FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE

While there has always been disagreement about what freedom of conscience requires in particular cases, the idea of freedom of conscience as a fundamental human right has more or less been a consensus in Australia. It became controversial only in recent years as the government tried to force Australians who embrace traditional values to violate their beliefs on same-sex marriage, and as leftwing advocacy groups decided that civil liberties aren’t for conscientious objectors to the sexual revolution.

Here are 22 chilling examples of freedom of conscience under attack in Australia and overseas…

CONCERNED SOLICITORS – AUSTRALIA

Solicitors have complained of being intimidated at their workplaces if they publicly criticise the endorsement of same-sex marriage by their professional association and law firms.

The intimidation, which has led to complaints by Catholic lawyers, came to light soon after the NSW Law Society’s support for same-sex marriage triggered a threat of possible legal action.

That move, by Sydney solicitor Robin Speed, prompted an ­organisation of Catholic lawyers to say it had received “a number” of complaints of intimidation.

“In a certain sense they are intimidated. There are young lawyers in firms who feel they cannot stick their necks out.” said barrister Michael McAuley, president of the St Thomas More Society.

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TRINITY WESTERN UNIVERSITY – CANADA

Trinity Western University in British Columbia is a Canadian, Christian university. Students and staff at TWU must sign a community covenant as a condition of being at the school, which includes a promise to abstain from sexual activity unless it is between a husband and wife.

Accreditation of Teaching Graduates was refused based solely on the community covenant. Based on this position on marriage, the British Columbia Teachers Board voted to refuse accreditation to graduates of Trinity’s teacher college because they might discriminate against LGBTI students.

After years of litigation the Supreme Court of Canada upheld Trinity graduates right to be accredited in 2001. Accreditation of law graduates to practise law refused by Law Societies in 4 provinces based solely on the community covenant. In 2012 TWU applied to open a law school.

In response to TWU’s community covenant, several deans of Canadian law schools, as well as the Canadian Bar Association, the Law Society of Upper Canada, and Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society called for the proposed law school not to receive accreditation. Four Provincial (State) Law societies voted not to accredit graduates from Trinity’s law school to practise in those Provinces. Cases are being litigated in 3 provinces’ appellate courts and are on the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

SWEET CAKES BY MELISSA – USA

In 2013, the state of Oregon went after the little family bakery of Aaron and Melissa Klein, when they declined to provide a wedding cake for a lesbian wedding, again citing their Christian beliefs. The state of Oregon fined them, going so far as to garnish their bank accounts and assets and taking a total of $144,000 for their refusal to violate the tenets of their faith. The bakery, which the couple worked to create for years, was shut down.

Aaron Klein is currently on disability after injuring himself working as a trash collector to provide for the couple’s five children. A GoFundMe campaign was set up to financially assist the Kleins, but activists bullied GoFundMe into cancelling the campaign. The Klein’s were also the target of a vicious campaign by gay activists intent on destroying their business and any other possible income streams, regardless of the cost.

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BRENDAN EICH, MOZILLA – USA

Co-founder of the Mozilla Corporation—best known for its browser, Firefox—Brendan Eich was appointed chief executive of the company in 2014. It quickly emerged, however, that he had made a $1,000 donation in support of Californian anti-gay marriage law Proposition 8, in 2008. A social media outcry quickly ensued. Furthermore, online dating website OkCupid posted a message to its users, asking them to boycott Mozilla by using an alternative browser when accessing their website:

“Hello there, Mozilla Firefox user. Pardon this interruption of your OkCupid experience. Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OkCupid.”

Eich quickly stepped down from his new position. The executive chairwoman of Mozilla stated afterwards:

Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it … We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves.

JACK PHILLIPS – USA

Jack C. Phillips, a baker in Denver, Colorado, was asked to create a wedding cake by a gay couple, Charlie Craig and David Mullins, in 2012. Phillips refused, citing his Christian beliefs, but offered to serve them any other baked goods. Mullins and Craig opted to file a complaint to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for sexual orientation discrimination, claiming that he had treated them in a “dehumanizing” way.

