The Good, Bad, and Ugly of the Supreme Court ruling on Masterpiece Cakeshop

Here’s the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the Supreme Court ruling in the Masterpiece Cakeshop lawsuit. (For more background on this case see here and here.)

Good: The ruling is, shockingly, on Free Exercise grounds. This is stunning, since Phillips based his entire case on compelled speech. Free Exercise was basically not discussed in the arguments, but formed the basis of the ruling. Also encouraging is the fact that the opinion points out the double standard: Christians are being forced to decorate gay wedding cakes, but gay marriage supporters don’t have to decorate cakes with messages that oppose gay marriage.

Bad: The ruling appears to hinge entirely on the outright animus displayed against Phillips by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. These “Civil Rights Commissions” almost always exist for the purpose of grinding Christians under their boots, but most of them aren’t dumb enough to admit it. The Court said that Phillips’ free exercise claim should have been taken seriously by the commission (which is basically a court), and that the commission can’t be obviously biased from the start. But SCOTUS did *not* say that Free Exercise means that there should be any sort of religious exception to public accommodation laws.

Ugly: This ruling may have the unintended effect of forcing Christians to prove that these state agencies are motivated by animus if we ever want to win any cases. Worse, there doesn’t appear to be even an event-based exception for rights of conscience. I was hoping they’d at least say that Christians can opt out of the wedding ceremonies, but we have to serve gay customers. They didn’t do that.

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I’m speculating, obviously, but the Masterpiece ruling has John Roberts’ fingerprints all over it. I think he realized that he didn’t have 5 votes for a ruling saying that Phillips didn’t have to bake the cake, so he staved off disaster by convincing Kennedy, Breyer, and Kagan to write an opinion that blatant, open bigotry is still bad. The terrifying reality is that if SCOTUS had actually resolved the underlying issues, it probably would have been a ruling that eradicated religious freedom in America. Two implications:

1. This shows the value of Roberts as a Justice, even if he got Obamacare wrong. We should be glad he’s on the court.
2. This shows that we basically can’t lose any Presidential elections until we have a solid conservative majority, or Christians are going to be second class citizens in the country they founded.

Bottom line: It’s the tiniest win possible. I’ll take it, but this ruling means very little for the Baronelle Stutzmans of the world. Even more striking is that this nothing-burger of a ruling was *still* dissented against by Ginsburg and Sotomayor. Think about that. Ginsburg and Sotomayor actually think that a court proceeding is legitimate, even if it displays undeniable anti-Christian bigotry from those who are supposed to be impartial. There’s no way to avoid the conclusion that we have two Supreme Court Justices who believe that Christians should be second-class citizens who don’t even deserve a fair day in court. (UPDATE: I read the G & S dissent, and this is undeniably correct).

Now imagine what will happen if future Democrat Presidents get to keep their promises and nominate 2 or 3 more Ginsburgs to the Court.This ruling is a clear signal that Christians must vote Republican for President, or Democratic bigots will make us the target of new Jim Crow laws.


And a few more highlights from the ruling:

This section. Wow.

“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.”

This section is also encouraging for Christians:

“The Commission ruled against Phillips in part on the theory that any message on the requested wedding cake would be attributed to the customer, not to the baker. Yet the [Colorado Civil Rights] Division did not address this point in any of the cases involving requests for cakes depicting anti-gay marriage symbolism.”

This is also quite good:

“Religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression.”

This entire opinion seems to have a strong undercurrent of “you guys should be able to work this stuff out.”

It seems to be geared toward providing a framework by which these disputes can be resolved, more so than actually resolving any of the disputes.

Which means we’ll likely be seeing more cases like this before the Court soon, and this first case doesn’t really tell us which direction the Court will go in deciding those future, wider cases.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com


About the author

Tim Dukeman

Tim is a graduate of the University of Memphis, earning his Master's in Political Science with concentrations in American Politics and Political Theory. He lives in Louisville with his wife. You can find him on Twitter @TDukeman

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