SCOTUS Rules IN FAVOR of Religious Liberty
by Shari Dovale
Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, has been fighting for his religious freedom since 2012. Though he was willing to bake any other goods requested, Phillips took a stand when asked to supply a cake for a same-sex wedding due to his strong Christian beliefs.
The gay couple filed discrimination charges with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, even though same-sex marriages were not recognized in Colorado at that time.
This ongoing legal battle has made it’s way to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). Decided today, June 4, 2018, SCOTUS has held that The Commission’s actions in this case violated the Free Exercise Clause.
In delivering the opinion of the Court, Justice Kennedy specifically addressed the free speech aspect of the case, as well as the exercise of religion:
The freedoms asserted here are both the freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion. The free speech aspect of this case is difficult, for few persons who have seen a beautiful wedding cake might have thought of its creation as an exercise of protected speech. This is an instructive example, however, of the proposition that the application of constitutional freedoms in new contexts can deepen our understanding of their meaning.
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Whatever the confluence of speech and free exercise principles might be in some cases, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s consideration of this case was inconsistent with the State’s obligation of religious neutrality. The reason and motive for the baker’s refusal were based on his sincere religious beliefs and convictions. The Court’s precedents make clear that the baker, in his capacity as the owner of a business serving the public, might have his right to the free exercise of religion limited by generally applicable laws. Still, the delicate question of when the free exercise of his religion must yield to an otherwise valid exercise of state power needed to be determined in an adjudication in which religious hostility on the part of the State itself would not be a factor in the balance the State sought to reach. That requirement, however, was not met here. When the Colorado Civil Rights Commission considered this case, it did not do so with the religious neutrality that the Constitution requires.
Given all these considerations, it is proper to hold that whatever the outcome of some future controversy involving facts similar to these, the Commission’s actions here violated the Free Exercise Clause; and its order must be set aside.
The opinion was held by a clear majority of the Court, 7-2, with only Ginsburg and Sotomayor dissenting.
This is a major victory for those fighting for Religious Freedom in the United States.
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