The commission ruled against Jack, ordering him and his staff to design cakes for same-sex wedding celebrations, go through a “re-education” program, implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years to show that Jack has completely eliminated his religious beliefs from his business. Instead, in order to remain loyal to his conscience and his faith, Phillips stopped baking wedding cakes entirely. According to him, this has cost him 40% of his business revenue.

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ASHERS BAKERY – NORTHERN IRELAND

In Norther Ireland, 2014, gay-rights activist Gareth Lee asked Ashers Bakery to produce a cake for him bearing the words: ‘Support gay marriage.’ The bakery refused, because they were unwilling to be seen to promote gay marriage that ran counter to their religious beliefs. They were taken to court. Ashers were found to have discriminated against Lee, based on his sexual orientation. Ashers’ general manager Daniel McArthur stated after the ruling:

We’ve said from the start that our issue was with the message on the cake, not the customer and we didn’t know what the sexual orientation of Mr Lee was, and it wasn’t relevant either. We’ve always been happy to serve any customers that come into our shops. The ruling suggests that all business owners will have to be willing to promote any cause or campaign no matter how much they disagree with it.

When the decision was appealed in 2016 by Ashers, the Court of Appeal also held in favour of Lee, stating that he had suffered discrimination based on his sexual orientation.

BARONELLE STUTZMAN – USA

Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts in Richland, Washington State, was ordered to pay over $1,000 in fines in 2015 after declining to provide floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding. She had previously sold the couple in question flowers many times, but stated simply that providing floral arrangements for a wedding would violate her Christian beliefs.

The court held that the state may force Barronelle to choose between engaging in compelled expression celebrating an event that violates her religious faith or foregoing the wedding design work she has loved for 40 years. The Court also found that she faces personal liability for her decision.

Stutzman was also targeted by the fundraising website GoFundMe, which shut down her fundraising effort because of a new policy against “discriminatory acts.”

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GIFFORD VS MCCARTHY, ERWIN – USA

In 2012, couple Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin contacted Cynthia and Robert Gifford to arrange their wedding ceremony at their Liberty Ridge Farm estate, New York. After learning that it would be a same-sex marriage ceremony, the Giffords declined to host the event. After complaining of unlawful practice, the McCarthy and Erwin were awarded $13,000 in damages by the New York State Division of Human Rights, based on its findings that the Giffords had committed ‘sexual orientation discrimination.’ For their part, the Giffords insisted that their decision to refuse to host the ceremony was based on the event, not the sexual orientation of the individuals in question. The court brief stated that:

The Giffords serve everyone, including individuals who identify as gay and lesbian … In fact, the Giffords will gladly host myriad events, including wedding receptions, for same-sex couples. It is only same-sex wedding ceremonies that the Giffords cannot host or participate in.

Despite this, the ‘expressive endorsement’ argument forwarded by the Giffords was discounted, based on a perceived inextricability between sexual orientation and practice, in this case marriage.

HANDS ON ORIGINALS – USA

Blaine Adamson and his printing business, Hands On Originals, came under attack when they declined to create t-shirts for the pride festival hosted by the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (“GLSO”).  Helping to spread a message that promotes sexual activity outside of a marriage between a man and a woman would violate Blaine’s Christian beliefs.  So he could not in good conscience produce t-shirts for the GLSO’s event.

Blaine nevertheless offered to connect the GLSO to another printer who would create the shirts for the same price that he would have charged.  In response, however, the GLSO’s president filed a complaint with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission alleging sexual orientation discrimination.

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DAMIAN GODDARD – CANADA

Rogers Sportsnet TV host Damian Goddard was fired after he tweeted in support of traditional marriage in 2014, as a response to a tweet by sports agent Todd Reynolds. Reynold’s tweet, which in turn was answer a statement by NHL player Sean Avery’s support for same sex marriage was:

Very sad to read Sean Avery’s misguided support of same-gender ‘marriage’. Legal or not, it will always be wrong.

