The policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention recently faced a form of religious discrimination, but its leaders aren’t looking for a fight.
Several months ago, a “nationally-known brand” approached the creative team at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, according to a blog post from Andrew Walker, director of policy studies for the organization, and informed them it could not fulfill an apparel order for the Christian group because its “mission did not align with their corporate values.”
ERLC officials certainly could have sought legal representation and taken the undisclosed company to task over its decision not to work with them on religious grounds, but to do so would have been ideologically inconsistent, according to Dan Darling, vice president of communications for the Nashville-based organization.
Initially, Darling told Faithwire, it was easy to see the situation as a clear example of discrimination and intolerance, then he thought of all the work the faith-based group had done to support Colorado baker Jack Phillips’ right to free speech and religious liberty.
“This is exactly what we’re saying when it comes to people like Jack Phillips,” he explained. “The state should not compel people to lend their art to something that violates their values.”
He went on to say that principle applies to situations “across the spectrum, to photographers and bakers and people who are artists.” Darling argued people and corporations should not be “forced to say something or make a statement that goes against what you believe.”
“For us, we thought, ‘OK. We disagree with this company, but they have the liberty to do this. We’ll find somebody else and we don’t want to make a big deal out of it,’” Darling said.
Ultimately, ERLC leaders simply chose to partner with a different vendor because, according to Darling, “We want to live out what we say we believe.”
News of the situation with the SBC’s policy arm came the same day Phillips, who in June won a major victory at the U.S. Supreme Court after refusing in 2012 to create a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple, was hit with another controversy.
The Christian baker is going to bat against the Colorado Civil Rights Commission yet again. This time, a transgender attorney named Autumn Scardina contacted Phillips and asked him to create a birthday cake with a blue exterior and pink interior. The design was intended to celebrate Scardina’s gender identity.
Phillips, who holds to a biblical view of sexuality and gender, denied the lawyer’s request, offering instead to sell Scardina any of his pre-made designs. As a result, Scardina filed a complaint with the civil rights commission, which in turn issued a “probable cause determination,” suggesting there was enough evidence to conclude Phillips discriminated against the transgender attorney.
The small business owner is suing the commission.
Phillips’ attorneys at the Alliance Defending Freedom said in a statement their client is facing attacks from the state agency because the commission’s members “despise what he believes and how he practices his faith.”