The case of the Muslim truck drivers who wouldn’t deliver beer is making Christian florists, bakeries, and photographers around the country cry foul.
In 2013, an Illinois trucking company called Star Transport fired two Muslim employees who refused to deliver alcohol. The employees claimed that delivering alcohol would violate their religious beliefs about alcohol.
After two years of litigation, a jury awarded the drivers $240,000 in damages because their religious beliefs were violated by their employer.
The Obama Administration, through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, filed the lawsuit on the side of religious freedom on behalf of the employees.
Employers have long been required to make reasonable accommodations for their employees’ religious beliefs. This has allowed Seventh Day Adventists to keep their jobs despite not working on Saturday and allowed Muslims to wear a hijab in the workplace despite uniform policies that would otherwise forbid it.
The principle is, “people shouldn’t be forced to choose between their faith and their income.”
And everyone nods their head in agreement.
Still, the reason the story of the Muslim truck drivers is remarkable (especially the fact that the Obama Administration took the side of the employees) is because of all the recent stories about governments working to force people to violate their beliefs in the course of their employment.
Here in Washington State, Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued a grandmother in her personal capacity because she did not feel she could decorate for a same-sex wedding.
The State of Oregon fined Aaron and Melissa Klein $135,000 because they declined to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.
A baker in Denver was sent to government retraining because he would not bake a cake supportive of same-sex ceremonies.
The principle of equal protection under the law requires the government to treat people who are similarly situated in a similar way.
It seems like the truck drivers, bakers, and florists are in similar situations. “They asked me to do something for my job I felt like I could not do.”
But one of them gets government aid while the others get sued.
The First Amendment’s guarantee to the free exercise of religion applies to the Muslim truck driver just as it does to the Christian florist. No one disputes this.
No one disputes the idea that the right to decline to participate in events that violate your religious beliefs was once protected under the First Amendment either.
The difference, however, lies in the fact that state governments have declared a “compelling state interest” in ending discrimination based on “sexual orientation” and that law is now being interpreted to mean that florists and bakers must participate in same-sex ceremonies.
The effect of this interpretation of non-discrimination laws is that state legislatures have seized the authority to repeal constitutional rights.
The Muslim truck drivers are likely unaware their right to decline to deliver alcohol will disappear the moment Illinois bans discrimination against alcohol and those who drink it.
Just wait until some state declares a compelling state interest in eliminating hate speech.
Sarcasm may soon be illegal.
If your response to that development is, “I thought the First Amendment guaranteed the right to free speech,” leftists will look at you like you have a third eye. “We’re protecting you from that, of course.”
The Constitution describes how to change the Constitution, but that process does not include, “Have your state legislature declare a compelling state interest in eliminating the constitutional right you find most offensive.”
But that’s how we’re operating now. And a lot of us are naïve enough to call it progress.