The religious right’s argument about religious liberty was never just about the rights of homophobic bakers and florists. Just to prove the point, a religious right group in Utah is fighting a statewide measure to legalize medical marijuana relying upon the Supreme Court’s decision in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.
While the case didn’t absolutely decide that the right to discriminate based on religious belief exists, the Utah group is contending that the decision did.
At issue is Proposition 2, the effort to add Utah to the list of 30 states that have already legalized medical cannabis. Opponents of the measure, who have already dropped one legal challenge to the measure, are now contending that Mormons will be irreparably harmed if marijuana is legalized for medicinal purposes, largely by having to rent to cannabis users.
“In the United States of America, members of all religions, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have a constitutional right to exercise their religious beliefs,” the complaint reads. “This includes the right not to consort with, be around, or do business with people engaging in activities which their religion finds repugnant.”
The group behind the lawsuit includes the Eagle Forum, the organization founded by Phyllis Schlafly nearly 50 years ago. Joining in the campaign is teh Utah Medical Association. The effort is largely being financed by Walter J. Plumb III, an attorney for the Church of Latter Day Saints, which has not taken an official position on the measure.
Plumb has been on a crusade against marijuana since the 1990s. “After 200 years of statehood, suddenly we need medical dispensaries for this magical drug that’s going to solve every problem according to these people that are selling it?” Plumb rhetorically asked The Salt Lake Tribune.
Ironically, Plumb owns a vitamin supplement company which touts the wonders of iron, none of wihch have been evaluated by the FDA. The company website duly notes that the company’s product is “not intended to treat, cure, diagnose or prevent any disease.”
Proponents of the measure dismiss the latest lawsuit as “wacky.” The odds of it standing up in court seem slim. But it does underscore that the religious liberty argument will have far-reaching consequences if it ultimately succeeds.
Carrying the lawsuit’s argument to its logical conclusion, Mormons would have the right not to rent to people who drink alcohol or coffee. More to the point, the lawsuit seeks to exempt conservative believers from any law that they don’t like, at the expense of those who disagree with them.
In essence, the lawsuit proves that religious liberty is whatever you want it to mean. Yesterday it was wedding cakes. Today it’s cannabis. Who knows where the right to discriminate will end?