Updated: May 10, 2020
Many who are interested in religious freedom will remember the very public 2017 Supreme Court case involving a Christian baker in Colorado who refused to decorate a cake for the wedding of a same-sex couple. The book “Deep Conviction: True Stories of Ordinary Americans Fighting for the Freedom to Live Their Beliefs” by Steven T. Collis follows four Americans who unexpectedly ended up in Supreme Court battles to protect their right to religious freedom, culminating in an in-depth discussion about the wedding cake case in 2017. The individuals in each case – a Catholic priest, an atheist, a Klamath Indian, and a Christian baker – were law-abiding, ordinary citizens who wanted to live their religion and live peaceably in society.
“As citizens we need to exercise mutual respect and civility even when we disagree about religious beliefs, but we must allow people to worship and live according to their beliefs as much as possible.”
A Catholic priest in 1813 was subpoenaed to testify against a jewelry thief who confessed to the crime during confession. The priest risked going to prison rather than identify the thief who returned the jewels during confession, a sacred sacrament in the Catholic church.
In 1959, an atheist was not allowed to become a notary public because the language of the oath to become a notary in Maryland explicitly stated that he had to say he believed in God. He refused to sign the oath and was prohibited from becoming a notary, a position he needed for his job.
A Klamath Indian in 1989 was terminated from his employment for illegal substance abuse because he used peyote in religious ceremonies. The final case explored in “Deep Convictions” is about the Colorado baker who refused to decorate a cake for a same-sex wedding.
I found the book inspiring and enlightening – rather than reading slanted news stories, which is how I first processed the Christian Baker Case, Collis takes an in-depth look at each situation and explains the law, the cases, and the rulings in a format that any reader can understand and appreciate. Particularly in the case of the Christian baker, I understood on a different level the motivations the baker had in trying to live by his convictions and run his business at the same time.
“Deep Convictions” convinced me that the right to religious freedom is important to believers and non-believers alike. As citizens we need to exercise mutual respect and civility even when we disagree about religious beliefs, but we must allow people to worship and live according to their beliefs as much as possible. “Deep Convictions” helped me understand that the battle for religious freedom is important for everyone.