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What The Bible Says Good Samaritan's Penny Pulpit by Pastor Ed Rice
What The Bible Says Good Samaritan's Penny Pulpit by Pastor Ed Rice
What The Bible Says Good Samaritan's Penny Pulpit by Pastor Ed Rice
What The Bible Says Good Samaritan's Penny Pulpit by Pastor Ed Rice
Dear Friends,A recent study reveals that loneliness has now reached epidemic levels in the United States. In a survey of over 20,000 adults 18 and over, the numbers are staggering:Nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone (46 percent) or left out (47 percent).One in four Americans (27 percent) rarely or never feel as though there are people who really understand them.Two in five Americans sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful (43 percent) and that they are isolated from others (43 percent).One in five people report they rarely or never feel close to people (20 percent) or feel like there are people they can talk to (18 percent).Americans who live with others are less likely to be lonely (average loneliness score of 43.5) compared to those who live alone (46.4). However, this does not apply to single parents/guardians (average loneliness score of 48.2) – even though they live with children, they are more likely to be lonely.Only around half of Americans (53 percent) have meaningful in-person social interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family, on a daily basis.Generation Z (adults ages 18-22) is the loneliest generation and claims to be in worse health than older generations.Interestingly, the study notes that “Social media use alone is not a predictor of loneliness; respondents defined as very heavy users of social media have a loneliness score (43.5) that is not markedly different from the score of those who never use social media (41.7).” What is not being said here is that this statistic clearly indicates that increased social media use is affecting everyone, not just heavy users.I witnessed a perfect example of this last night at a restaurant. At the booth next to my wife and I, a large family had wedged themselves into both sides of the table. Despite this perfect opportunity for a great evening of quality family time, I couldn’t help but notice that large periods of time went by with the family sitting in silence. Why? Because half of the people at the table had their faces buried in their phones, while the other family members stared off into space. Is it any wonder that half of the country is not having any meaningful conversations with anyone when the people they are trying to talk to are staring down at a screen?This study should be a reminder to believers that we should always be ready and willing to give everyone we encounter our full attention, not just our family and friends. Phones and social media aren’t the only culprits here—often it is our own fear of looking abnormal that keeps us from spending a few moments talking with a homeless person on the street or our Uber driver. We must work on refocusing our priorities to giving everyone in our lives the time and attention they crave and rightfully deserve.God created us to love and to be loved. We all need to be constantly reminded of the timeless adage: “It is good that you exist.” When we spend quality time with our family members and everyone else the Lord puts in our path, we reaffirm this basic truth and help to spread Christ’s Kingdom.Thank you for your prayers and for your continued support of FRC and the family.Sincerely,Dan Hart Managing Editor for Publications Family Research Council FRC ArticlesChristians can influence the world without being influenced – Tony PerkinsWomen & Pornography – Patrina MosleyDismemberment Abortion – Patrina MosleyFlocking to tend to our nation’s spiritual needs – Travis WeberPlanned Parenthood's tax dollar gravy train just got derailed – Cathy RuseImitating My Father – Dan HartGetting to Know Generation Z – Marion MealorGood But Not Great: Don’t Be Fooled by the Masterpiece Decision – Andrew RockWarning to Northern Ireland: Science Without Faith is Dead – Patrina MosleyMasterpiece Cakeshop: How Can a 7-2 Supreme Court Decision Be “Narrow?” – Peter SpriggPolitically Motivated Research Underestimates Risk of Suicide After Abortion – Martha ShupingMasterpiece Cakeshop: Summary of Each Supreme Court Opinion – Peter SpriggThe Ethical Imperative of Adult Stem Cell Research – Hannah BorchersSupreme Court Protects Jack Phillips’ Rights, Tells Colorado: “Not So Fast” – Travis Weber Religious LibertyReligious Liberty in the Public SquareSupreme Court Rules in Favor of Baker Who Declined to Make Same-Sex Wedding Cake – National Catholic RegisterState Judge Sides with Christian Baker – Rodney Pelletier, Church MilitantPhiladelphia Archdiocese sues city over foster care placements – Matthew Gambino, CruxValedictorian: “They Told Me I Had to Take Christ Out of My Speech” – ToddStarnes.comA tall Christian cross stood in a Michigan park for nearly 70 years. Now it's gone – Lisa Gutierrez, The Kansas City StarDemocrats introduce bill to counter Sen. Orrin Hatch's religious freedom law – Dennis Romboy, Deseret NewsIndiana high school accepts teacher's resignation over transgender policy – Kathleen Joyce, Fox NewsInternational Religious FreedomPence Meets Indonesia’s Top Muslim Leader After Church Attacks – Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today'Human rights disaster': China's persecution of Christians at highest level since Mao – Bradford Richardson, The Washington TimesReligious War Looms in Nigeria as Christian Body Count Climbs – Lela Gilbert, NewsmaxCanada’s top court rules against Christian law school: LGBT rights trump religious freedom – Lianne Laurence, LifeSiteNewsPolice seizes 1,100 Bibles in China’s Shandong province – Madeeha Bakhsh, Christians in PakistanThe Radical Forgiveness One Egyptian Mother Has for Her Son’s Murderers – Lindy Lowry, Open DoorsSeveral Iranian Christians to Serve Time in Prison – Jeffrey Cimmino, The Washington Free BeaconInternational Religious Freedom Report for 2017 – U.S. Department of StateU.S. senator introduces bill for sanctions against Turkey – Hürriyet Daily News LifeAbortionWhat Happened When 3 Women Faced Deep Suffering Rather Than Abort Their Children – Maureen Mullarkey, The FederalistThe Silent Suffering of Fathers After Abortion – Victoria Robinson, The Daily SignalPresident Trump to cut Planned Parenthood funding – Cassy Fiano, Live ActionIreland votes to legalize abortion: ‘a tragedy of historic proportions’ – Claire Chretien, LifeSiteNewsSupreme Court Rejects Planned Parenthood Challenge to Arkansas Pro-Life Law That Could Close Two Abortion Clinics – Steven Ertelt, LifeNewsGirl with Down Syndrome stuns politicians with powerful speech about her ‘right to be alive’ – Jonathon Van Maren, LifeSiteNewsPro-life commercial from Herbal Essences stirs up controversy – Nancy Flanders, Live ActionAdoptionFoster Care Fanaticism in Philadelphia – Darel E. Paul, First Things3 Things We Learned While Waiting For Our Adopted Child – Kelly Cox, Her View From HomeI Chose Adoption For My Baby, But I Didn’t Let Go – Leah Outten, Her View From HomeObamacareObamacare Is Shrinking the Individual Health Insurance Market – Edmund Haislmaier, The Daily SignalConservative groups, congressional Republicans appear poised for another try at ObamaCare repeal – Joseph Weber, Fox News FamilyMarriageHow to Build a Healthy Marriage With Authentic Communication – Michelle Habel, Focus on the FamilyFive Myths About Fathers and Family – W. Bradford Wilcox, Family StudiesBaby Bust: Fertility is Declining the Most Among Minority Women – Lyman Stone, Family StudiesHere's why it matters that Americans are having fewer children than ever before – Jeremy Carl, Fox NewsMarriage Support Needs Time to Work – W. Bradford Wilcox, Family StudiesCouple with Down syndrome reveals secret to 23 years of wedded bliss – Cerith Gardiner, AleteiaGrandpa's 6 tips for a successful marriage – Jackie Pilossoph, Chicago TribuneNatural Rights, God, and Marriage in the American Founding – Vincent Phillip Muñoz, Public DiscourseEconomics/EducationThe Left’s War Against Prosperity in Seattle – Jarrett Stepman, The Daily SignalFaith/Character/CultureThe Importance of Dads in an Increasingly Fatherless America – Virginia Allen, The Daily SignalOn Father’s Day, Remember the Fatherless – Alysse ElHage, Family StudiesThank You For Being a Dad Who Shows Up – Emily Solberg, Her View From HomeWhat Mothers Cannot Give to Their Sons – Anthony Esolen, Public DiscourseNo, Amazon Tribes Should Not Be Allowed To Kill Their Children – John Daniel Davidson, The FederalistWhat Anthony Bourdain Reveals About Living In The Age Of Loneliness – Ben Domenech, The FederalistHow Faith Communities Can Push Back the Darkness of Suicide – Emilie Kao, The Daily SignalHuman SexualitySchool Can Force Students to Share Bathrooms With Transgender Students, Federal Court Rules – Rachel del Guidice, The Daily SignalSan Diego Parents Pulling Their Kids From School Over Inappropriate Sex-Ed Curriculum – Grace Carr, The Daily SignalThe War Against Abstinence: Blockers, American Pie, and the Last Great Sexual Taboo – Daniel Ross Goodman, Public Discourse'The Dating Project' movie offers a 101-level course in courtship – AleteiaNearly 90 Percent of Public Opposed to Virginia County’s Sex Ed Changes – Rob Shimshock, The Daily CallerHuman TraffickingDOJ Arrests 2,300 Alleged Child Pornographers And Sex Traffickers – Jacob Airey, The Daily WirePornographyRadical Parenting – Protecting Our Kids from Pornography – GretaEskridge.comDoes Pornography Feed Sex Tourism? – Rose Brugger, Public DiscourseMore Americans Say Pornography Is Morally Acceptable – GallupPorn Addict Says 'Wrong Click Changed My Life' as a Teen, Exposing Her to Abusive, Animal-Like Sex – Stoyan Zaimov, The Christian Post
Ephesians 5:4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. This verse sure hit me hard. So often we are just teasing, just jesting or joking but are wrong to do so. No filthiness or obscenities should come out of our mouths. We shouldn't be talking foolishness either. That would mean we are not to speak like we do not understand what truth is. We don't mess around with things that might be a mockery of God. No risquÃ© talking is right either. We should be giving thanks rather than wasting our speech on matters of no actual value. That doesn’t mean you cant have a good time, but it does say that maybe we should be just a little more careful how we talk. What comes out of our mouth reveals what is in our heart! Photo by Dan Cook on Unsplash
On June 4, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a decision by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission (upheld by Colorado courts) that had found baker Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop guilty of unlawful discrimination for declining to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The vote was 7-2—that is, seven justices voted to overturn the Colorado decision, while only two voted to uphold it.The New York Times’ online story about the ruling carried the headline, “In Narrow Decision, Supreme Court Sides With Baker Who Turned Away Gay Couple.” The Washington Post editorialized, “The Supreme Court’s narrow ruling on a wedding cake is a step in the right direction.”Subsequently, I noticed some people on social media (especially conservative friends) grousing about the description of the 7-2 decision as “narrow,” as though the liberal media was trying to downplay Jack Phillips’ decisive victory. So I thought I would offer a short explanation.Masterpiece Cakeshop is being described as a “narrow” ruling not because of its margin, but because of its reasoning. Neither side in the case got everything that it wanted.Those supporting Colorado, and supporting Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins (the same-sex couple who had requested a cake from Phillips), wanted a broad ruling that 1) Phillips violated Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act by discriminating against the couple on the basis of “sexual orientation; and 2) that no claim of religious freedom or free speech can excuse that statutory violation by a business that qualifies as a “public accommodation.” In the end, only two justices (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with Sonia Sotomayor joining her in dissent) adopted that view and considered it decisive.Those supporting the baker Phillips, on the other hand, wanted a broad ruling that his rights to freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion, because they are fundamental rights under the U.S. Constitution, must take precedence over the statutory provisions of Colorado law. Yet the Court’s ruling in favor of the free exercise claim was a narrow one, and only two justices expressed support for the free speech claim as well (Clarence Thomas, with Neil Gorsuch joining his concurrence in the judgment).(I should note as well that some key elements of the case remained in dispute. Phillips’ attorneys questioned whether the Anti-Discrimination Act even applied, arguing that Phillips did not, in fact, “discriminate” on the basis of “sexual orientation” at all, because he was happy to serve self-identified gay customers with products other than a wedding cake. Colorado’s attorneys questioned whether the First Amendment even applied, arguing that baking a cake cannot be considered a form of “speech” at all.)Instead of clearly explaining that Jack Phillips’ has robust constitutional rights regarding the cakes he designs, the majority opinion found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission simply didn’t behave well enough in this case, due to: (1) the hostility aimed specifically at his religious beliefs (evidenced in comments of the Commission), and (2) the different treatment the Commission gave a parallel case (one in which the Commission allowed bakeries to refuse to make cakes criticizing same-sex marriage). It was only because the Commission exhibited anti-religious bias in its proceedings against Jack Phillips that the Supreme Court threw out its ruling, on free exercise grounds. Justice Gorsuch also wrote a strong concurrence, joined by Justice Alito, elaborating on the strength of the free exercise claim here.Although they joined the majority opinion, Justices Kagan and Breyer additionally wrote a concurrence explaining that their lukewarm support for Phillips was only based on the fact that he was treated really badly by members of the Commission in this case. They argued that the disparate treatment between the two bakery cases could have been justified, were it not for the overt anti-religious hostility exhibited by the Commission.Justices Kennedy and Roberts—in writing and joining only the majority opinion, respectively—ruled in favor of Phillips, but not on the basis of a sweeping affirmation of his freedom of speech or of religion.A definitive Supreme Court precedent, resolving the underlying dispute between “non-discrimination” principles and freedom of speech and religion, will have to await another case and another decision. That is why many are calling Masterpiece a “narrow” decision.
In the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, finding by a 7-2 vote in favor of a baker who had declined to create a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding, there were five separate opinions written.Here, I offer a brief summary (not a detailed legal analysis) of what each of these opinions contained. (For more, see this blog post by FRC’s Travis Weber.) In the five opinions:Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the Court, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Stephen Breyer, Justice Samuel Alito, Justice Elena Kagan, and Justice Neil Gorsuch (six Justices; Justice Clarence Thomas wrote separately “concurring in part and concurring in the judgment,” but did not join the Court’s opinion);Justice Kagan wrote a concurrence which Justice Breyer joined;Justice Gorsuch wrote a concurrence which Justice Alito joined;Justice Thomas wrote an opinion “concurring in part and concurring in the judgment,” with which Justice Gorsuch joined;Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in dissent, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.Here’s an overview of each opinion:Kennedy for the Court (joined by Roberts, Breyer, Alito, Kagan, and Gorsuch):Justice Kennedy ruled in favor of Masterpiece because “the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s consideration of this case was inconsistent with the State’s obligation of religious neutrality.” He found this for two reasons:Comments made by members of the Commission in the course of its hearings, especially one notorious quote:“Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the holocaust, whether it be—I mean, we—we can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use to—to use their religion to hurt others.”Kennedy noted that this statement disparages religion “in at least two distinct ways: by describing it as despicable, and also by characterizing it as merely rhetorical—something insubstantial and even insincere.”The difference in treatment between Phillips’ case and the cases of other bakers, who had refused to bake cakes communicating negative religious messages about same-sex marriage, but were found not to have discriminated against the customer (William Jack) on the basis of religion. He notes inconsistency in how the free speech claims were treated, but most notably in how the conscience objections were viewed, with the Commission accepting the secular objection to making anti-SSM cakes “because of the offensive nature of the requested message,” but rejecting Phillips’ religious objection to making a same-sex wedding cake. Kennedy says, “[I]t is not, as the Court has repeatedly held, the role of the State or its officials to prescribe what shall be offensive,” yet the Colorado decision “elevates one view of what is offensive over another and itself sends a signal of official disapproval of Phillips’ religious beliefs.”Kagan concurring, with Breyer joining:This short opinion (a little over three pages) concurs in the judgment—but goes out of its way to say that Colorado could have made a legitimate distinction between the Masterpiece case and the three cases of William Jack (who was refused cakes expressing opposition to same-sex marriage, but was not deemed a victim of discrimination). Kagan says explicitly that Jack Phillips of Masterpiece was guilty of discrimination:Phillips sells wedding cakes. As to that product, he unlawfully discriminates: He sells it to opposite-sex but not to same-sex couples. And on that basis—which has nothing to do with Phillips’ religious beliefs—Colorado could have distinguished Phillips from the bakers in the Jack cases, who did not engage in any prohibited discrimination.However, she concurs because the State’s decisions must not be “infected by religious hostility or bias”—as in this case.Gorsuch concurring, with Alito joining:Gorsuch focused in specifically on the disparate treatment of the Masterpiece case as opposed to the three William Jack cases involving refusal to bake cakes opposing same-sex marriage. In contrast to both the Ginsburg/Sotomayor dissent and the narrow Kagan/Breyer concurrence, Gorsuch argued that there was a very close correspondence between the facts of the cases, saying that “the two cases share all legally salient features”:“bakers refused services to persons who bore a statutorily protected trait (religious faith or sexual orientation)”“they would not sell the requested cakes to anyone, while they would sell other cakes to members of the protected class (as well as to anyone else)”“the bakers in the first case [William Jack] were generally happy to sell to persons of faith, just as the baker in the second case [Jack Phillips/Masterpiece] was generally happy to sell to gay persons.”Gorsuch concludes that “the Commission failed to act neutrally by applying a consistent legal rule,” and warns that “the one thing it can’t do is apply a more generous legal test to secular objections than religious ones.” In contrast to the four liberals, Gorsuch states explicitly that “the Commission must afford him [Jack