Goddard posted on his private Twitter account:

I completely and whole-heartedly support Todd Reynolds and his support for the traditional and true meaning of marriage.

Goddard’s employment with Rogers Sportsnet was terminated within 24 hours of his tweet. Sportsnet director Dave Rashford stated that ‘it had become clear that [Goddard] is not the right fit for our organization.’

CHICK-FIL-A – USA

Chick-fil-A (a national sandwich franchise) made corporate donations supporting groups opposed to same sex marriage. Its chief operating officer made a number of statements supporting traditional marriage. It was subjected to consumer boycotts and some universities refused to let it open franchises on their campuses. Three cities moved to block planning permission for new franchise stores. The Jim Henson Company, which had entered its Pajanimals in a kids’ meal toy licensing arrangement in 2011, said that it would cease its business relationship with Chick-fil-A, and donate payment for the brand to Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). Citing safety concerns, Chick-fil-A stopped distributing the toys. Other suppliers backed Chick-fil-A and Chick-fil-A stopped the donations to groups opposed to same sex marriage.

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REGAL HOMES – UK

A U.K. City Council has ordered a private company that it cannot build luxury flats and offices on a site it recently purchased that included a closed gay-bar unless it agrees to include a new gay bar as part of the development plan.

Tower Hamlets Council ordered earlier this month that developers Regal Homes must build a gay bar that will “remain a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-focused venue for a minimum of 12 years,” regardless of its ability to stay economically afloat.

The bar will only be deemed ‘complete’ once it passes an inspection from the mayor’s office who will make sure it is sufficiently “gay.” Standards for determining “gayness” were not disclosed.

Regal Homes has decided to comply with the City Council’s order rather than buck political correctness.

FAMILY FIRST – NEW ZEALAND

In 2013, New Zealand lobby group, Family First was notified by the Charities Registration Board that their charitable status was to be rescinded, which, according to Director Bob McCoskrie, was in part due to the group’s advocacy against same sex marriage. Family First appealed the decision, and in a 2015 High Court decision, regained its charitable status.

“We should always be concerned when the state determines what views are acceptable and what views are unacceptable. It’s about freedom of speech.” McCoskrie says.

richard-inwood

PEMBERTON VS INWOOD – UK

In 2014, Church of England priest, Canon Jeremy Pemberton married his male partner Laurence Cunnington. As a result, Bishop Richard Inwood (pictured) revoked Pemberton’s license, which resulted in Pemberton being ineligible for a chaplaincy position in a NHS Trust. As a result, Pemberton brought a claim in the Employment Tribunal, arguing that Inwood had caused:

Unlawful direct discrimination because of sexual orientation and/or marital status and of unlawful harassment related to sexual orientation.

The tribunal did not agree, and found that Inwood had not unlawfully discriminated against Pemberton, who has since appealed the decision.

CORPORATE BOYCOTTS: GEORGIA – USA

In 2016 numerous companies threatened to boycott the US state of Georgia, after legislation was tabled seeking to expand religious freedom exceptions regarding same sex marriage, including allowing clergy to refuse to officiate in same-sex weddings. The companies involved included Disney, Intel, Coca Cola, Unilever, and others; as well as threats from the NFL and NBA that there would be negative consequences, in terms of match scheduling, if the laws were passed. Disney released a statement saying:

We will plan to take our business elsewhere should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law.

peter-and-hazelmary-bull

HAZELMARY AND PETER BULL – UK

A Christian couple who refused to let a gay couple stay in a double bedroom at their B&B guesthouse, have been forced to sell up after losing a lengthy court battle.

Hazelmary and Peter Bull, who run Chymorvah Hotel at Marazion, Cornwall, have also faced death threats over their decision to refuse a room to gay couple Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy in 2008.

