By Dan Calabrese
Very good and very important news out of the Supreme Court this morning.
Also, hilariously, NPR tries to persuade us that a 7-2 decision is a “narrow” one.
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Nope. But more importantly, it’s the correct decision:
In a case brought by a Colorado baker, the court ruled by a 7-2 vote that he did not get a fair hearing on his complaint because the Colorado Civil Rights Commission demonstrated a hostility to religion in its treatment of his case.
Writing for the case, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that while it is unexceptional that Colorado law “can protect gay persons in acquiring products and services on the same terms and conditions that are offered to other members of the public, the law must be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion.”
He said that in this case the Colorado baker, Jack Phillips, understandably had difficulty in knowing where to draw the line because the state law at the time afforded store keepers some latitude to decline creating specific messages they considered offensive. Kennedy pointed to the Colorado commission’s decision allowing a different baker to refuse to put an anti-gay message on a cake.
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented. The court’s four most conservative justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts, concurred with the decision offering different rationales for the future.
Kennedy went out of his way to say that decisions on specific cases in the future may well be different.
Now, the majority did not go as far as it could have or should have in protecting the rights of people like Phillips in this case. They should have gone ahead and struck down all state laws that put “public accommodation” ahead of a person’s religious liberty. That would have eliminated the possibility that, in a different situation, a person of faith could have his rights violated because someone demanded a service he could not with a clear conscience provide.
By putting their focus on the hostility toward religion exhibited by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the SCOTUS majority left open the possibility that, given a fairer hearing, it might have still been legitimate for Phillips to be forced to bake the gay wedding cake.
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But at least this ruling acknowledges that faith and conscience play a legitimate role in a decision like this. It also shoots down the most disingenuous argument that came from the left and the media, which was that Phillips “refused to serve” the customers in question “because they were gay.” He did no such thing. He said he would gladly bake them a cake for any other reason, but that it would violate his faith to use his creative skills to participate in the celebration of a homosexual wedding. The correct next step for the gay couple should have been to find a baker that had no such objection, but instead they sued and tried to force Jack Phillips to either bake the cake or pay a legal price.
That’s because gay marriage isn’t really about the right of same-sex people to marry each other at all. If it was, they would already have their victory and they could stop picking fights with Christians. Instead, they are trying to put people who have personal faith-based objections to gay marriage in legal jeopardy, even though said people of faith are not trying to stop them from getting married, but are merely declining to participate in said weddings.
It’s too bad this ruling didn’t put a stop to that, but at least it gave Jack Phillips the victory he deserved.
Dan writes Christian spiritual warfare novels and does all kinds of other weird things too. Follow all his activity by liking him on Facebook!