June 9, 2018
The Free Exercise of Religion Is Affirmed

The Supreme Court issued a ruling earlier this week on the long-awaited case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. In 2012, cake baker Jack Phillips was asked to design a cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony. After explaining to these frequent customers that he was unable to do so based on his religious beliefs, the couple filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The Commission then ordered Phillips to “re-educate” his staff on issues such as tolerance toward homosexuals and begin to bake cakes for same-sex weddings.

In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court narrowly sided with Phillips with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sonia Sotomayor dissenting. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated the free exercise clause of the Constitution and their actions were hostile toward religious liberty. He wrote that Colorado may have anti-discrimination laws, but they must be in compliance with religious freedom rights as protected by the First Amendment.

Justice Clarence Thomas had predicted this situation in his writings during the Obergefell ruling. He foresaw the clash of religion and the Supreme Court’s decision to redefine marriage. “In future cases, the freedom of speech could be essential to preventing (Obergefell v. Hodges) from being used to ‘stamp out every vestige of dissent’ and ‘vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy,'” he wrote. Even though Phillips had asserted that he serves everyone, just not every occasion (including Halloween cakes, sexually explicit cakes, etc.), gay advocates and the Commission consistently vilified him, causing him to lose forty percent of his business. This is something that the Supreme Court cannot give him back.

Although this is a win for Phillips, it does not protect businesses that may do the same in the future. However, there is a similar case waiting to be heard. State of Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers is yet another religious freedom discrimination suit where Barronelle Stutzman was penalized for refusing to arrange flowers for a same-sex wedding ceremony. The Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling gives hope to the Arlene’s Flowers case and an opportunity to protect the First Amendment yet again.

Eagle Forum is pleased with the ruling in favor of Jack Phillips’s case. We will keep you informed of future Supreme Court rulings on similar issues.