Phillips/Masterpiece] the same result it afforded the bakers in Mr. Jack’s case.”Thomas, “concurring in part and concurring in the judgment,” Gorsuch joining:To me, one of the most notable facts of the decision is that at oral arguments, the ADF attorneys representing Masterpiece put their emphasis on arguments resting on First Amendment Free Speech grounds (not Free Exercise of Religion). They emphasized that designing custom wedding cakes is a form of artistic expression and therefore, requiring they be provided for same-sex weddings is an unconstitutional form of “compelled speech” by the government. This, however, turned out not to be the primary issue addressed by the court, which instead decided there was a Free Exercise violation because of the lack of religious neutrality.Justice Thomas’ opinion was the only one that addressed the Free Speech issues at length. He acknowledges that the issue here is “expressive conduct” rather than pure speech as such, but says under Court precedents, “Once a court concludes that conduct is expressive, the Constitution limits the government’s authority to restrict or compel it.” He says that in this case, “Phillips’ creation of custom wedding cakes is expressive,” and concludes the following:Forcing Phillips to make custom wedding cakes for same-sex marriages requires him to, at the very least, acknowledge that same-sex weddings are “weddings” and suggest that they should be celebrated—the precise message he believes his faith forbids.Although declining to decide whether Colorado’s law satisfies “strict scrutiny,” Thomas warns, “States cannot punish protected speech because some group finds it offensive, hurtful, stigmatic, unreasonable, or undignified.”Ginsburg dissenting, Sotomayor joining:Like the Gorsuch/Alito concurrence, the Ginsburg/Sotomayor dissent focused specifically on the differing results given by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission in the case involving Jack Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop (where refusing to provide the cake requested by the customer was found to be illegal discrimination) as opposed to the cases involving customer William Jack (where refusing to provide the cakes requested by the customer was found not to be illegal discrimination). However, Justice Ginsburg reaches the exact opposite conclusion from that of Justice Gorsuch.Ginsburg and Sotomayor agreed with their liberal colleagues Justices Kagan and Breyer in saying that the cases could be legitimately distinguished, but disagreed with the latter pair’s conclusion that anti-religious bias had impermissibly “infected” Colorado’s adjudication of the cases. Ginsburg writes:The different outcomes the Court features do not evidence hostility to religion of the kind we have previously held to signal a free-exercise violation, nor do the comments by one or two members of one of the four decisionmaking entities considering this case justify reversing the judgment below. CommentaryThe problem I see with the dissent is this statement (which was repeated, in various ways, several times): “Phillips did . . . discriminate because of sexual orientation; the other bakers did not discriminate because of religious belief.” Ginsburg argues that Phillips’ refusal of a same-sex wedding cake was “determined solely by the identity of the customer” whereas the refusal of William Jack’s request “was due to the demeaning message” he wanted displayed.Since Phillips regularly serves customers who identify as gay (but would refuse a cake to celebrate a same-sex wedding regardless of who requests it), the first conclusion is questionable. The latter conclusion, however, is nothing short of astonishing. What Ginsburg calls a “demeaning message” may have been crude (including, among other things, “an image of two groomsmen, holding hands, with a red ‘X’ over the image”), but combined with biblical verses and quotations, its essential content was that 1) homosexual conduct is sinful, and 2) God does not approve of same-sex sexual relationships or consider them to be “marriage.” I fail to see how this “message” (however “demeaning” some may find it) can be seen as not representing a “religious belief.”Note that this is not to say that the solution would be to force bakers to make cakes with messages they consider “demeaning,” as well as forcing them to make cakes for same-sex weddings. Instead, the opposite would be ideal. Baking cakes, whether to celebrate a specific event such as a same-sex wedding or to condemn that concept, is a form of expressive conduct that should not be compelled by the government. Even if Colorado believes that its Anti-Discrimination Act was violated, the provisions of this state statute cannot be allowed to override the bakers’ fundamental right to free speech under the U.S. Constitution.No baker should be forced to communicate a message with which he or she disagrees. Although Jack Phillips prevailed in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, the ruling does not clearly apply the Court’s compelled speech precedents to that context. The debate continues.
