Thursday, June 14, 2018

SCOTUS dodges cake issue in ruling for baker

The Supreme Court's unexpected wedding cake verdict - Chicago Tribune - editorial:

June 4, 2018 - "In ruling for a Colorado baker who cited his religious objections in refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t decide the interesting question at the heart of the case: whether civil rights laws override such objections. The justices did not decide the issue everyone expected them to decide. But the decision they reached was nonetheless important and sensible.

"The two men who went to Masterpiece Cakeshop in 2012 to order a cake for their ceremony — despite a state law barring same-sex marriage — were surprised by the owner’s refusal. They filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission arguing that the owner, Jack Phillips, had violated the state law forbidding discrimination by businesses on the basis of sexual orientation....

"The Civil Rights Commission ruled that he had violated the law, a decision upheld by a Colorado appeals court. But on Monday, the Supreme Court voted 7-2 to strike it down — not because of the conclusion the CCRC reached but because of how it addressed Phillips’ objections.

"One commission member, the court noted, accused Phillips of 'despicable' claims, using his 'religion to hurt others' in the same way defenders of slavery once did. Another said he should put aside his religious beliefs 'if he decides to do business in the state'....

"The justices concluded that the commission’s handling of the dispute 'has elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs that motivated his objection.' And that animus conflicts with the state’s obligation to act in a fair and neutral way on religious matters.

"This decision does not mean bakers can refuse to make wedding cakes for same-sex unions — or that they can’t. It leaves that question to the future.... 'The Supreme Court' ... noted Northwestern University law professor Andrew Koppelman “... said nothing that will prevent a new panel from ruling against the baker, as is the likely result under Colorado law.'

"But the court upheld a vital principle.... A government body can’t skew its treatment according to whether it likes a particular religious group or belief."

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