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“Bad for Religion”: Gay Baptist Minister with Interfaith Alliance on SCOTUS Ruling on LGBTQ Rights

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The Supreme Court has ruled 6 to 3 along ideological lines in favor of a Christian Colorado web designer who refused to create websites for same-sex couples even though the state bans such discrimination. “We’re entering into a terrible moment where a Pandora’s box has been opened,” says president and CEO of Interfaith Alliance Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, who warns “permission has been granted to use religion as a way to discriminate against your fellow people.” Raushenbush discusses the use of Christianity to advance discrimination, the importance of the Respect for Marriage Act, and what this decision could mean for other groups. “It’s just bad for religion, it’s bad for freedom, and it’s bad for America,” he says.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

And we’re going to turn right now to another Supreme Court decision. In another setback for equal rights, the conservative-majority Supreme Court also ruled 6 to 3 Friday in favor of a Christian Colorado web designer who refused to create websites for same-sex couples even though the state, Colorado, bans such discrimination. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in the dissent decision that the decision was “heartbreaking” and a “reactionary exclusion.”

Democracy Now! spoke to The New Republic reporter Melissa Gira Grant Friday, who reported that part of the lawsuit that the Alliance Defending Freedom filed on behalf of Lorie Smith of Colorado was fake.

MELISSA GIRA GRANT: So, in 2016, this website designer named Lorie Smith, whose business is called 303 Creative, she believed that a Colorado anti-discrimination ordinance that protects people from discrimination — among other things, from discrimination based on sexual orientation — she believed that that precluded her from entering into the wedding website business. Now, she has never created a wedding website for anybody, and including a same-sex couple.

So, in the course of making this argument, she claimed two things: one, that this law meant that she couldn’t post an announcement on her website saying that she wouldn’t make these websites for any couple that wasn’t in a biblical marriage that she approved of, and, additionally, in a later filing in the original case in 2016, she claimed that an actual same-sex couple sought to have her build a website for them, that an inquiry — it doesn’t seem that it was a legitimate inquiry, but it remained in the case. It came up in the district court ruling that ruled against her. It came up in their appeal. It’s even been included in filings to the Supreme Court and was referenced by her attorneys, Alliance Defending Freedom, who are a Christian nationalist law project. They said, “Hey, she’s had an actual inquiry, so this is a case that, you know, has some relevance.”

But before this inquiry became a subject of debate — it hadn’t really been reported out until I was able to reach the person who allegedly made the inquiry.

AMY GOODMAN: To see our full interview with Melissa Gira Grant, go to democracynow.org.

We’re joined right now by Reverend Paul Brandeis Raushenbush. He’s president and CEO of Interfaith Alliance, which, along with 30 other faith-based and civil rights groups, filed an amicus brief in Supreme Court case, 303 v. Elenis.

Reverend Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, thanks so much for being with us. Can you talk about what this means? If a private company can discriminate against, oh, the LGBTQ community, can they put a sign in a window of a store that says, “We don’t serve gays”? Can they put a sign in the window of a store, “We don’t serve Jews. We don’t serve Blacks. We don’t serve Latinos”? What does this decision mean?

REV. PAUL BRANDEIS RAUSHENBUSH: Well, thank you for having me on. I’m delighted, and frustrated that this is the reason we’re talking.

We’re entering into a terrible moment where a Pandora’s box has been opened, and we’re not sure exactly what it means. But what it does mean for sure is that permission has been granted to use religion as a way to discriminate against your fellow people, and we’re going to see how this happens. It’s not in a vacuum. This is happening already, when LGBTQ people are under attack with religion as a pretext. And this gives permission for a lot of bad behavior.

And what we have to just say is we are in a situation which — where what is legal cannot be considered moral, and what the law is cannot be considered just. And so, you know, we have a Supreme Court that has basically put down an adverse decision, which is bad for religion, and it’s also bad for discriminated areas. Like, it could be race. It could be other protected groups. And we just have to see how this plays out. But it’s bad news for America.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Reverend, could you talk about the Alliance Defending Freedom that backed this suit? What do we know about it? And how was it able to get this case all the way up to the Supreme Court?

REV. PAUL BRANDEIS RAUSHENBUSH: Well, this is, essentially, a group that works with Christians using Christianity as a bludgeon to discriminate. They use religious freedom in a way that it was never intended. And, you know, they have had other cases that they have brought, and they have been successful. And so, we’re in a moment where they saw the Supreme Court opportunity, and they took it all the way up.

And, you know, unfortunately, there was very little that the dissenting justices could do, aside from pointing out the obvious, that we are now in a moment — I’ll quote Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who said, “Today, the Court, for the first time in its history, grants a business open to the public a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of a protected class.” I mean, that’s what this law group has done, and that’s what the Supreme Court went along with.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Reverend Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, you are a gay Baptist minister. Talk about the religious community’s response. And also, you supported the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act. How does this decision affect that?

REV. PAUL BRANDEIS RAUSHENBUSH: Well, I think this shows why the Respect for Marriage Act was so important, is that it codifies the ability for families like my own to be protected against discrimination and that our marriages are not to be dissolved. By the way, the Respect for Marriage Act protects also interracial marriages, which this photographer, with her fake case, could also say, “I don’t to photograph interracial marriages.”

So, you know, for me, this hits me on a lot of levels. One, it hits me as a gay man with a husband and two children, who, of course, we — you know, this now opens up the possibility that we could go into an establishment, and they can say, “Oh, well, we don’t want to do your portrait.” You know, who knows to what extent people will be able to discriminate against my family?

But it’s also really bad for religion. I have to say that, because people might think, “Oh, this is a victory for freedom of religion.” Actually, you know, one of the main — I’ll put on my pastor hat here — like, one of the main reasons that people are leaving the church, especially young people, they cite the antagonism that they perceive the church has against LGBTQ people. And this is just — you know, this is just going to make more and more people say, “Ech, who wants to have anything to do with religion or Christianity?” And that’s — you know, I think, for me, that’s terrible, because it’s a terrible understanding of what Christianity is and who Jesus was.

It also just does not reflect the fact that the majority of religious people in America support anti-discrimination laws for LGBTQ people. That’s the fact. They don’t want — this is not just the American people at large, but also the majority of almost every religious community rejects the idea that there should be discrimination against LGBTQ people in just such a way as the court has decided. And so, basically, the court is representing a very small and diminishing part of the public in this decision. And it’s just bad for religion, it’s bad for freedom, and it’s bad for America. It’s bad for the fabric of America. It disintegrates the fabric of America.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Reverend, we just have about 20 seconds left, but what should faith groups that are opposed to this decision — what recourse, what next steps would you recommend?

REV. PAUL BRANDEIS RAUSHENBUSH: Well, you know, we need to be rallying all over the country, and we need to be standing up, and we need to be very loud to insist that religion should be a cause for celebration, not discrimination, a cause for liberation, not subjugation, a cause for a bridge, not a bludgeon. And we have to say that just because this law is now the — is the law doesn’t mean it’s moral. And we have to stand up and say, “If you’re doing this, you are not representing a good religion. You’re representing bad religion.” It’s very important that everyone stand up and be very clear about where they stand on this law.

AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, we thank you so much for being with us, joining us from Massachusetts, president and CEO of Interfaith Alliance. And that does it for our show. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Our website is democracynow.org. Thanks so much for joining us.

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