The legal team that defended Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, who won Monday at the Supreme Court an affirmation that the First Amendment protects Christians in business who refuse to promote homosexuality, said that’s as it should be.
“Jack serves all customers; he simply declines to express messages or celebrate events that violate his deeply held beliefs,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner, who argued before the high court on behalf of Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop.
“Creative professionals who serve all people should be free to create art consistent with their convictions without the threat of government punishment.”
While LGBT promoters promised to continue their fight to restrict the religious rights of Christians, ADF cited the high court’s conclusion that the state of Colorado was hostile to Christianity when it ordered Phillips and his staff to undergo reindoctrination.
“Government hostility toward people of faith has no place in our society, yet the state of Colorado was openly antagonistic toward Jack’s religious beliefs about marriage,” Waggoner said. “The court was right to condemn that. Tolerance and respect for good-faith differences of opinion are essential in a society like ours. This decision makes clear that the government must respect Jack’s beliefs about marriage.”
Justice Anthony Kennedy, in an overwhelming 7-2 ruling, said “the record here demonstrates that the commission’s consideration of Phillips’ case was neither tolerant nor respectful of his religious beliefs.”
In addition to the reindoctrination ordered by the state, Phillips was ordered to report to the government for two years on his faith-based decisions.
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“It’s hard to believe that the government punished me for operating my business consistent with my beliefs about marriage. That isn’t freedom or tolerance,” he said.
Other praise for the decision came from Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and Centennial Institute Director Jeff Hunt.
“This is a victory for Jack Phillips and our nation’s long cherished freedom of following one’s deeply held beliefs without fear of government punishment,” Perkins said.
“The Supreme Court made clear that the government has no authority to discriminate against Jack Phillips because of his religious beliefs. Misguided government officials singled out Jack’s religious beliefs for discriminatory treatment – but that isn’t freedom, it’s tyranny. It’s simply un-American to force people like Jack to compromise their religious beliefs just because they are disfavored by those who have used government entities like this Colorado government commission.”
Hunt said the decision “is a victory for all Americans regardless of religious affiliation as the Supreme Court reaffirmed the importance of religious freedom and freedom of conscience from government interference.”
Mark Rienzi of the Becket Fund said the court “has said 7-2 that the Constitutions requires us all to try and get along.”:
“There is room enough in our society for a diversity of viewpoints, and that includes respecting religious beliefs too. The decision is a strong message to governments across the country that they must respect – rather than punish – religious diversity on important issues,” he said.
The ruling did leave intact that business owners cannot display products in their stores then decide not to sell them solely because of the LGBTQ identity of a customer.
Phillips had said all along he didn’t discriminate against customers based on their identity but explained he could not use his artistry to endorse gay weddings, which at the time were not permitted in Colorado.
Gov. Mike Huckabee said the fight was just part of the “muddle” that was created by the Supremes’ creation of same-sex marriage.
When that came down, he explained, “SCOTUS made clear that care should be taken that it not infringe on religious beliefs. But the ink was barely dry before Christian bakers, florists and other wedding service providers in blue states were being sued, harassed, hounded, fined, branded as ‘haters’ and driven into bankruptcy simply for declining jobs that would require them to violate their sacred belief in the biblical definition of marriage.”
He said the justices actually need to do a lot more work. And he said he expects more such cases, because the court didn’t finish its work.
“This ruling is something to celebrate, because the treatment of Jack Phillips was outrageous and unconstitutional. But it still leaves unfinished the untangling of the knot of conflicting rights the SCOTUS created. I expect there will be many more such cases as liberal state officials try to find ways to infringe on religious beliefs while being cagier about hiding their hostility to religion. Maybe someday, a future SCOTUS (possibly one with a Trump-appointed replacement for Kennedy) will get tired of dealing with the endless end-run attempts and finally issue a decisive ruling that the government cannot compel anyone to violate his or her religious beliefs, but it would have been a lot easier for everyone concerned if they’d just done it now.”
“The Supreme Court was absolutely correct to overturn the clear religious discrimination perpetrated by the state of Colorado against Jack Phillips,” said Jerry A. Johnson, president & CEO of National Religious Broadcasters.
