The Supreme Court has issued its ruling in the much anticipated Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and the religious liberty of the cake baker, Jack Phillips, won out by a 7 – 2 vote. It appears at a first quick skim that it is a narrow ruling, but until I can wade into it more thoroughly it will be difficult to tell whether a new and clear doctrine as been laid out for future cases. I doubt it. But the fact that it is a 7 – 2 vote (Breyer and Kagan joined the Republican justices) ought to tilt the playing field in favor of protection for religious liberty despite the ambiguities of the language. You can download the opinion here.
I’ll try to say more after reading the entire opinion and the concurrences, but for now refer readers to my Forbes article about this case when it first began back in 2014, “Persecution and the Art of Cake Baking.”
Get ready for the identity politics left to start howling at the moon in three, two . . .
UPDATE: It appears the main focus of the decision, by Justice Kennedy, is the rank politicization of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which brought the enforcement action against Jack Phillips in the first place. (One suspects this whole thing was a set-up from the beginning; note that the case wasn’t a private lawsuit by the two gay customers, nor an enforcement action of the Colorado Attorney General.) This language from the opinion is fairly direct:
That consideration [of religious liberty] was compromised, however, by the Commission’s treatment of Phillips’ case, which showed elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs motivating his objection. 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.
Essentially the Supreme Court is calling out the egregious behavior of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Of course, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, like most state civil rights commissions, was set up not to be an impartial and fair enforcement and advisory body, but as a governmental advocacy center for the civil rights movement, which is today totally politicized in ways that depart markedly from the old civil rights movement of Martin Luther King. In other words, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission is the captive of the identity politics left, and that’s by design.
Still, whatever is left unresolved as a legal rule going forward, it is clear that these state advocacy agencies are on formal notice from the Supreme Court to conceal their anti-religious bigotry.