OPINION: What If Jesus Was A Supreme Court Justice?

July 7, 2023 By Michael Weymouth

I have several friends and family members who are born again Christians. In the many times they have tried to convince me I will burn in the fires of hell if I don’t give it up for Jesus, I remind them that in fact I am a great Jesus fan. Virtually every word attributed to him is full of wisdom and human kindness, and indeed, I believe that the world would be a far better place if we all took his advice.

It’s all the other religious dogma I have trouble with, not the least of which is the way some people interpret the Bible to fit their world view. When I was in the army in the South, my older brother and his family lived nearby and when I visited on weekends, we would invariably attend the local evangelical church where I sat in silence as the evangelist ripped northern God-less intellectuals apart and recited passages from the Bible that declared that black people were inferior to whites. That sort of rhetoric makes it pretty clear why our country’s founders wanted no part of religion in the Constitution. All too often, were it not cloaked in sanctimonious jargon, much of evangelical doctrine could be classified as outright bigotry.

This makes it all the more surprising that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colorado web designer who refused to design a website for a gay couple’s wedding based on her religious views. I suspect most of those views emanated from interpretations of the Bible and not from the words of Jesus, who said “Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you; pray for those who mistreat you.” Had the plaintiff followed the teachings of Jesus, this suit never would have been filed.

But it did not seem to matter to the conservative justices from where those principles emanated. Were they hateful opinions expressed by a religious zealot or some other interpretation of the Bible? Given that the Bible says very little about homosexuality, and gay marriage is not mentioned in the Ten Commandments, did the justices accept her values without delving into how she arrived at them? It is as though all one has to do is claim one’s religious values have been violated and they achieve automatic standing, which elevates the claim above common bigotry. Unfortunately in this case, the Colorado web designer’s religious freedom trumped the freedoms of others. They superseded the principles of inclusion and protection that past Supreme Courts extended to women and people of color during the civil rights and women’s rights movements and most recently in The Respect for Marriage Act.

A common refrain these days when confronted with a moral issue is to ask “what would Jesus do?” Had He been sitting on the Supreme Court, I’d like to believe Jesus would have encouraged the Colorado website designer to embrace those who are different from her rather than to discriminate against them; to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

No doubt this will not be the last such case the Supreme Court will have to deal with where religious convictions are in play. I hope that the conservative justices will closely consider how valid those convictions are before rubber stamping them.

The Founders made their opinions well known about religion’s role in American society: it belongs in the church, not in a court of law, and freedom of religion does not mean religious citizens have the freedom to impose their views on those they disagree with.

It is noteworthy that the plaintiff was never actually asked by a gay couple to design a website. Her case was based on a hypothetical what if. Plus she was assisted by Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious organization that states in its website that “Government officials—including those in the Biden administration—are getting bolder. Together with the Far-Left, they’re trying to create a radically different America.”

That was the same claim made in the evangelical church I attended years ago by a hate-filled, fire-and-brimstone evangelist. Much has changed in the social fabric of our country since then, and if anything, the radical change that has taken place in America is the agenda of the U.S. Supreme Court.

6 thoughts on “OPINION: What If Jesus Was A Supreme Court Justice?”

  1. Thank you for calling it what it is. Freedom of religion means you get to practice and believe what you want. You don’t get to make me believe it, and you don’t get to violate our country’s civil rights laws.

  2. Michael,

    The Supreme Court is charged with interpreting the Constitution…..they are not charged with interpreting the Bible.

    This case was brought to SCOTUS on appeal by a website designer who feared the State of Colorado could force the designer to create content for a client in which she disagrees.

    Thus, this case turns on the question of whether or not the First Amendment guarantees a citizen the right to “think as you will, and speak as you think.”. The further question is, does the State have the power to force a person to publicly publish material that is contrary to their religious beliefs,

    Since there is limited space for a detailed response, let me offer three of the several stipulations both the the State of Colorado and the web designer agreed to: 1…The designer is willing to work with all people regardless of race, sexual orientation and gender. 2…the designer will gladly create custom graphics and websites for any client including all of the foregoing. 3…the designer will not produce content for anyone, no matter who they are, which contradicts her biblical (religious) beliefs.

    SCOTUS ruled that it is a violation of the Constitutional Rights rights of the designer (anyone) to be forced by the state to publish design content which violates his/her religious beliefs.

    Based on the Constitutionally guaranteed right of free search, I believe that Jesus would agree with the principal that a person should not be forced to publish material that violates their religious beliefs.

  3. I couldn’t agree more with Michael Weymouth. Each and every one should be free to their beliefs but do not project them or force them on me or anyone else. Separation of church and state…..state meaning government.

  4. Jim,

    You miss the point. Religion belongs in the church and not in the public sphere. You seem to believe that a person’s religious convictions are sacrosanct and not to be questioned. Given the huge gap today between the teachings of Jesus, which I applaud in my commentary, and the rise of Christian nationalism, which is in direct conflict with the Constitutional separation of church and state, much of today’s religious beliefs are borderline bigotry. For the SCOTUS to treat one’s religious beliefs as one-size-fits-all is just plain wrong.

    I wonder how the conservative justices would deal with a Muslim man who beats his wife, claiming that Islamic law gives him the right to do that. Or do religious rights only pertain to Christians?

  5. The issue was free speech, not pride. The plaintiff’s – if indeed they existed- could have found another web site designer. This was an attempted set up that failed. Thank you Donald Trump.

  6. Mike,

    It is indeed you who has missed the point.

    The decision by SCOTUS deals with the issue of whether or not the State can compel a web designer to design a site for ANYONE if said design work is a violation of her religious beliefs.

    The Court ruled that the State cannot require the Appellant to design work which violates her religious beliefs.

    I make several comments.
    1. The aggrieved party was free to engage the services of another web developer.

    2. In the example you cited, a person who beats his wife has violated a law, and is therefore, subject to whatever the consequences of his crime entail. No one is free to commit a crime, and as a defense, claim that his religion permits him to commit the crime.

    3. The Appellant has committed no crime whatsoever.

    4. I believe that a persons’ religious beliefs are sacrosanct. I hold that the State does not have the power to force a person to violate said religious and design a web site for a third party which violates that persons’ religious beliefs.

    5. The person who seeks the design work is free to find another web designer to do the work.

    For you not to grasp the difference between the State mandating a person to perform services for which that person believes is a violation of his/her religious beliefs, and another person who is quite willing to perform the same design work because the second person has no moral objection.

    I am absolutely certain that there were moral (religious) standards that your company was not willing to compromise with respect to design work for a client.

    I will cite such work to you privately, if you wish.

    Again, I hold that the State does not have the power to force your you, or your company to perform work for which you have a moral objection.


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