Two Concerns About the Supreme Court’s Masterpiece Cakeshop Ruling
The Supreme Court released its much-anticipated ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission on Monday morning. The Court found in a 7 to 2 decision that Colorado Civil Rights Commission did violate the First Amendment’s free exercise clause. I am not surprised the Court found in Jack Phillips’ (the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop) favor (the justices’ statements during oral arguments led me to think it was going to be a favorable ruling), but that they did so with such a firm majority.
I am pleased that the Court ruled in Mr. Phillips favor. This decision is a win. Had it gone the other way it would have been a terrible setback for religious liberty.
So this is a victory, but this ruling is not the watershed decision many of us hoped it would be.
It did not strike down Colorado’s SOGI law. It did not require an exemption for religious liberty or religious conscience. What the opinion says is that the free exercise clause demands that “the law must be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion.”
That is a welcome statement, and I think the ruling will have states consider how they treat complaints related to Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity (SOGI) laws. However, this is not a deciding blow, and we’ll continue to see cases like these because there is a lot of ambiguity.
That said, I have two concerns about the majority opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy that could have negative implications in future court cases.