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Post by: Heng Yong

Capital of Europe

My name is Heng Yong, and I am a rising second-year law student at Regent University School of Law. This summer, I have the opportunity of working with the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) in Strasbourg, France. Strasbourg is also known as the “Capital of Europe,” which sits in its heart the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Internships at ECLJ provide interns with perks to explore the European system by joining their assemblies, hearing rulings and networking with great minds. Unfortunately, none of these perks cashed out as COVID19 hit hardly globally earlier this year, and as of July, more than half million people died due to the virus and tens of millions confirmed cases. However, the global travel restriction and the remote works did not quench my passion for freedom. Moreover, seeing the rising of the worldwide death tolls provoked me to think and fight for the freedoms and human rights of living persons more vigorously.

My main task at ECLJ is drafting the observation (e.g., Amicus Curiae) that will be submitted to the Europe Court of Human Rights on the British counterpart of the famous Christian baker’s case (see The Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colo. Civil Rights Comm’n) in which, a Christian baker refused to decorate the cake in supporting of gay marriage.

Working from home saved me from the hassle of commuting and allowed me to immerse myself in my research. The experience is like taking an advanced legal writing class but much more exciting as I can making an impact to a real-world problem.

Upon researching the precedents on this issue, I saw strong legal supports on both cases upholding the rights of the bakers. Free speech also includes the freedom against compelled speech; moreover, freedom of opinion, and religion also consists of the right to object based on one’s conscience. Like painters express their view on drawing, bakers express their judgment, and opinions through skillfully decorated cakes. The law protects their sole discretion on what to express and not to express. As I am still surveying a more in-depth understanding of this area of law, I will update my more comprehensive findings on these topics in future blog.

capital of europe

Lastly, a democratic society should tolerate different voices and promote diversity. The Christian bakers’ freedom of speech and association is not exclusive on religious matters. Curtailing on these rights hurts the freedom of all humankind as everyone deserves the rights against compelled speech. All in all, we want unwilling LGBTQ bakers to have the same right to refuse to produce an “anti-gay marriage” cake when requested.

This post was written by a Center for Global Justice Intern. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.