher than figures cited by day care activists.
The Southern Alberta chapter of ARPA put together a novel engagement strategy earlier this fall involving local politicians. For every business day in October – every day that offices were open – members of the ARPA chapter visited the constituency offices of MP Rachael Harder and the three provincial MLA’s for the area – two from the NDP and one from the opposition United Conservative Party. And on each of those visits, they delivered some flowers and a card, thanking the members for their service.
Marc Slingerland helped organize the campaign, and he says in addition to a “thank you” in the cards, there were some specific messages. In the case of the MP, “each of the cards said something about gender-selective abortion. (Rachael) Harder has spoken out against that, and we thanked her for that.” The campaign was done before the introduction of Bill 24 in Alberta, and the cards that were delivered to the MLAs included a focus on the issue of parental rights in education.
Slingerland says the response to the campaign was varied. He says particularly in the case of the MLAs, “you could tell that they were a bit conflicted. Of course they thanked us for the flowers and for the mention, but I think they wouldn’t necessarily expect something supportive and positive from a group like ARPA… it seemed to me that they weren’t quite sure how to respond.”
This campaign can be easily replicated in other parts of the country. If you’re interested in doing something like this in your area, you can contact ARPA’s Grassroots Manager Colin Postma.
The United States Supreme Court held a hearing last week on a case with huge implications for freedom of religion.
As we were posting our podcast on the Trinity Western case, the highest court in America started hearing oral arguments in a case called “Masterpiece Cakeshop vs Colorado Civil Rights Commission.” It involves a Christian baker, Jack Phillips, and his fight for the right not to make a cake for a gay wedding. Mr. Phillips was represented before the Supreme Court by the group “Alliance Defending Freedom” – a Washington-based legal group that specializes in cases involving religious freedom.
Jim Campbell is the Senior Legal Counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom the ADF. He was co-counsel in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, and he joined us on Lighthouse News this week.
LN: So this case in Colorado – I mean I’m sure you’ve been following a little bit what’s been going on in Canada; we had the Trinity Western case earlier in the month centering on the notion of religious freedom at universities – now we have a baker from Colorado who declined to make a cake for gay wedding. And that wound up before the American Supreme Court. You were in the court for the hearing last Tuesday.
Talk to me a little bit about some of the basic arguments that were presented there.
JC: Sure. The case is one that has been around and ongoing for 5 years now. The facts are very, very simple. Jack Phillips is a cake artist. He makes custom cakes to celebrate his clients’ life events, including marriages. He was asked about 5½ years ago to create a cake celebrating a same-sex marriage. He politely declined because of his religious beliefs, but he very quickly told the two gentlemen that he would sell them anything else in the shop, or make a cake for them for another occasion. It was simply designing a custom cake to celebrate a same-sex marriage that would conflict with his faith. And so that’s sort of the background. That’s really all the key facts in the case. And so when the US Supreme Court heard the case last week, it asked a lot of interesting questions, but at the heart of this case is really the freedom of all people – including particularly creative professionals – to live and work consistent with their sincerely-held religious beliefs.
LN: I find it interesting that, I mean, the American context is different than the Canadian one. In the Trinity case the argument was about freedom of association. You know, (the notion that) groups are free to form associations based on various things including religion – that was (one of) the argument(s) that was made. Here, we’re talking about freedom of expression and a “cake artist”? I mean, to me that’s a foreign concept. Why not argue the point that there’s a freedom of religion piece involved here? Or is that part of the argument, and I’m just not getting it?
JC: It is part of the argument. So there are two primary arguments that we’ve raised in support of Jack Phillips. The first argument is free exercise of religion. That religious liberty protects the rights of people like Mr. Phillips, who serve everyone but simply can’t create certain cakes that express particular messages or that celebrate certain events; we think that people like that should have the right to live and work consistent with their beliefs. So there is a “free exercise” claim. But there is also a claim that involves artistic expression and freedom of expression for creative professionals.
LN: One of the things that is at stake here I think – based on what I’ve been reading about the case – is the whole notion of state anti-discrimination laws that require businesses that are open to the public to treat everybody equally. And I think about 20 states specifically mention the whole sexual orientation piece as part of the requirement for “treating people equally.” Where does that fit into this equation?
JC: Well, our opponents in the case do make arguments based on those laws, but our response has always been that Jack Phillips serves everyone. He offered to serve these two gentlemen. There’s just some cakes that he can’t make. And so at the end of the day, really, this is no different than if Jack is asked to make a cake celebrating Halloween, which happens to be another category of cakes that he doesn’t make because of his sincerely-held religious beliefs. So the case here is no different. He’s happy to serve everyone; he’s just not able to make every cake consistent with his conscience.
LN: President Trump’s Solicitor-General, Noel Fransisco, was at the court hearing, on the stand, representing the federal government. He told the court that business owners shouldn’t be forced to create or contribute to an event they disagree with on the basis of their religious beliefs. One of the analogies he used was an African-American artist who should not be compelled to sculpt a cross that would be used for a Klan service.
Is that analogy valid?
JC: I definitely think it is. And if you look at the arguments that the state is making in this case, they’ve been very clear that they’re happy to compel people to either create art or speak messages that are in violation of their beliefs. And so what we have if, you know, we consider this case, are some of the examples you just raised. Which is, “Are we gonna force someone who – just because they made a cross say, for a Lutheran church – now has to make a cross for the KKK or some other sort of white supremacist religious organization?” I think not. And I do think that there should be freedom.
And so another example is – just like Mr. Phillips should be free to decline to celebrate events and ideas that conflict with his faith – a lesbian graphic designer should be free to decline to create custom flyers that celebrate a religious event opposing same-sex marriage.
So this freedom that we’re arguing for in this case is a freedom that cuts across ideological lines. This is a freedom that everyone should enjoy, and that is the right to live and work consistent with your core beliefs, whether those beliefs are religious or whether those beliefs are based on something else.
LN: It’s always kind of a mug’s game to predict what a Supreme Court is going to do. I know certainly in our case on this side of the border, nobody knows what’s going to happen with the Trinity Western case. Do we get any sense of where the justices are in this case?
JC: I think the one thing that we learned is that the justices see the far-reaching implications of this. So you talked about the Trinity case in Canada, and we’ve been watching that very closely here in the US. We think that’s a very important case. But I think the justices see the implications of this Masterpiece Cakeshop case on issues like that.
For example, Chief Justice Roberts, the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, recognized in his questioning that… he was concerned that this sort of a ruling could have implications for organizations like a Catholic Legal Aid organization that is willing to – and that offers – pro-bono legal services. He was concerned whether this would force them to provide legal services in conflict with their faith. And the state – the gentleman who was arguing the case on behalf of the state (of Colorado) – indicated that they very well might be forced to take cases and to argue positions that would conflict with their religious beliefs. And I think that shows that while this case – Masterpiece Cakeshop – involves a cake artist, the ramifications are far-reaching, and I think they reach even issues like what you all are dealing with in the Trinity Western case in Canada.