A foundation funded by a Levi Strauss fortune has funneled more than $500,000 into efforts to topple the religious liberty rights of the Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake for a homosexual couple’s wedding.
In an illuminating report, the Catholic News Agency details how the powerful Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund has shifted its focus from the successful battle to make homosexual marriage a federal right to attacking individual claims of religious liberty, which the foundation believes would chip away at the LGBT “equality” movement.
Big Money Backing
Walter Haas Jr. made his fortune as the longtime CEO and chairman of Levi Strauss & Co. He and his wife Evelyn started the foundation in the 1950s. It has supported the push for homosexual marriage rights since the earliest days of that effort in 2001. The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports the fund spent a staggering $39 million from 2001 to 2015 on the issue of same-sex marriage alone.Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr.
That massive expenditure ended in triumph, with the 2015 Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.
Since then, the foundation has turned its significant financial heft toward thwarting any and all attempts to carve out religious exemptions for individuals who do not want to support homosexuality with their own works.
A 2015 article at the Catholic News Agency by Kevin Jones, illustrates that activists believe they must destroy religious liberty exemptions now before they can take root.
“We are at a crossroads where the choices we make will mean we will fight religious exemptions for two to three years or have a protracted 20-year struggle on our hands,” Tim Sweeney, a former program director of the Haas Fund, said at an Out & Equal Workplace Advocates executive forum in San Francisco in March 2015, Jones reported.Jack Phillips
Emphasizing the immediacy of this battle makes Masterpiece Cakeshop a high priority for the foundation. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of baker Jack Phillips by 7-2 in July, but the Haas Fund spared no expense in fighting Phillips to the very end and is not backing away despite the ruling.
According to Jones, the foundation gave $400,000 to three activist organizations for educational purposes on the case, $100,000 to the ACLU Foundation for similar efforts, and $34,500 to a group planning a response to the Supreme Court ruling.
That is more than a half-million dollars spent on one baker, one case. A look at the organization’s website shows numerous targeted donations dating back to 2014 aimed at supporting “efforts to ensure that ‘religious liberty’ arguments do not erode gains in marriage equality and nondiscrimination protections.”
In a June 11 “letter from the president,” foundation president Jennie Lehua Watson acknowledged that same-sex marriage was only the first phase of a wider goal of compelled acceptance. “Throughout that years-long fight, our partners wisely understood that marriage was just one step — albeit a very important one — on the path to full equality for LGBT people in this country,” Watson wrote. She then went on to describe how religious liberty exemptions threaten “equality.”
In his March 2015 address, ex-Haas Fund official Sweeney said individual rights to exemption are “all about using ‘religious liberty’ as an excuse to discriminate against LGBT people and others,” CNA’s Jones reports.
This all explains why one baker at one shop continues to be hounded even after a Supreme Court ruling in his favor.
A long, drawn-out battle to strip all Americans of their religious liberties.
Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Phillips filed a federal lawsuit in August after a transgender customer tried to order a specially designed cake. The activist-customer, of course, knew in advance what the response would be and quickly filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission after being turned away. The commission then ordered Phillips to attend a “compulsory mediation” session, prompting his lawsuit.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars and continued targeted harassment are being aimed at one baker. The activists funded by a financially powerful private foundation know that if Phillips’ rights are upheld, they’ll face a long, drawn-out battle to strip all Americans of their religious liberties.
They must destroy the baker — and quickly.
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