The Coalition for Jewish Values (CJV), representing over 1500 rabbis in matters of American public policy, today condemned a decision of the Magistrates Court of Be’er Sheva, Israel, which assessed a 50,000 Shekel penalty against the owners of the Tzeva HaKeshet Print Shop for declining to print signs to be carried in a “gay pride parade.” The rabbinic group described this court decision as both “hauntingly familiar and profoundly offensive” to Jews and others, both in America and abroad.
“Israel’s Transportation Minister Betzalel Smotrich was correct to call this decision an ‘insane, grievous, and outrageous judgment,’” said Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, Eastern Regional Vice President of the CJV. “We are speaking out as American Jews both because we have seen this sad story play out in America all too often, and because as Americans we cannot be sanctioned for accurately characterizing this ludicrous decision that expresses such disdain for Judaism and Jewish values. The judge has embraced secular coercion and intolerance in their most repugnant forms.”
Indeed, this story is sadly reminiscent of several American cases in which LGBTQ activists have attempted to force religious business owners to choose between compromising their religious principles and declaring bankruptcy. Examples include Arlene’s Flowers of Richland, Washington, whose owner declined to provide custom floral arrangements for a same-sex marriage; Brush & Nib calligraphy studio in Phoenix, Arizona, who filed suit against laws requiring that they, similarly, provide their custom design services for same-sex wedding invitations; and the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, whose owners, both pastors, faced $1,000-a-day fines or jail time under a city “nondiscrimination ordinance” were they to decline to perform actual same-sex nuptials — forcing them to re-incorporate as a non-profit Christian ministry.
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Yet these accounts pale in comparison to the saga of Jack Phillips and his Masterpiece Cakeshop of Lakewood, Colorado, targeted by pressure groups repeatedly over the past eight years. The Colorado Civil Rights Division first prosecuted him for failing to design a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding, in a case found in his favor by the US Supreme Court. It penalized him again after an activist deliberately targeted him with a request for a cake to celebrate his/her gender “transition.” And when the Civil Rights Division dropped its second complaint after Phillips’ lawyers unearthed evidence of clear bias against religious freedom by commissioners, the complainant filed a lawsuit in state court which is still pending.
Rabbi Yaakov Menken, Managing Director of the CJV, was invited to deliver an address on behalf of Jack Phillips in 2017 at the Centennial Institute, a think tank located a few miles down the road from the Masterpiece Cakeshop, prior to Phillips’ Supreme Court appearance. “It took no extraordinary prescience,” said Rabbi Menken, “for me to predict that ‘if they can do this to Christians, you can be certain they’re going to do it to Jews.’ I just never anticipated that this would first come to pass in the Jewish state.”