USA Today is reporting on the decision handed down today in which the justices ruled that the state’s treatment of Jack Phillips, owner of the Masterpiece Cake Shop in Colorado, who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, was a violation of his First Amendment rights. While the ruling did not address the wider issue of whether or not Christians can refuse to serve same-sex weddings, today’s win is considered to be a victory for religious freedom.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the court’s decision, said that " 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.”
While the decision clearly states that “The government . . . cannot impose regulations that are hostile to the religious beliefs of affected citizens . . .” it stopped short of making a wider ruling that could apply to the many pending cases of bakers, florists and photographers in similar circumstances.
“The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts,” Kennedy wrote. “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."
This is very much in keeping with the 2015 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, also authored by Kennedy, in which he said that "It must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned."
Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been representing Jack Phillips, called the decision a victory and an affirmation that “the First Amendment ensures that people of good will who hold beliefs disfavored by the government are free to live according to them.”
They continue: “If we want to be a truly tolerant society, we must provide room for everyone to peacefully live and work according to their beliefs – regardless of whether we agree with their views. As Justice Anthony Kennedy stated during oral arguments in Phillips’ case: ‘[T]olerance is essential in a free society. And tolerance is most meaningful when it's mutual’.”
They add: “Jack’s win is a step toward greater tolerance. And that is something we should all celebrate.”
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