Monday, May 2, 2016

Does an Employees Religious Freedom Outweigh a Business Request?

St. Mark's Lutheran Church was in talks with Custom Graphics Inc about creating a new logo for the church. Church council members requested that the logo for the church include rainbow colors, but the Custom Graphics General Manager Zach Paxton decided to end the contract. Paxton said that he felt comfortable with Custom Graphics making signs or decals but creating a logo for the church crossed into a realm of which he didn't approve. Paxton felt that if the logo was created it would support the LGBT agenda. He has since apologized for his actions and elaborated that didn't mean to offend the church officials at St. Mark's. Adam Johnston and Tyler Schafter, both members of the St. Mark's council, said they met with Customs Graphics employees previously for a brainstorming session, and it seemed like a logo with rainbow colors was not an issue. The church later received an email about a week after their meeting saying that Customs Graphics no longer wanted to continue with the project. Both men felt that discrimination was a factor that led to the decline of the church's business, but felt they lacked the proof to prove this claim. The current North Dakota law currently doesn't prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. St. Mark's Church is a church that supports people who are part of the LGBT community. State Representative Joshua Boschee feels that this case is an example of discrimination against the LGBT community and encouraged the church owners to file a claim with the state Department of Labor and Human Rights.

I believe that Custom Graphics Inc. doesn't have the opportunity to back out of this particular contract. This case is similar to the discussion our class held on April 27, 2016. This case discussed whether the Mississippi's Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act was constitutional.

The request didn't break any prongs of the Lemon test. The church's request meets the first prong of the Lemon test because it has a right to have its logo changed. The logo is used to identify to its members of a meeting location for Lutherans who are in Fargo. This particular church holds its meetings inside the Elim Lutheran Church in Fargo after selling its original location to a group of investors. The logo has a globelike pattern with colors with four colors, each taking up a corner. This particular pattern symbolizes inclusiveness and recognizes that people come from different backgrounds. The second prong of the Lemon test is passed because the symbol doesn't contain any doctrine that advances or inhibits religion. Opponents may argue that the prime meridian and the equator of the globe form a cross. However, a religious establishment is allowed to have a symbol, even if it is recognizable, displayed on its private property. There was no intention of St. Mark's to place this symbol in a public space or near a government building. The final prong is met because the contract was between a private company and a religious organization. There was no government involvement in determining what symbols and color schemes were acceptable for the church to have. Both parties had previously sat in meetings and had a loose agreement that the rainbow color scheme was acceptable. While this deal may violate the personal liberties and freedoms of the printing shop owners, I believe that once a contract is signed, the obligations of both parties become the guiding doctrine for any party involved. If a person has a problem with any part of the contract, they should have a discussion beforehand, so that way the business is not being denied due to discriminatory reasons. In fact, the owner of the store, a relative of Paxton's, also felt that the business interests of the shop were more important than his objections to working with a LGBT friendly organization. In addition, the government has an interest in protecting certain minorities of citizens. As it currently stands, religion and sex are two of the demographics that American people and businesses are not allowed to discriminate against. The church qualifies under both of these protections. Finally, a person doesn't have the ability to overrule the federal government's laws. Antonin Scalia wrote in his majority opinion in Employment Division v. Smith, if an individual's obedience to the law is based how well the law coincidence with their religious beliefs, then it allows for every person to declare exemptions from the law. It would "contradict both constitutional tradition and common sense" because there would be no common law for Americans to follow. Federalism dictates that individuals are at the lowest level of government. They must abide by not only national laws, but state and local laws as well. Even though the state of North Dakota doesn't have an equal protection clause for people of nonbinary genders, the passage of Obergefell v. Hodges supersedes any state preferences for or against same sex marriages.

No comments: