Masterpiece Cakeshop case takes center stage in the battle over religious freedom

WASHINGTON D.C. – The now famous Masterpiece Cakeshop case is set to begin its hearing Tuesday in the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). The case (Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd., et, al. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, et. al) pits a cake baker against the state of Colorado.The story has been closely followed by the media for several years as it brings into question the limits and the scope of religious freedom in the public sphere. In 2012, David Mullins and Charlie Craig walked into the Lakewood-based Masterpiece Cakeshop to order a cake for their wedding.

Boy Scouts Poised to Weaken Ban on Gay Leaders

IRVING, Texas –On July 27, the national executive board of the Boy Scouts of America is expected to ratify a new policy regarding adult leaders. If passed, it will clear the way for adults who identify as homosexual to volunteer in the organization at all levels — with significant exceptions carved out for religious objections. Such a move would bring the organization’s rules more in line with an underlying philosophy that the Boy Scouts is not an appropriate place to discuss, nor engage in, sexual activity. Back in 2013, the Boy Scouts agreed that sexual orientation should not be a barrier to participation by boys themselves. This most recent move was in response to pressure from both within and without, and a recognition that the current policy forbidding volunteers based on sexual orientation is not likely to survive all the court challenges it faces.

Workplace Religious Discrimination and Non-Christian Religions

On Friday, the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, a secular organization dedicated to combatting religious prejudice, released the findings of a survey on religion in the American workplace. A key finding is that religious diversity is increasing in the workplace, and with it, increasing problems relating to accommodation. 
“Overall, the incidence of workplace conflicts and discrimination over religion seems to be a fairly significant issue, according to the survey, with one-third of respondents reporting that they have seen or experienced incidents of religious bias in the workplace. The most frequently cited problems were not interactions with co-workers but instead related to a failure of companies to provide sufficient accommodations for believers, especially non-Christians. Half of those respondents said that their employers are ignoring their religious needs.” The study pointed out that a key complaint relating to religious accommodation was being forced to work on holy days (24% of respondents had this issue), in addition, atheists, agnostics, and non-Christians tend to feel the most uncomfortable when the topic of religion is brought up. “More than 4-in-10 (43%) atheist and agnostic/secular workers say they feel somewhat or very uncomfortable when the topic of religion comes up. Nearly 3-in-10 (29%) non-Christian workers say they feel somewhat or very uncomfortable when the topic of religion comes up. Conversely, nearly 9-in-10 white evangelical workers say they are somewhat (30%) or very (58%) comfortable when the issue of religion comes up in the workplace.

Study Finds ‘Substantial’ Discrimination of Pagans in the UK

A University of Derby-led research team has conducted a survey of religious groups, analyzed legal rulings over the last decade, and polled individuals in several cities, with the results finding “substantial” discrimination against religious minorities and new religious movements in the UK. Especially affected groups include Muslims, members of new religious movements, and modern Pagans. “The project’s initial findings have identified […] substantial reporting of unfair treatment on the basis of religion or belief continuing across key areas of people’s lives […] reports of unfair treatment indicate that it continues to particularly affect certain sectors (employment, education and the media) and religious groups (Muslims, Pagans and New Religious Movements).” Paul Weller, Professor of Inter-Religious Relations at the University of Derby, told Huffington Post UK that the team noticed a a “particular frequency and severity in the complaints relating to” Pagans and new religious movements. “There are many instances of discrimination against Christians, but the discrimination against new religions is more ‘in-your-face’, verging on hatred. For Pagans, many of them have kept their religion secret, for fear it would be misunderstood.”