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June 5 2018

5 Principles to Celebrate from the Supreme Court's Colorado Baker Ruling

by Patrice Lee Onwuka

The U.S. Supreme Court handed down a victory for a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple's wedding on religious grounds. The Court made it clear that there is room for religious tolerance in the marketplace.

The Court ruled 7-2 in favor of Mr. Jack Phillips who cited religious reasons for refusing to bake a cake for same-sex couple's wedding several years ago. (Scroll to the end for background on the case).  

The Supreme Court didn't mince words. Here are 5 principles that the Court's opinion made clear in this case:

  1. Government bureaucrats have no right to disparage a person's religious views

    "To describe a man’s faith as “one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use” is to disparage his religion in at least two distinct ways: by describing it as despicable, and also by characterizing it as merely rhetorical—something insubstantial and even insincere. The commissioner even went so far as to compare Phillips’ invocation of his sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust. This sentiment is inappropriate for a Commission charged with the solemn responsibility of fair and neutral enforcement of Colorado’s antidiscrimination law—a law that protects discrimination on the basis of religion as well as sexual orientation."

  2. The government should be neutral not hostile toward religious views and practices

    "The official expressions of hostility to religion in some of the commissioners’ comments—comments that were not disavowed at the Commission or by the State at any point in the proceedings that led to affirmance of the order—were inconsistent with what the Free Exercise Clause requires... The Commission’s hostility was inconsistent with the First Amendment’s guarantee that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion." 

  3. Religious beliefs can be carried into the marketplace

    "At several points during its meeting, commissioners endorsed the view that religious beliefs cannot legitimately be carried into the public sphere or commercial domain, implying that religious beliefs and persons are less than fully welcome in Colorado’s business community... On the one hand, they might mean simply that a business cannot refuse to provide services based on sexual orientation, regardless of the proprietor’s personal views. On the other hand, they might be seen as inappropriate and dismissive comments showing lack of due consideration for Phillips’ free exercise rights and the dilemma he faced. In view of the comments that followed, the latter seems the more likely."

  4. Artists have free speech rights that should be respected

    "To Phillips, his claim that using his artistic skills to make an expressive statement, a wedding endorsement in his own voice and of his own creation, has a significant First Amendment speech component and implicates his deep and sincere religious beliefs."

  5. Americans have a right to hold opposing views on issues such as same-sex marriage: 

    "The laws and the Constitution can, and in some instances must, protect gay persons and gay couples in the exercise of their civil rights, but religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression."

There are still broader questions affecting other cases that will continue to be litigated as my colleague Charlotte reported yesterday.

Whatever your opinion of same-sex marriage, it's important to remember that no citizen should be forced by the government to violate their conscience and religious convictions. The Court made that clear in its opinion. 

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Background on the Masterpiece caseMr. Jack Phillips owns Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado and in 2012 a gay couple visited his bakery inquiring about a wedding cake for their upcoming wedding. Phillips told them he would not bake a cake on because of his religious opposition to same-sex marriages, but he would happily sell them other baked goods. At the time, the state of Colorado did not recognize same-sex marriages. 

The couple filed a discrimination charge with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission (Commission) arguing that their denial by Phillips violated the state anti-discrimination law. The Commission a subsequent appellate court agreed with the couple. The Trump Administration Solicitor General Noel Francisco even weighed in in support of Phillips saying, "An artist cannot be forced to paint, a musician cannot be forced to play, and a poet cannot be forced to write."

 

Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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