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Supreme Court Affirms Baker’s Freedom

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled 7-2 in favor of baker Jack Phillips, who declined to bake a custom cake for the wedding of Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins.

The majority opinion, written by Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, focused at length on hostility expressed toward Phillips’s faith by members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

Kennedy wrote:

Phillips met Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins when they entered his shop in the summer of 2012. Craig and Mullins were planning to marry. At that time, Colorado did not recognize same-sex marriages, so the couple planned to wed legally in Massachusetts and afterwards to host a reception for their family and friends in Denver. To prepare for their celebration, Craig and Mullins visited the shop and told Phillips that they were interested in ordering a cake for “our wedding.” Id., at 152 (emphasis deleted). They did not mention the design of the cake they envisioned.

Phillips informed the couple that he does not “create” wedding cakes for same-sex weddings. Ibid. He explained, “I’ll make your birthday cakes, shower cakes, sell you cookies and brownies, I just don’t make cakes for same sex weddings.” Ibid. The couple left the shop without further discussion.

… 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. No commissioners objected to the comments. Nor were they mentioned in the later state-court ruling or disavowed in the briefs filed here. The comments thus cast doubt on the fairness and impartiality of the Commission’s adjudication of Phillips’ case.

… The Commission’s hostility was inconsistent with the First Amendment’s guarantee that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion. Phillips was entitled to a neutral decisionmaker who would give full and fair consideration to his religious objection as he sought to assert it in all of the circumstances in which this case was presented, considered, and decided. In this case the adjudication concerned a context that may well be different going forward in the respects noted above. However[,] later cases raising these or similar concerns are resolved in the future, for these reasons the rulings of the Commission and of the state court that enforced the Commission’s order must be invalidated.

The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.

Related: Church Joins Bakery Case (Oct. 31, 2017)

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