Magazine article The Christian Century

When Two Sets of Rights Collide

Magazine article The Christian Century

When Two Sets of Rights Collide

Article excerpt

Two pending legal cases, one in Vermont and the other in California, set interpretations of the free exercise of religion at odds with interpretations of individual rights. The Vermont Supreme Court must decide whether a commercial print shop can refuse to produce material the owners believe violates their religious beliefs. The California Supreme Court will judge whether a landlord may refuse to rent to persons whose actions are considered sinful according to the landlord's religious faith.

The Vermont case pits a Vermont chapter of Catholics for a Free Choice, an advocacy group that backs abortion rights, against the owners of Regal Art Press of St. Albans, Vermont. Both sides say they are seeking to exercise their First Amendment right of religious freedom. The American Center for Law and Justice, founded by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, is representing the print shop owners. The Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union brought the suit agains't them.

The suit, filed under a Vermont antidiscrimination law, was dismissed in February by a state Superior Court judge. The case now before the court is an appeal of that decision. Malcolm and Susan Baker, owners of Regal Art Press, claim that printing literature for an abortion-rights group like Catholics for a Free Choice would violate their religiously grounded antiabortion beliefs. But Catholics for a Free Choice contends that the Bakers violated the religious rights of one of its members, Linda Paquette, when they refused to print the organization's literature. "I'm a Catholic," Malcolm Baker said November 14. "Catholics don't believe in abortion ... and I don't plan on lending a hand to help anyone do it." Baker said he could recall rejecting only one printing job in the past on philosophical grounds--material from a nudist colony that he considered "borderline pornographic. …

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