Australian tennis star Margaret Court dominated her sport throughout the 1960s and '70s, ranking No. 1 in the world and winning numerous grand slam titles at Wimbledon, the Australian Open, the French Open and the U.S. Open. Nowadays, however, the septuagenarian is not welcome at her local tennis club.
Australia is voting on gay marriage, and, as a Pentecostal preacher and a strong proponent of traditional marriage, Court’s unpopular opinions have made her persona non grata among polite company, even at her own community club.
We certainly do not rubber-stamp Court’s specific views or statements here — some of which have rightly been criticized — but we do express concern over the emerging trend of isolating people of faith and conviction from public life when their views differ from the majority.
Not only does pushing out unpopular perspectives diminish the free exchange of ideas — which is vital to the republic — but it’s also antithetical to progressive ideals often espoused by the same people who seem eager to squeeze conservative Christian perspectives from the public square.
The head of the American Enterprise Institute, Arthur Brooks, recently observed, “Liberalism has always insisted it is the duty of the majority to fight for the minority, whether or not it suits one’s own private interests.” Evidently, for some, this duty stops with religious perspectives.
As a check on unfettered majoritarianism in the United States, the Bill of Rights identifies specific individual liberties. Among them is religious freedom and free speech. The founders put in place this countermajoritarian document and the judiciary to help protect it. And, in yet another nod to minority perspectives, the judiciary also enshrines the idea of “dissent” by allowing judges to publish their minority opinions.
People of sound mind understand that minority opinions are both valuable and vulnerable in a society where the majority rules. Because it might happen that on any given day any given citizen may end up in "the minority" — as a dissenter, protester or conscientious objector — it's rational for majorities to support countermajoritarian protections.
Which brings us to the Colorado cake baker case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
An artisan baker in Colorado refused to make a cake for a gay wedding. The baker said he would serve gay people at his shop, but, as an artist, he would not produce a gay-wedding cake because of religious-based objections—he believes that marriage is between a man and a woman.
Citing anti-discrimination ordinances, lower courts have ruled that the cake shop owner's conscientious objection runs afoul of the law. The problem here is that emerging LGBT rights are coming into conflict with established First Amendment rights such as religious liberty and the freedom of speech. We trust the Supreme Court's ability to settle the matter in accordance with sound legal principles. And, on the specific legal arguments, we endorse the friend-of-the-court brief signed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns this paper.
It’s important to observe how a progressive movement designed to protect minority perspectives — in this case LGBT rights — can quickly achieve a majority status. It's also worth considering whether it betrays the same liberal principles that inform this movement if it subsequently leverages its new-found majority status to then punish a conscientious objector now in the minority.
The right approach is fairness for all.
A wise citizenry protects conscientious objection and individual rights both because they are inalienable and because one never knows when they, or their kin, might end up on the other end of a democracy's majoritarian ire.
Correction: An earlier version of this editorial erroneously stated that the baker refused to make a "rainbow" cake for the gay wedding. However, design details of the cake were not discussed before the baker refused to make the cake. Later, the couple obtained a free "rainbow" wedding cake elsewhere.