In Wake of SCOTUS Gay Wedding-Cake Case

Alliance Defending Freedom has prepared a resource for Christian businesses to help navigate potential challenges to their businesses until more definitive rulings are delivered by the Court or other legislative changes.

“An Employers Guide to Faith in the Workplace” helps businesspeople run their businesses in accordance with their faith and understand potential risks and liabilities in a culture and legal system that enables “sexual liberty” to trump religious freedom. Click here for the guide.

Alliance Defending Freedom is a nonprofit organization, founded in 1994 by Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ. It advocates for issues involving religious freedom, sanctity of life, and marriage and family. The organization has worked with CBA previously to educate Christian retailers on how to address sexual orientation issues in the workplace and customer interactions.

On June 4, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colorado cake artist who declined a request to create a custom cake for a same-sex wedding. The Court found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had not been neutral in its evaluation of Jack Phillips’s case, and condemned the “clear and impermissible hostility toward [Jack’s] sincere religious beliefs.” But while the Court clearly held that hostility toward religion has no place in a pluralistic society like ours, it declined to resolve the important question of whether business owners may permissibly refuse to offer certain goods and services for same-sex weddings based on religious or philosophical objections, according to Doug Napier, senior VP of Alliance Relations, for Alliance Defending Freedom, which defended Jack Phillips in the case.

For Christian-store owners or Christians in business, the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling fails to provide much needed guidance on how future conflicts between First Amendment freedoms and nondiscrimination laws will be resolved.

Napier said the majority opinion admits as much, pointing to “difficult questions as to the proper reconciliation of at least two principles.” Those principles, the Court says, are the “fundamental freedoms under the First Amendment” on the one hand, and the “rights and dignity of gay persons” on the other. The opinion further acknowledges that “[t]he outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be re-solved 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 case began in 2012, when a homosexual couple sued Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, because Phillips declined on religious grounds to create a custom cake for their wedding ceremony. Phillips expressly offered to sell the couple any premade item in his store, or to create a custom cake for a different event, but stated he could not create art celebrating a same-sex marriage. The couple sued, and the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The decision is being hailed as an important victory because it called out the state’s hostility to the baker’s religious faith as unconstitutional. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s treatment of Jack’s case – when compared to other cases – revealed hostility and unfair treatment, the court said. For example, one Colorado civil rights commissioner described Jack’s faith as “despicable pieces of rhetoric” and claimed religion “has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history,” including slavery and the holocaust. The court held that such statements are inappropriate in a body charged with fair and neutral enforcement of Colorado’s anti-discrimination law.

However, because the Court didn’t rule on whether Phillip’s religiously-motivated refusal to provide services was otherwise protected by the First Amendment, it opens the door for such state commissions to reach the same results as long as they act with religious neutrality (or conceal their hostility).

The Court also noted that Phillip’s refusal to serve the homosexual couple occurred before the Court recognized the constitutional right of same-sex couples to marry and was therefore “particularly understandable”. Laycock and Berg believe that future cases will come before the Court to attempt to calibrate the balance of antidiscrimination principles and religious liberty rights.

Various observers also have pointed out that the homosexual community will continue to pursue litigation and legislation to prevent and outlaw religious objections to the homosexual lifestyle.

Download “An Employers Guide to Faith in the Workplace.”