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Tuesday, June 5, 2018
Christian Baker Prevails At Supreme Court In Same-Sex Wedding Cake Dispute
Ed. Another take on
the Christian Cake Shop ruling. See also an article by Powerline'sSteven Hayward. Link HERE.
The U.S. Supreme
Court issued a narrow ruling Monday in favor of a Christian baker who declined
to bake a custom wedding cake for a same-sex wedding, concluding a state agency
did not apply anti-discrimination law in a neutral manner.
Masterpiece owner Jack Phillips
Though the baker
prevailed in Monday’s decision, the Court’s decision is narrow in the sense
that the ruling is carefully fact-bound and does not address the major First
Amendment question the case raised.
Kennedy wrote the opinion for a seven-justice majority. Justice Ruth
Bader Ginsburg dissented, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
was occasioned when David Mullins and Charlie Craig, a gay couple,
entered Jack Phillips’ Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo in 2012. After a
short discussion with the prospective patrons, Phillips said he would not sell
them a custom wedding cake due to his deeply-held religious beliefs. Mullins
and Craig filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission,
prompting a lengthy legal battle culminating in an appeal to the high court.
that the Colorado law can validly protect LGBT patrons, but found the state
agency applied the law in a manner hostile towards Phillips’ evangelical
“As the record shows,
some of the commissioners at the commission’s formal, public hearings endorsed
the view that religious beliefs cannot legitimately be carried into the public
sphere or commercial domain, disparaged Phillips’ faith as despicable and
characterized it as merely rhetorical, and compared his invocation of his
sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust,”
He also noted that
the commission’s decision respecting Phillips was inconsistent with its
treatment of similar disputes. On three occasions the state civil rights
division found in favor of merchants who declined to create cakes conveying
messages disparaging same-sex couples or promoting orthodox Christian belief.
In those instances,
the agency concluded that the expression requested could reasonably be
attributed to the bakers, justifying their refusal to accommodate the patrons.
Those decisions also explained that the bakeries at issue produced goods for
religious life cycle events like baptisms, bar mitzvahs, or first communions,
defeating claims of anti-religious animus.
In Phillips’ case, on
the other hand, the commission said the cake’s message could only be imputed to
the customer, and ignored his willingness to sell generic baked good to all
Homosexuals Charlie Craig and David Mullins
“In view of these
factors, the record here demonstrates that the commission’s consideration of
Phillips’ case was neither tolerant nor respectful of his religious beliefs,”
the decision reads.
Kennedy also conceded
Phillips could fairly assume his actions were lawful, since the events in
question took place in 2012. At that time same-sex marriage was not legal in
Colorado, and the high court had not handed down its landmark decisions in U.S.
v. Windsor, which struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and
Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized gay marriage.
The ruling derives in
part from the Supreme Court’s 1992 decision in Church of the
Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah, in which the justices struck down a
city ordinance forbidding animal sacrifice. The provision was adopted to
curtail the practice of Santeria, a syncretic religion incorporating elements of
Catholicism and west African paganism. The high court explained that Hialeah’s
law was unconstitutional because it was gerrymandered to disfavor a particular
The decision is
silent as to whether a First Amendment objection can defeat a general and
neutral public accommodations law, the legal question at the heart of the
Masterpiece case. It merely reverses the decision of the Colorado Court of
Appeals and sets aside the commission’s ruling against Phillips.
As such, the ruling
is largely confined to the facts at hand, with limited application in related
cases. Indeed, it is of limited utility to merchants seeking conscience-based
exceptions to public accommodation requirements, as it leaves open the
possibility that anti-discrimination agencies can persist in disfavoring
religious dissenters, provided the animus is not detectable.
Mullins and Craig
said the decision necessitates further action to vindicate LGBT rights.
means our fight against discrimination and unfair treatment will continue,”
they said in a statement via the American Civil Liberties Union. “We have
always believed that in America, you should not be turned away from a business
open to the public because of who you are. We brought this case because no one
should have to face the shame, embarrassment, and humiliation of being told ‘we
don’t serve your kind here’ that we faced, and we will continue fighting until
no one does.”
For their part,
Phillips’ lawyers trumpeted the holding as a victory for religious liberty.
respect for good-faith differences of opinion are essential in a society like
ours,” said Kristen Waggoner, senior counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom.
“This decision makes clear that the government must respect Jack’s beliefs
Justice Elena Kagan
wrote a concurring opinion joined by Justice Stephen Breyer. Justice Neil
Gorsuch wrote a concurring opinion joined by Justice Samuel Alito. Justice
Clarence Thomas also filed a concurring opinion, which Gorsuch joined.