“A 7-2 ruling is a strong affirmation of the central importance of religious liberty to our nation. This decision affirms Americans’ freedom to believe, to speak, and to live their faith. Politicians who are still intent on currying favor with the well-funded radical Left should take a hard look at this case and correct their course of intolerance before they further trample on America’s fundamental freedoms. I thank Jack for fighting on the front lines for us all. I also commend NRB member Alliance Defending Freedom for yet another victory before the highest court in our land.”
Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, called it “a huge victory for the religious rights private citizens.”
“People should not be forced to speak a message that violates their conscience,” he said. “Just as any person or business should have the right to refuse to promote a KKK event, in the same way no one should be forced to promote a same-sex ceremony that violates their sincerely held religious beliefs. A painter can refuse to paint hate, nudity or the Nazi symbol. A photographer or moviemaker can refuse to film offensive content. A person should be free to refuse to be used as a mouthpiece for an objectionable message. Today’s ruling protects that inalienable right to conscience.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, praised the decision.
“Hostility toward religion has no place in government,” he said. “At the same time, religious freedom means much more than freedom from government hostility. Courts must protect the ability of believers to freely live their faith and to express their religious beliefs openly and honestly.”
First Liberty’s Kelly Shackelford pointed out the circumstances were like those of his clients, Aaron and Melissa Klein, who lost their bakery business in Oregon under punishment from the state for a similar perceived offense.
“No one in America should be forced by the government to choose between their faith and their livelihood. But that’s exactly what happened to our clients, bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein. The Kleins deserve the same protection from a hostile government given Jack Phillips,” he said.
The state fined the Kleins $135,000 for not doing a custom wedding cake for a same-sex wedding.
The case now is at the Oregon Supreme Court, which will have the new U.S. Supreme Court ruling to review.
On the other side, Larry Decker of the Secular Coalition of America claimed the court’s ruling created an “unfettered license to discrimination.”
“Effectively, the court’s decision permits as many varieties of discrimination as there are religious beliefs,” he claimed. “If religious belief allows a baker to discriminate against a same-sex couple, it opens the door for any business to discriminate against anyone on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, faith, or lack of faith.”
The high court’s ruling found Phillips had a constitutionally protected right, based on his faith, to decide whether or not he would endorse a same-sex wedding.
Decker claimed the Constitution now has been “twisted into a justification for bigotry and privilege.”
Candace Bond-Theriault of the National LGBTQ Task Force promised to continue the fight against the religious rights of Christians.
“At the end of the day, discrimination is wrong and the Supreme Court held up that view,” Carey stated. “Today’s narrow decision, while disappointing, has to do with the specifics of this particular case. The fight for full equality continues, and this reminds us we must always be vigilant.”
After Phillips refused to bake a cake for the homosexual duo, they filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which ordered Phillips to undergo reindoctrination.
But Supreme Court’s ruling Monday said Colorado violated the U.S. Constitution’s Free Exercise Clause by showing hostility toward Phillips’ religious beliefs.
“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,” the court said.
The court said Colorado law protects gay persons “in acquiring products and services on the same terms and conditions as are offered to other members,” but it found “the law must be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion.”
The state officials were handed a tongue-lashing.
“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 Phillip’s 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.
“No commissioners objected to the comments,” the ruling charged.
In fact, the state commission’s hostility toward Christian beliefs became evident at the outset of the case, when one member, Diann Rice, publicly exhibited bias against Phillips during a hearing, comparing him to a Nazi.
“I would also like to reiterate what we said in the hearing or the last meeting,” Rice said during consideration of Phillips’ case. “Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the Holocaust, whether it be – I mean, we – we can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use to – to use their religion to hurt others.”
Hear a recording of Rice’s statement:
The opinion said a baker could be required to sell products to LGBT customers that are already available to other customers, such as cupcakes and cookies.
But when the issue is expressive endorsement, the baker’s constitutional rights trump the newly created LGBT rights.
The majority ruling, written by Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, said the state “compromised” the “neutral and respectful consideration” it should have given Phillips.
“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,” the ruling said. “The court cannot avoid the conclusion that these statements cast doubt on the fairness an impartiality of the commission’s adjudiciation.”
Justices Ruth Ginsburg and Sonio Sotomayor endorsed the state’s discrimination against Phillips, including the harsh statements made by commission members.
They cannot “justify” reversing the results, they said.