Unfortunately, religious freedom will have to keep on waiting to get its full day at the U.S. Supreme Court. According to Fox News, the highest court in the land has kicked yet another same-sex wedding cake case back down to a lower court. The lower court will decide the case based on the flimsy rubric laid out last term in the the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision.
“The Supreme Court on Monday threw out a ruling against two Oregon bakers who refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple,” the outlet reported. “The couple, Melissa and Aaron Klein, cited religious beliefs as their reason for not providing services for a gay wedding.”
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed open hostility to Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips’ religious beliefs upon penalizing him for refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding. Though the court ruled in Philips’ favor, it made no definitive ruling that could apply more broadly to religious Americans in artistic fields like photography, baking, floristry, and other services.
“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,” the 2018 ruling said. “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. … The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the court.”
Going forward, a lower court will now determine if the Kleins were indeed subject to unfair hostility when the state of Oregon ordered them to pay a hefty $135,000 fine for allegedly discriminating against a lesbian couple that wanted them to bake a cake for their wedding. If a similar case out of Washington provides any indication, the lower court might rule that the Kleins were treated impartially by the Oregon justice system, forcing the couple to continue fighting for a definitive ruling by the Supreme Court.
At the time of the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling, Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro feared that the narrow ruling would lead to more religious persecution:
Presumably, if the Colorado commission had said nicely to Phillips, “Dear sir, we understand your honestly-felt moral quandary, but feel that times have moved beyond such discrimination, and thus your religious objections must take a back seat to civility,” they could tell him to do whatever they damn well pleased.
The fact that we have arrived at this point in Constitutional jurisprudence in the first place is an utter joke. You don’t have the freedom to speak, so long as the government labels your speech public accommodation; you don’t have the freedom to associate; you don’t have freedom of religion so long as the government speaks nicely while taking it away from you.
Despite not attaining a full hearing by the Supreme Court, First Liberty Institute, which represents the Kleins, saw the decision as a win. “This is a victory for Aaron and Melissa Klein and for religious liberty for all Americans,” First Liberty president Kelly Shackelford said in a statement. “The Constitution protects speech, popular or not, from condemnation by the government. The message from the Court is clear, government hostility toward religious Americans will not be tolerated.”