June 4, 2018

Supreme Court Sides With Religious Liberty

The baker who refused to bake a customized cake for a same-sex wedding couple is vindicated.

In a major defense of religious liberty and artistic expression, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of baker Jack Phillips in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Recall that Phillips had been charged by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission of having unlawfully discriminated against a homosexual couple for refusing to bake them a customized wedding cake. He had objected based on his strongly held Christian beliefs. Rather than simply find another baker, of course, the couple sued, seeking to force Phillips into compliance.

The Court’s majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy and joined by all but the dissenting Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, stated, “The laws and the Constitution can, and in some instances must, protect gay persons and gay couples in the exercise of their civil rights, but religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression. While it is unexceptional that Colorado law can protect gay persons in acquiring products and services on the same terms and conditions as are offered to other members of the public, the law must be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion.”

The Court did not, however, totally settle the issue of whether religious objections cover a multitude of denied services. Kennedy said larger questions “must await further elaboration.”

During oral arguments, Justice Kennedy notably criticized the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for its disparagement of Phillips’ religious convictions. The commission outrageously compared his beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust. Kennedy stated at the time, “This sentiment is inappropriate for a commission charged with the solemn responsibility of fair and neutral enforcement of Colorado’s anti-discrimination law — a law that protects [against] discrimination on the basis of religion as well as sexual orientation.” The commission’s hostility to Phillips’ view was the basis for the SCOTUS ruling.

Politically speaking, there are two reasons Democrats will seize on this decision for 2018. First, they will argue this decision is why Demos must control the Senate, so as to keep Trump from appointing any more judges. Second, they will also do so because, even though homosexuals are a minuscule percentage of the population, their biggest supporters are Demos’ biggest and most loyal constituency, women voters.

This ruling should be welcomed by all Americans who hold our religious liberty in high esteem. The Founders certainly did. It’s why they crafted the First Amendment. But there will be more battles on this front in the coming years, so keep your powder dry.

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