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HomeAll The NewsTRUMPET NOTES: December 7, 2022

TRUMPET NOTES: December 7, 2022

Ten Commandments Monument Lawsuit Remains in Limbo

The lawsuit over Arkansas’ monument of the Ten Commandments is still languishing in federal court. The Arkansas Legislature passed a measure in 2015 authorizing the privately-funded monument on the State Capitol Building grounds.

Shortly after it was unveiled in 2018, atheist groups and the Satanic Temple joined a lawsuit to have the monument removed. The case originally was set to go to trial in July of 2020 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is unclear when the federal court in Little Rock intends to resolve the case. In September 2022, the plaintiffs and defendants in the lawsuit both asked U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker to establish a schedule that would allow the lawsuit to go to trial by June 5, 2023. As of Dec. 1, the court does not seem to have granted or denied that request.

As we have written before, Arkansas’ Ten Commandments monument is identical to one the U.S. Supreme Court ruled constitutional in Texas in 2005. There just shouldn’t be anything controversial about a monument honoring the significance of the Ten Commandments.

Historians have long recognized the Ten Commandments as one of the earliest examples of the rule of law in human history, and they have helped shape the laws in countries around the world. Arkansas’ monument simply honors that legacy. (familycouncil.org)

Marijuana Legalization Tied To Increased Alcohol Consumption

A recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal Jama Health Forum found that marijuana legalization may contribute to increased alcohol use.

Research conducted from 2010–2019 examined how recreational marijuana laws affected alcohol use by 4.2 million adults in the U.S. Overall, the study found “recreational cannabis laws were associated with a 0.9 percentage point increase in any alcohol use among the population.” Increased alcohol use was most pronounced among adults ages 18-24, who were 3.7% more likely to report alcohol use.

These findings are significant because many marijuana supporters claim that marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol. Even if that were true, this study indicates that legalizing marijuana may lead to increased alcohol use. In other words, legalization does not encourage people to use marijuana instead of alcohol. If states legalize marijuana, people may simply use more marijuana and more alcohol.

It’s important to point out that increased marijuana use raises safety concerns of its own. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the CDC report that, after alcohol, marijuana is the substance most often associated with impaired driving. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes in Washington doubled after the state legalized marijuana.

A 2020 study published in JAMA Network Open found that more than 1 in 8 teen drivers reported recently driving after using marijuana, and teens were more than twice as likely to drive after using marijuana than they were to drink and drive.

In Colorado, traffic fatalities where the driver tested positive for marijuana have increased 138% since the state legalized marijuana in 2013. 

All of this underscores what we have said for years: Marijuana may be many things, but “harmless” simply is not one of them. (familycouncil.org)

Supreme Court Debates Website Designer’s Freedom of Speech

The U.S. Supreme Court debated with lawyers at length on Dec. 5 whether a state has the right to compel speech in the latest case involving the intersection of religious freedom and same-sex marriage in the case 303 Creative v. Elenis.

The justices heard oral arguments for more than two hours in a designer’s challenge of a Colorado policy that requires her to create custom websites for same-sex weddings in violation of her religious beliefs. After two lower courts ruled in favor of the state, the Supreme Court agreed to decide whether the government can use a public-accommodation law — in this case, the Colorado Anti-discrimination Act (CADA) — to compel an artist to speak or remain silent without violating the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.

The high court is expected to issue an opinion before it adjourns next summer in what is, so far, the most significant case of its term involving the rights of religious adherents.

Lorie Smith, owner of 303 Creative in the Denver area, designs websites for a variety of causes and clients, including people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). She will not create websites for same-sex weddings, however, because of her belief as a Christian that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

Smith’s refusal to design a website for a same-sex ceremony is based on the message it would send, not on the people involved, Kristen Waggoner told the Supreme Court during Monday’s oral arguments. Smith “serves all people, deciding what to create based on the message, not who requests it,” said Waggoner, president and general counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

Colorado forces her “to create speech, not simply sell it,” Waggoner told the high court. The state “says it can compel speech on the same topic, but Miss Smith believes opposite-sex marriage honors Scripture and same-sex marriage contradicts it. If the government can label this speech equivalent, it can do so for any speech, whether religious or political,” she said.

While Waggoner contended Smith’s refusal to design websites for same-sex ceremonies is based on the message she would be communicating about marriage by doing so, lawyers for Colorado and the United States argued it is based on the “status” of the couple seeking the service.

Colorado Solicitor General Eric Olson told the justices her business’ policy is “status-based discrimination,” since the CADA includes sexual orientation as a protected class. Brian Fletcher, the U.S. deputy solicitor general, agreed with Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor that Smith is asking for “a status-based exception” to the CADA. Sotomayor went on to say Smith is not seeking “a speech-based exception.”

“If she is discriminating based on status, and that includes if she is defining the message or product based on the status, defining the what by the who, that is not OK,” Fletcher said.

The Supreme Court’s precedent in a 1995 opinion should govern this case, Waggoner told the justices. In a 7-2 decision, the high court ruled the organizers of Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade did not violate a public accommodation law by refusing to permit a lesbian, gay and bisexual organization to participate.

The First Amendment “is broad enough to cover the lesbian website designer and the Catholic calligrapher,” Waggoner said. “The line is that no one on any side of any debate has to be compelled to express a message that violates their core convictions…”

The justices offered numerous hypothetical situations in their questioning. Sotomayor asked whether the speech of artists would be protected if they declined to provide services for the wedding of an interracial or disabled couple based on their beliefs. Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson asked about a photography business that refused to include black children in scenes with Santa Claus.

The message in Jackson’s hypothetical is not in the photo, Waggoner said. In response to a follow-up question, she explained the Supreme Court did not say in its 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage that religious objections to gay marriage are the equivalent of objections to people of color.

Sotomayor, Jackson and Associate Justice Elena Kagan, in particular, seemed to be skeptical of Waggoner’s arguments, while conservative justices such as Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch appeared to be more receptive to her points.

In a 7-2 opinion in 2018, the justices ruled in favor of Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips in a similar case under the CADA. Phillips had declined to design and decorate a cake for the wedding of two men.

The high court’s decision was not an expansive victory for religious freedom, however. The justices found the Colorado Civil Rights Commission demonstrated “religious hostility” toward Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, but said similar facts in different contexts may produce different rulings. (baptistpress.com)

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