The Masterpiece ruling

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday, June 5th, 2018.

Glad to have you along for today’s episode of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up on The World and Everything in It: A religious-liberty victory in Masterpiece Cakeshop.

The Supreme Court yesterday ruled 7 justices to 2 in favor of the Colorado baker who declined to create a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

The large margin of victory may have belied the narrowness of the ruling.

REICHARD: To understand the case, you need to understand exactly what the state of Colorado did to bakery owner Jack Phillips. The state civil rights commission sanctioned him in its view for breaking the state’s anti-discrimination law.

That law says in part that businesses may not refuse service based on sexual orientation.

The Supreme Court overturned Colorado’s ruling against Phillips for this reason: That the state had displayed blatant hostility to the baker’s religious beliefs.

Some of the Commissioners called Phillips’ religious claims “despicable rhetoric” and said religious freedom had been used to justify slavery and the Holocaust.

What the high court did not do is rule on his free-speech claims. Dealing with that issue is left to another case, for another day.

Still, seven justices agreed that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated Phillips’s first amendment right to the free exercise of religion.

The Civil Rights Commission, as a government arm, is obligated to remain neutral toward religion.

EICHER: Going even further, the seven justice majority wrote the state commission was itself motivated by animosity toward religion. “Anti-religious animus,” the court called it.

Evidence for that was the same commission ruled in favor of bakers who refused to create cakes expressing disapproval of same-sex marriage.  

Kristen Waggoner argued the case on behalf of the baker. Here’s her take away:

WAGGONER: The court can’t play favorites. And I think that’s what the court said loud and clear today because it did play favorites, because it did express hostility toward Jack. That’s why the case was reversed.

REICHARD: Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion that the state commission’s hostility toward religion, and I’ll read from the opinion here: “was inconsistent with the First Amendment’s guarantee that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion.” 

And Justice Kennedy wrote that a decision in favor of creative professionals must be, in his words, “sufficiently constrained.”

If not, Kennedy worried, “all purveyors of goods and services who object to gay marriages for moral and religious reasons” could put up signs stigmatizing gay marriage.

This leaves the door open for some future case that would parse out factual details for different analysis.

(AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File) In this March 10, 2014, file photo, Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips decorates a cake inside his store in Lakewood, Colo. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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