Could the Court be (gasp) biased on religion?

Could the Court be (gasp) biased on religion? July 19, 2018

Two recent Supreme Court decisions raise some questions about the objectivity of some of the justices:

  1. Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission – A business can discriminate against gays if a government official makes derogatory (but true) comments about the religion of the owner.
  2. Trump v. Hawaii – The President can issue executive orders discriminating against believers in a particular religion even if he makes derogatory (and false) comments about them and their religion.

In the first case, a Colorado Civil Rights commissioner made the following statement to the baker:

“Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the Holocaust… We can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use to…hurt others.”

While it certainly does not illuminate Christianity in a benevolent light, there is nothing in this statement that is not factual.

Justice Kennedy, in writing the majority opinion, asserted that the decision did not determine that businesses could discriminate against gays or other protected groups, in violation of the Civil Rights Act, but “the facts” in this case (i.e., the statement of one commissioner) warranted a narrow decision in favor of the baker. It was hardly a slam dunk victory for religious bigots, and it raises a question: Even if the commission was biased (and there is only evidence that one member might have been), it doesn’t change the facts in the case, so why is their decision invalid or unconstitutional?

As Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayer said in their dissent, “What matters is that Phillips would not provide a good or service to a same-sex couple that he would provide to a heterosexual couple.”

In the second case, the Court was willing to overlook numerous disparaging comments by the President about Muslims, in which he acknowledged that the order was targeted at Muslims. There can be no question that this action was/is discrimination based on religious bias. He called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” and claimed that Islam “hates us.”

Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayer drew parallels between the two cases and attacked the majority opinion for ignoring Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric. “The same principles should apply. But unlike in Masterpiece…the government actions in this case will not be held accountable for breaching the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious neutrality and tolerance.”

The conclusion of the Court seems to be that evidence of bias against a religion or its believers is only relevant if it targets a certain religion. There Is absolutely no justification for that in the Constitution. Could it be (gasp!) that the justices making these decisions are biased against a particular religion, and in favor of another?

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