Religious Freedom Wins at High Court

Religious Freedom Wins at High Court

2018 | Week of June 4 | #1258

On Monday, the United States Supreme Court released its opinion in one of the major cases of this term, the Masterpiece Cakeshop case originating in Colorado and involving owner Jack Phillips who declined to design a cake for a same-sex wedding. The high court ruled 7-2 in favor of Jack and his Masterpiece Cakeshop, overturning the State of Colorado’s decision, which had punished Jack for declining to participate in a wedding that violated his religious beliefs.

The majority opinion was written by Justice Kennedy, the same justice who just three years ago this month authored the majority opinion in the same-sex marriage case, Obergefell, which forced same-sex marriage on every state, even states like Wisconsin where 60% of the voters had voted to keep marriage only between one man and one woman. Kennedy along with the other 4 justices who voted in favor of Obergefell, is complicit in setting up this religious liberty showdown. In Masterpiece Kennedy was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and justices Thomas, Alito, Breyer, Kagen, and Gorsuch.  In the minority were Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg.

For the Masterpiece case, our organization joined with other like-minded organizations from around the country in filing a friend-of-the-court brief, supporting Jack Phillips and his right to exercise his religious freedom.

Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, served all customers including his LGBT neighbors. He was before the U.S. Supreme Court simply because he did not want to create a custom cake celebrating a same-sex wedding.

The US Supreme Court found that the Colorado Human Rights Commission treated Jack with incredible hostility. As Justice Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion:
“[The] Commission’s treatment of Phillips’ case…showed elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs motivating his objection. As the record shows, some of the commissioners at the Commission’s formal, public hearings endorsed the view that religious beliefs cannot legitimately be carried into the public sphere or commercial domain, disparaged Phillips’ faith as despicable and characterized it as merely rhetorical, and compared his invocation of his sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust.”

Thankfully, the U.S. Supreme Court found this hostility unconstitutional and reiterated the premise that the government must remain neutral regarding issues such as this. While the decision was made on narrow grounds, it sets the tone for future cases on this issue.

In truth, this decision is a victory for the Constitution and for all Americans.  It reminds us we still have a justice system, at least from time to time, in which the First Amendment actually means something significant. This historic decision will no doubt be part of efforts to protect religious freedom in our country for generations to come. In essence, the decision sends a clear message that it is unconstitutional to show hostility towards people of faith in the marketplace because of their religious convictions.

“As Jack said in his statement, ‘[t]oday’s decision makes clear that tolerance is a two-way street. If we want to have freedom for ourselves, we have to extend it to others with whom we disagree,’ especially on important issues such as the meaning of marriage. The government’s hostility directly impacted the shop Jack and his family relied on for their livelihood, including receiving death threats and harassment.

This decision is encouraging, and we trust precedent setting moving forward. At a minimum, no one should be bullied or banished from the marketplace for peacefully living out their beliefs about marriage. Just as the lesbian graphic designer shouldn’t be forced to create a flyer for a religious group’s event opposing same-sex marriage, so Jack Phillips shouldn’t be forced to create custom wedding cakes celebrating same-sex marriage.

Wisconsin Family Council remains the only organization in the state that has time and again stood boldly time and again in the halls of government and in the public arena in defense of God’s plan for marriage and the protection of religious freedom. We have no plans to do anything other than keep on keeping on, whether we win court cases or lose. The cause is noble and right and to do nothing is unthinkable.

This is Julaine Appling with Wisconsin Family Council, reminding you the Prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

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