Now they say they have no option but to sell their beloved home and business after failing to attract enough custom and paying their legal costs after high profile court cases over the issue.

CRYSTAL DIXON – USA

The University of Toledo fired one of their staff members when she disagreed with the idea that gay marriage was a civil rights issue:

The university fired Crystal Dixon in 2008 from her interim post as associate vice president for human resources because she wrote an op-ed piece in the Toledo Free Press arguing that the gay rights movement should not be compared to the civil rights movement because she, as a black woman, did not get to choose her minority status but, she claimed, homosexuals do.

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JIM AND MARY O’REILLY – USA

A lesbian couple sued the Wildflower Inn under the state public accommodations law in 2011 after being told they could not have their wedding reception there. The owners Jim and Mary O’Reilly were reportedly open to holding same-sex ceremonies as long as customers were notified that the events personally violated their Catholic faith.

It wasn’t enough. The inn had to settle the case in 2012, paying a $10,000 fine and putting double that amount in a charitable trust. Also, the inn is no longer hosting weddings, although the decision reportedly was made before the settlement.

RANDY AND TRISH MCGATH – USA

In 2014, an Indianapolis bakery owned by Randy and Trish McGath found itself the target of an online campaign launched by gay activists after they cited their Christian beliefs as the reason they would not provide a cake for a same-sex wedding. They were smeared as homophobes and hateful people, although they were willing to serve the gay community—just not participate in the celebration of a same-sex wedding.

“There is zero hate here,” McGath reiterated.  “This causes us to do a lot of soul searching. Why are we doing what we do?  We want to show the love of Christ.  We want to be right with our God, but we also want to show kindness and respect to other people.”

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KEVIN O’CONNOR – USA

A small-town Indiana pizzeria owned by a Christian family has closed its doors after being terrorized by pro-homosexual bullies opposed to the family’s religious values. Memories Pizza in Walkerton has received death and firebombing threats and had its website hacked…The attacks came after ABC-57 out of South Bend aired a piece March 31 highlighting the pizzeria owners’ support for Indiana’s hot-button Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The station claimed Memories Pizza, owned by Kevin O’Connor, was the “first business to publicly deny same-sex service.”

The owners specifically stated that anyone was welcome in the restaurant, but the story was set off by the fact that they said they would not cater a homosexual “wedding” because it would conflict with their Christian beliefs.

RICHARD AND BETTY ODGAARD – USA

In 2015, Mennonite couple Richard and Betty Odgaard were forced to close their business in Des Moines, Iowa, after being targeted by gay activists for their refusal to host a gay ‘wedding’ in their wedding chapel. A boycott campaign replete with vicious, profane messages and a civil rights complaint resulted in the Odgaards’ having to pay out a $5,000 settlement—ultimately, they lost their livelihood.

“We have to look on the positive side, but just telling our family what we are doing, telling vendors the decision that we’ve made, it’s been very tough,” Betty said.

steve-and-bridget-tennes

STEVE AND BRIDGET TENNES – USA

Steve Tennes, who owns a 120-acre farm in Charlotte, Michigan, expressed his traditional view about marriage on the farm’s Facebook page, which drew a warning from an official more than 20 miles away in East Lansing, Michigan, that if Tennes tried to sell his fruit at the city’s farmers market, it could incite protests.

No one showed up to protest that August day last summer, though, and Tennes continued selling organic apples, peaches, cherries, and pumpkins at the seasonal market until October, as he had done the six previous years.

Nevertheless, East Lansing moved earlier this year to ban Tennes’ farm, the Country Mill, from participating in the farmers market when it resumes June 4. The city cited its human relations ordinance, an anti-discrimination law that includes sexual orientation.

Considering the numerous examples of people overseas being punished because they refused to violate their conscience it would make sense to ensure that the same thing doesn’t happen in Australia. Vote NO.

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