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How Our Letter to Amazon Does (and Doesn’t) Relate to Jack Phillips’ Case

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After news broke last week that Amazon dropped Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) from the AmazonSmile program, many of you reached out to us to clarify our response to the e-commerce giant.

Our primary concern was, and still is, that Amazon uses information from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) – a leftist propaganda machine – to make decisions on which organizations to include in their AmazonSmile program.

That’s why we sent a letter to Amazon asking them to reconsider.

However, some organizations have tried to mischaracterize our letter, claiming that we want to force Amazon to include us in the Smile program and that this contradicts our Supreme Court case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which we argued in December.

First of all, let me sum up what the letter actually says:

  1. ADF is a respected legal advocate that has won seven Supreme Court cases in the past seven years.
  2. While the SPLC did good work in the past, it has become a discredited direct mail marketing scheme.
  3. We offered to help Amazon create a participation policy for the AmazonSmile program that does not rely on information from a widely discredited organization.

To be clear: Nowhere in the letter did we demand that Amazon restore us to the AmazonSmile program.

We certainly would like to be included once again, as no one likes to be defamed and unfairly excluded. But our motivation behind sending the letter was to explain to Amazon who we truly are – a well-respected legal organization that advocates for the right of all people to speak, live, and work according to their beliefs.

We are simply asking Amazon to make the decision whether to include ADF in its Smile program independently and not rely on information from an organization that labels practically everything it disagrees with as “hate.”

We chose to voice our disagreement in a letter. And that’s where this situation dramatically parts ways from the case of Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips.

Instead of respectful disagreement, Jack has faced the wrath of a government intent on punishing him for his religious beliefs.

Jack, who owns Masterpiece Cakeshop, was sued in 2012 for politely declining to design a custom cake for a same-sex wedding because that event contradicts his religious beliefs on marriage, even though he offered to sell the couple anything from his shelves or to design a cake for a different event.

Jack didn’t exclude anyone. He serves all people, but he cannot celebrate every event or express every message.

The couple later returned to picket his shop and then filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Ever since then, the Colorado government has been trying to force Jack to celebrate events and express messages against his faith.

When the Commission ruled against Jack, it ordered that he report to the government all instances in which he declines a customer’s request and that he reeducate his staff by explaining to them (all of whom are now his family members) that acting according to his beliefs is “discriminatory.” The Commission also demanded that Jack start designing cakes for same-sex weddings if he continues to do so for opposite-sex weddings. So to avoid being forced to violate his faith, Jack has stopped designing wedding cakes altogether, resulting in a loss of around 40 percent of his business and over half of his staff.

You can disagree with Jack on same-sex marriage, but still agree that the government should not be able to punish people for declining to celebrate an event or express a message with which they disagree.

This is a principle that even some of our opponents acknowledge.

Take Mikey Weinstein, the Founder and CEO of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, for example. Though Mr. Weinstein and MRFF passionately disagree with our views of the law – and MRFF squarely opposes us in Masterpiece Cakeshop and most every other legal issue – he still sent a letter to Amazon asking it to reconsider the decision to remove ADF from the AmazonSmile program. As he writes:

The American way is not to impose “truth” by power—be it economic or government—but by free speech, robust debate, and conflict in the courts. Though I and MRFF fervently disagree 100% with ADF’s views, I will stand up here and now and respect their fight for conscience, for their understanding of human life, and their commitment to their conception of religious freedom.

If we want to be a truly tolerant society, we must make room for all people to peacefully live according to their beliefs. And we must be able to interact with differences of opinion respectfully. That means we can’t use the government to force others we disagree with into submission or silence.

It also means we can’t try to shut down every viewpoint we disagree with by labeling it “hate.”


Take Action

ADF is committed to providing free legal defense for individuals facing punishment for living out their religious beliefs, but this is only possible through the support of people like you. We are also working to shine light on the SPLC’s unjust slander of faith-based groups. You can help defend your religious freedom – and equip us to speak out against the SPLC’s antics – with a gift today.

Donate

Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.

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