U.S. Supreme Court rules Christian baker does not have to bake gay wedding cake
The U.S. Supreme Court 7-2 ruling in favor of the Masterpiece Cakeshop case is an affirmation of religious liberty. As with every case, the particular facts of the case are specific to the case. But as with all rulings of the Supreme Court, the application extends beyond the particular case. So, while no persons are to be denied goods or services under non-discrimination laws, neither can the enforcers of those laws act with hostility toward people of faith. Both LGBTQ people and religious creative entrepeneurs, the court ruled, are due protection under the law.
In June 2017 the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider the Masterpiece Cakeshop case wherein the Colorado Civil Rights Commission ordered a baker to create custom wedding cakes in celebration of weddings contrary to his religious beliefs. Today’s decision by the Supreme Court affirms the right of every American to believe, speak and live out their faith without government compulsion.
The Supreme Court created the need for today’s ruling by its 2015 decision in the Obergefell case, where the justices created a right of marriage for same-sex people, thereby pitting the freedom of sexual expression against the constitutionally-guaranteed right of religious freedom. That ruling set the stage for the Masterpiece Cakeshop case upon which the justices have issued an historic 7-2 ruling in favor of religious liberty.
The cries of discrimination can already be heard, but a 7-2 decision is not close nor is it narrow as some headlines would have us believe. Only Justices Ginsberg and Sotomayor dissented to the majority in the opinion written by Justice Kennedy. Gorsuch, Kagan and Thomas each also wrote concurring opinions in which other justices joined.
Do not be fooled as you read the coverage or the social media reactions to the story. The Supreme Court has not issued a license to discriminate nor are Christian proprietors now free to hang “No Gays Allowed” signs in shop windows. Just as Jack Phillips never refused to serve a gay couple at the Masterpiece Cakeshop, no American business owner is free to refuse service, nor to sell items on the shelves, to gay couples. Everything on display for sale is for sale to everyone.
What Jack Phillips cannot be compelled to do, the Supreme Court ruled, is be forced to perform an artistic or creative act (baking a unique cake) in support of a gay wedding, which runs contrary to his religious beliefs. It is not the people but the message the Supreme Court ruled, Jack Phillips was free to refuse.
It it important to understand what the SCOTUS ruling in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case means – and what it does not mean. It likely does not mean that Jack Phillips can return to baking cakes unhindered nor unharrassed. The U.S. Supreme Court and the court of public opinion do not operate by the same rules nor by the same sense of justice. Those who see Jack Phillips’ faith as bigoted and his business practices as discriminatory are not likely to have their hearts changed by the Supreme Court ruling. The minds of those who see people of convictional faith as inherently hateful are not likely to have their minds changed.
On the positive side, the ruling may mean that other Christians whose businesses intersect with the wedding business – photographers, florists, venue owners – who have found themselves confronting civil threats and criminal action by state agencies, now have a SCOTUS ruling to add to the arsenal of their defense. The actions (or better described as refusals to act) of these Christians have often been misrepresented as a refusal to serve certain people. That is not the case. What they are resisting is compelled speech: being forced to say (or do) something expressly contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs.
Twenty-one states have “public accommodations” laws that include the phrases “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” That means that in 21 states, Christian creatives like Jack Phillips may face litigation or criminal action if the expression of their faith runs afoul of those seeking to advance the LGBTQ agenda.
Today’s Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling – which says that a baker has the legal right to refuse to bake a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding which is contrary to his religious beliefs – may also change the perception of the left that the third branch of government, the judiciary, is as prone to manipulation are the executive and legislative branches. Suddenly not only the import of the appointment of Neil Gorsuch, but the potential Presidential appointment of successors to current aging justices is highlighted.
We do not elect Supreme Court justices, but we do elect the President who appoints them and the Senators who confirm them. Raising the stakes yet again for the mid-term Senatorial elections and the 2020 Presidential election which is now little more than two years away.