Free Exercise of Religion Upheld by Supreme Court

Free Exercise of Religion Upheld by Supreme Court June 4, 2018

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of baker Jack Phillips in a 7-2 decision on Monday, June 4th, after the couple filed charges against him in 2012.  The so-called Supreme Court cake case stemmed from charges brought against the baker by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

Phillips had refused to bake a couple’s wedding cake due to his religious beliefs against gay marriage.

Here’s the larger picture about Phillips and his bake shop, Masterpiece Cakeshop.  He has never refused to serve any person based on who they are or what they look like. Everyone is welcome in his shop—even the two men who sued him. In fact, he told those men that, even though he couldn’t create a custom cake to celebrate a same-sex marriage, he would be happy to sell them anything else in his shop or design a cake for them for a different occasion.

Phillips has declined to create many custom cakes over his years in business because of the messages they expressed. If you’re looking for an outlandish  Halloween cake, a sleezy, boozy themed cake, or a cake celebrating a divorce, this bakery will decline your business.  Phillips simply believes things about God, about marriage, and about the world, lives his life according to how he believes God wants him to. Jack isn’t confrontational about his beliefs, but he wants to use his work & his talents to convey messages or celebrate events that he thinks are good, beautiful, and true.

America’s founders not only listed the free exercise of religion as the first individual right protected by the First Amendment, but they also believed that it took precedence over other political priorities. The United States has signed multiple international agreements asserting that the right to freedom of religion and to “manifest” that belief “either alone or in community with others in public or private” is a fundamental human right. Congress had unanimously declared that the “right to freedom of religion undergirds the very origin and existence of the United States” and “is a universal human right and fundamental freedom.”

The Declaration of Independence states that securing such rights is the very purpose of government.  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which the U.S. is an original signatory, affirms the duty of governments to protect these rights by law.

Apparently, today in the United States, it takes flat-out bigotry – expressed in public by government officials – to get back up for religious freedom.

The Supreme Court drew a line in the sand and protected the religious freedom of people like Jack. It said that religious hostility has no place in a diverse society like ours, whether the government is regulating art or anything else,” said  Kristen Waggoner, senior VP of Alliance Defending Freedom, a religion freedom advocacy organization

According to Thomas Jipping, Deputy Director, Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the Heritage Foundation, today’s ruling’s key takeaways are:

1.The bad news is that it took flagrant, ugly, religious bigotry by Colorado officials to reach this result.

2. America’s founders not only listed freedom of religion as the first individual right, but they also believed that it took precedence over other political priorities.

3. Congress had unanimously declared that the “right to freedom of religion undergirds the very origin and existence of the United States.”

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  • Ame

    Don’t get too excited. In its ruling, the SC did not address religious freedom to deny service. Its ruling focused narrowly on 1) government cannot compel the speech of artists and the baker sufficiently demonstrated that his particular work was art…so there will be no broad application of this ruling to other cases, and 2) the CO civil rights commission was acting with anti-religious bias in how it chose to correct the baker for denying service. Basically, this went down how RFRA laws were supposed to do when the question of whether the government has the right to compel people of sincere religious beliefs to act against those beliefs, or whether states are demonstrating bias against persons of religious belief, arose. It’s supposed to be narrow in application. But people threw hissy fits about such laws by falsely stating that such laws were legalizing discrimination. The baker could not deny service, which he did not do anyway by demonstrating willingness to provide alternative products other than wedding cakes, and the baker has a consistent history of denying service on the basis of freedom of speech, which just so happened to be the consequence of his religious beliefs rather than an excuse to discriminate.

  • TwoRutRoad

    When it becomes more important to respect religion than it is to respect people, religion begins to chip away at it’s own foundation.

  • GoodCatholicGirl

    This seems to be an overreach. Supplying a cake for a party does not constitute endorsing gay marriage. He was not asked to participate in any way in the ceremony; the cake was for the reception. I’m sure he and many other service providers have worked for people with opposing political, cultural or moral beliefs and I’m sure we’ve all shopped in stores owned by people to do not share our beliefs. How would we even know and should we care?

  • Ame

    The ruling is not what you think it was. All the SC did was tell the CO civil rights commission that it was in the wrong for failing to avoid anti-religious hostility that tainted the judicial process of correcting the baker for denial service. The SC still thinks the baker is in the wrong and the state is right to reprimand him, but how they went about it ensured that the baker would not get a fair trial at the state level. The idea about rule of law is that justice is supposed to be meted out blindly and dispassionately. The error of the SC is not in its ruling but in its hypocrisy in pretending that it cares about fairness after over 50 years of judicial activism. They simply do not want to be bothered with the work of determining whose rights are actually constitutionally protected and where one person’s rights end and another’s begins.

  • Ame

    There needs to be judicial clarification as to what constitutes denial of service. The way it works now, a woman with enough money and legal representation can potentially go up to Planned Parenthood and say, “I want to place my unborn child up for adoption, and you’re claiming to be a women’s reproductive choice provider, so provide me this service.” Nevermind that Planned Parenthood doesn’t do that sort of thing, their supposed denial of service could be interpreted as discrimination against the woman’s reproductive rights with enough legal twisting. But it seems so few people care that this is the sort of precedent they’re setting with these denial of service suits.

  • Jim Dailey

    I cannot reconcile a couple of things you said:

    Above you say:
    “The SC still thinks the baker is in the wrong and the state is right to reprimand him, but how they went about it ensured that the baker would not get a fair trial at the state level. “

    But below you say:

    1) government cannot compel the speech of artists and the baker sufficiently demonstrated that his particular work was art…so there will be no broad application of this ruling to other cases“

    So, was the state correct in reprimanding him, or they had no business reprimanding him? That is, lacking the comments of the anti-religous loon on the commission, do you think the SC would have upheld the state ruling, or would they have overturned it based on compelled speech?

    I know I am asking you to speculate here, but you seem to have a well formed opinion.

  • Ame

    Point 1) is part of how the SC chose to justify its ruling. Yes, in this case it’s an illogical cop out to avoid the religious freedom question. Although, historically, state and federal courts have allowed t-shirt designers deny making nazi wear. InfactI, CO has ruled in favour of pro-same sex marriage baker’s to reject service to people who ask for cakes with anti-gay messages as a matter of protecting the baker’s freedom of speech. The system of checks and balances is dying, and oligarchy is returning.

  • Ame

    Let me also clarify that when I said “how they went about…” I meant the CO civil rights commission

  • Jim Dailey

    Sorry for being dense, but I want to be sure I am hearing you correctly.
    You are saying that lacking the stated anti-religous bias of the Colorado commission loon, the SC would have allowed the judgement to stand?

    I am asking because this will be tested again I am sure.

  • Ame

    Yes, it will likely be tested again, but future bakers may not get a favourable ruling because the SC intentionally narrowed their ruling to the particulars of Masterpiece Cakes case. They did not make any decision to be applied federally.

  • Jim Dailey

    I tend to agree.

  • Good_Samaritan

    Yeah the free exercise clause wasn’t the basis of this decision, so your title is wrong.

  • Kurt 20008

    he couldn’t create a custom cake to celebrate a same-sex Cakes are inanimate objects. They don’t celebrate. This sale is what the Church would call remote material cooperation, not a sin. I wonder if Mr Phillips would refuse to sell a cake to a Catholic who was going to serve it at a First Communion party under the claim that such a sale would mean he is supporting the doctrine of Transubstantiation?

  • kenofken

    No anti discrimination law requires a business to change its offerings to accommodate customers. They simply have offer what they usually do equally.