Religious freedom groups cheered Monday’s 7-2 Supreme Court decision that a Colorado baker had his rights violated when the state civil rights commission said he was required to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.
The Supreme Court ruled in favour of Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, saying that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed a constitutionally unacceptable hostility toward religion when it ruled that he had discriminated against a same-sex couple who requested a wedding cake from his bakery back in 2012.
“Today’s decision confirms that people of faith should not suffer discrimination on account of their deeply held religious beliefs, but instead should be respected by government officials,” said leaders of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“This extends to creative professionals, such as Jack Phillips, who seek to serve the Lord in every aspect of their daily lives. In a pluralistic society like ours, true tolerance allows people with different viewpoints to be free to live out their beliefs, even if those beliefs are unpopular with the government,” they said.
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, chair of the bishops’ religious liberty committee, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, head of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, and Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, chair of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, released the joint statement on Monday.
Mr Phillips, a devout Christian, said repeatedly throughout the case that he would have no issue serving gay customers in a context outside of a custom cake for a same-sex wedding. In adherence to his religious beliefs, he also refuses to make Halloween cakes, products with alcohol, and cakes for bachelor parties.
The Court stopped short of setting a major precedent, and instead tailored the decision to this particular case. However, supporters of Phillips said the decision still marked an important victory.
“Government hostility toward people of faith has no place in our society, yet the state of Colorado was openly antagonistic toward Jack’s religious beliefs about marriage. The court was right to condemn that,” said Kristen Waggoner, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, which was representing Mr Phillips.
“Tolerance and respect for good-faith differences of opinion are essential in a society like ours. This decision makes clear that the government must respect Jack’s beliefs about marriage,” she added.