The Supreme Court’s much-awaited decision in the “wedding vendor” case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, was announced this morning. Ruling narrowly for Jack Phillips, owner of the bakery at issue, the Court focused squarely on the fact that the state of Colorado did not treat Phillips with “neutrality,” but rather “hostility,” due to the religious beliefs underlying his claims. Thus, the Court concluded, the state violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment—which prohibits the government from singling out, targeting, and discriminating against religion.The Court featured two primary bases for this determination. First, the “Civil Rights Commission’s treatment of [Phillips’] case has some elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs that motivated his objection” to creating a same-sex wedding cake. Comparing him to a slave owner and Holocaust perpetrator (a comparison which was never objected to or disavowed in all the time leading up to the Court’s ruling), the Commission clearly disparaged Phillips’ beliefs in two ways: by calling them “despicable, and also by characterizing [them] as merely rhetorical—something insubstantial and even insincere.” Moreover, the commissioners who ruled on his case “endorsed the view that religious beliefs cannot legitimately be carried into the public sphere or commercial domain, implying that religious beliefs and persons are less than fully welcome in Colorado’s business community.” These “inappropriate and dismissive comments” showed a “lack of due consideration for Phillips’ free exercise rights and the dilemma he faced.”Second, the fact that Colorado treated other bakers (who were asked to make a cake condemning same-sex marriage and declined because the message was “offensive”) differently constituted further evidence of the state’s animus against Phillips’ beliefs. “A principled rationale for the difference in treatment of these two instances cannot be based on the government’s own assessment of offensiveness. Just as ‘no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion,’ West Virginia Bd. of Ed. v. Barnette, 319 U. S. 624, 642 (1943), it is not, as the Court has repeatedly held, the role of the State or its officials to prescribe what shall be offensive. See Matal v. Tam, 582 U. S. ___, ___–___ (2017) (opinion of ALITO, J.) (slip op., at 22–23). The Colorado court’s attempt to account for the difference in treatment elevates one view of what is offensive over another and itself sends a signal of official disapproval of Phillips’ religious beliefs.” It was on these two grounds that seven members of the Court concluded that the state of Colorado treated Jack Phillips harshly because of his religious beliefs.Harkening back to another Justice Kennedy free exercise opinion from decades ago, Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah, the Court elaborated upon principles that the government cannot single out and target religious beliefs for disfavored treatment. And though it went unmentioned in the Masterpiece opinion, the Court’s ruling in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer—holding that the government may not disfavor religion in public grant programs—from just last term affirmed this principle.While the Court clarified that anti-religious animus was unacceptable (protecting Phillips for now), and while today’s opinion will likely be cited favorably by other wedding vendors who’ve experienced religious bias or animus from government actors, the opinion left other questions unanswered—namely, how the Court will handle free speech claims in the context of sexual orientation nondiscrimination regulation, or free exercise claims in the same circumstances absent such animus. The Court wasn’t exactly clear on how these matters would be decided, noting that clergy are protected (this is beyond debate), but expressing uncertainty on the myriad other matters which have arisen in the last few years as religious beliefs come into conflict with newly-mandated government requirements regarding same-sex marriage. In essence, the Court kicked that can down the road for another day.While the majority opinion produced a good result, some of the real meat was in the concurrences. Justice Gorsuch penned a concurrence (joined by Justice Alito) in which he offered a clear defense of free expression (this principle being especially important when the expression is unpopular) and a clear explanation of what actually occurred here—Phillips had an objection to the message, not the messenger. As Phillips testified, “I will not design and create wedding cakes for a same-sex wedding regardless of the sexual orientation of the customer” (emphasis mine). Justice Gorsuch made very clear that Phillips was objecting to the creative process, not how the customer identified.Justice Thomas also concurred (joined by Justice Gorsuch), commenting in depth on the free speech protections he believed Phillips possessed. In doing so, he pointed out that the important free speech case Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston supported Phillips’ arguments, and noted that Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights and PruneYard Shopping Center v. Robins were not applicable to scenarios like this (something I have argued separately), for they dealt with allowing other parties access to speech fora, not alterations to a party’s own message. Justice Thomas concludes:In Obergefell, I warned that the Court’s decision would ‘inevitabl[y] . . . come into conflict’ with religious liberty, ‘as individuals . . . are confronted with demands to participate in and endorse civil marriages between same-sex couples.’ 576 U. S., at ___ (dissenting opinion) (slip op., at 15). This case proves that the conflict has already emerged. Because the Court’s decision vindicates Phillips’ right to free exercise, it seems that religious liberty has lived to fight another day. But, in future cases, the freedom of speech could be essential to preventing Obergefell from being used to ‘stamp out every vestige of dissent’ and ‘vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.’ Id., at ___ (ALITO, J., dissenting) (slip op., at 6). If that freedom is to maintain its vitality, reasoning like the Colorado Court of Appeals’ must be rejected.The conclusion to his concurrence, describing all the First Amendment issues not resolved by today’s opinion (which really need a legislative remedy and not a judicial one), is also a fitting conclusion for us as we anticipate the many religious liberty cases surely to be confronted in the years ahead.
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