What Happened? Masterpiece Cakeshop at the Supreme Court
The most anticipated Supreme Court decision of the year was released on Monday. The case of Masterpiece Cakeshop involved Jack Phillips, a faithful Christian, who was charged with violating Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act for politely declining to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. And, there’s good news and also a call to action.
Here’s the good news: Jack Phillips was vindicated with a 7-2 decision that was very critical of the Colorado Commission’s hostility towards people of faith. This is, no doubt, a praise!
Quite simply, this means that a Christian’s ability to live out their faith at work, in school, or in the public sphere is little more secure today than it was prior to the ruling. However, it is imperative for the next Georgia governor and the 2019 legislative session to act to uphold our First Amendment rights. Historically, the Courts have shown a refusal to defend the Constitution, and it is time for courageous political leadership!
Here are some major, positive takeaways from the decision as well as our path forward:
First, in his majority opinion, Justice Kennedy rebuked the Colorado Civil Rights Commission that adjudicated Jack’s case for comparing his religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust, calling such rhetoric “clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs motivating his objection.” How many times have we heard such outrageous comparisons here in Georgia. Thankfully, this decision should strike a blow to overt bigotry against Christians: “religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression.”
Second, the Supreme Court affirmed the right of business owners to bring their religion with them to work. Justice Kennedy included the Commissions’ view “that religious beliefs cannot legitimately be carried into the public sphere or commercial domain” among the elements of a “clear and impermissible hostility” towards Jack’s faith.
Third, Justice Kennedy reminded us that the government doesn’t get to protect only the conscience rights it agrees with. His opinion criticizes the different treatment Jack received before the Commission compared to treatment of other bakers who declined to create cakes with messages to which they objected, including those with anti-gay marriage messages. In a concurring opinion, Justice Gorsuch exposed this inconsistency, stating, “the Commission allowed three other bakers to refuse a customer’s request that would have required them to violate their secular commitments. Yet it denied the same accommodation to Mr. Phillips [Jack] when he refused a customer’s request that would have required him to violate his religious beliefs.”
So What Now?
It is very easy to look at the 7-2 win, throw your hands up in celebration, and believe this is a lasting victory. That is, unfortunately not true.
Instead, this ruling underscores the importance of the coming elections as the Court proved with this decision that decisions of this magnitude still lie in the hands of elected officials. Will Georgia’s politicians continue an aversion to protecting your First Amendment rights? Or, will a new wave of courageous leaders pick up this punt from the Supreme Court, take the ball, and run toward a victory for this critical principle that was the catalyst for our nation’s founding?
The choice is, largely, now up to you. Ahead of this July 24th runoff, we have one statewide candidate for governor that actively worked to kill an amendment to protect faith-based adoption agencies. In State House District 97, our endorsed candidate, Kipper Tabb, is facing an opponent that says she would refuse to support such a law. All around our state, choices like this face the voters, and it is up to us to make our voice heard.
We are thankful for God’s mercy in sparing us from what could have been a disastrous ruling, for granting affirmation for Jack, and for other positive elements in this decision. Nevertheless, now is the time to re-double our efforts on the real battlefield: the political landscape, where this fight will ultimately be decided.
Because this matters,
President and Executive Director