SCOTUS' wedding cake decision is emboldening hate. Here's what to do about it.

In 2015, Jeff Amyx made national headlines when he hung a "No Gays Allowed" sign outside his hardware store.

At the time, he was upset with the Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges marriage equality ruling. "It goes against my religion and what I believe. I'll never accept it," he told USA Today, on his decision to ban gay people from shopping at his store.

Within a few days, in response to backlash, the sign came down in favor of one that said, "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone who would violate our rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion."


Image from Brandon Rook/YouTube.

In the wake of this week's Masterpiece Cakeshop SCOTUS ruling, Amyx felt emboldened to put the "No Gays Allowed" sign back up.

In an interview with WBIR in Tennessee, Amyx called the ruling in favor of a baker who refused to sell a cake to a gay couple a "ray of sunshine."

Though the ruling — which was decided on procedural technicalities involving the Colorado Civil Rights Division's investigation — doesn't actually address whether stores are allowed to discriminate against LGBTQ people, some, like Amyx, appear to view the decision as encouragement to find out what the legal limits actually are.

It's worth remembering that U.S. solicitor general Noel Francisco, arguing on behalf of the federal government in support of Masterpiece Cakeshop, suggested that stores should be exempt from anti-discrimination laws and be allowed to post "No Gays Allowed" signs. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders agreed at the time.

While some downplayed the Masterpiece case because a wedding cake seemed like such a specific example, Amyx and others are showing just how far the "religious liberty" argument could go.

High school teacher John Kluge recently claimed it is against his religious beliefs to refer to transgender students by a name other than the one they were given at birth. "I'm being compelled to encourage students in what I believe is something that's a dangerous lifestyle," he told IndyStar.

He was fired for refusing to follow that simple rule, but plans to appeal on the grounds that his religious beliefs give him the right to discriminate against those students.

Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images.

Responding to a discussion about the Masterpiece decision on Facebook, South Dakota Rep. Michael Clark said that religious beliefs should exempt business owners from all sorts of non-discrimination protections.

Asked whether he'd agree that someone should be allowed to ban people of color from a store based on religious views, Clark said, "He should have the opportunity to run his business the way he wants. If he wants to turn away people of color, then that [is] his choice."

He later walked back this statement.

The right to practice and observe religion is an essential part of American life, but it cannot be a "get out of jail free" card.

Right now, it's LGBTQ people who are being discriminated against under the justification of "religious freedom," but we've seen this play out before.

Interestingly, it was a statement from a commissioner in the Masterpiece case that both explained the past use of ad hoc religious beliefs to justify horrific actions and helped hand the case to the plaintiffs:

"I would also like to reiterate what we said in the hearing or the last meeting. Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the holocaust, whether it be ... We can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can ... use their religion to hurt others."

The court wasn't too fond of the final line about using religion to excuse blatant discrimination as "one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric." The truth is, however, the commissioner was right: People often do hide behind their religious beliefs — or invent new ones — to justify existing prejudice.

SCOTUS has even ruled on this before. In the 1968 Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises case, SCOTUS heard an argument for a religious exemption from the Civil Rights Act of 1964 based on restaurant owner Maurice Bessinger's "religious belief" that races should not mix.

50 years later, it seems absurd that somebody would argue that their religious beliefs should exempt them from race-based protections in civil rights laws; but as history has shown, this is a well-worn tactic that shifts from group to group over time. Courts must recognize that these arguments are frivolous and debase actual religious teachings.

Luckily, there are things we can all do to help out in the fight for justice and equal treatment under the law.

First, financial support to groups like the ACLU and Lambda Legal helps them continue the fight for equality in courts.

You can also find out who your state and local representatives are and let them know that you want to make sure all people are protected under these local laws. One of the only reasons the Masterpiece case made it to SCOTUS was that Colorado has explicit protections for people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Many states don't.

Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images.

Finally, contact your state's representatives and senators and ask them to support the passage of the Equality Act, which would end a lot of ambiguity over whether businesses are allowed to discriminate in whom they serve.

It's easy to see stories about people like Amyx and his "No Gays Allowed" sign and feel discouraged about the future, but it's important to remember that those people are in the minority. A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 72% of people surveyed around the country don't believe businesses should be allowed to use religious beliefs as an excuse to exclude entire groups of people.

This is good news and should inspire us all to get involved.

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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

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The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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