BLOGThe Weekly Digest: 12-7-16

By James Arnold Posted on: | December 07, 2016
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On to the news.

 

Conscience Rights for All

 

A concept that is not difficult to grasp, but seems difficult for some courts and legislators to carry out: Freedom of conscience extends to all people.

If you're a cake artist, a floral artist, or another creative professional, you've seen the news and felt, rightfully so, that your freedom is in danger.

If, however, you are a fashion designer? You're probably feeling pretty good right about now:

"Donald Trump’s election has brought no shortage of controversy. One of the latest comes from clothing designer Sophie Theallet, who recently wrote that she 'will not participate in dressing or associating in any way with the next First Lady.' In explaining her decision, she invoked her deeply-held belief in 'individual freedom.'

"'[A]s a family owned company,' Theallet explains, '[w]e value our artistic freedom and always humbly seek to contribute to a more humane, conscious and ethical way to create in this world.' She considers her and her family’s work to be “an expression of [their] artistic and philosophical ideas.'

[...]

"Ms. Theallet describes her design work to be 'an expression of [her] artistic and philosophical ideas,' and leftist elite are quick to agree. But why do they become so skeptical when the person asserting her artistic freedom is a floral artist whose views they don’t like?

"It’s because many in that crowd don’t care about true freedom—a freedom that belongs to everyone. If they did, they would recognize that Barronelle, no less than Ms. Theallet, is an artist whose conscience rights must be protected. If they did, their views of art or freedom wouldn’t hinge on the nature of a person’s convictions."

The mainstream media covered the decision of Ms. Theallet, with nary a hint of accusing her of bigotry. This is, after all, a matter of conscience and freedom, not bigotry.

As Mary Katharine Ham writes, at The Federalist:

"But these are the same arguments the left and media have dismissed from Baronelle Stutzman, a Washington florist who thinks making custom bouquets for a same-sex marriage doesn’t comport with her personal beliefs. In appealing to the state Supreme Court after a three-year legal battle, Stutzman’s lawyer argued this week 'that arranging flowers is artistic expression protected under the First Amendment. Stutzman — a Southern Baptist — would have been more than happy to sell prearranged flowers out of the cooler because that was "not custom expression."'"

In other words, the exact same logic applies to both the fashion designer and the florist (and the baker and the photographer). Off-the-rack dresses, pre-arranged flowers, and other similar "pre-expressed" products are not a problem; nobody is going to stop the president-elect's wife from purchasing a dress from any given fashion designer.

If, however, you believe that Ms. Theallet has the freedom to opt out of providing creative expressions for the president-elect's wife (she does), then it strains the imagination to find a reason to force Mrs. Stutzman to provide custom, creative expressions for an event to which she has an objection.

 
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James Arnold

News and Research Manager

James Arnold manages and edits the Alliance Alert, a daily repository of news in all forms—written, spoken, or in video format.

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