Here is the latest Supreme Court decision news, and I’ll explain shortly why this is good news for a much more important religious liberty case.
David French posted this analysis in National Review:
While there are many threats to religious liberty, few are more consequential over the long term than the state’s ever-expanding role in private life. If the government is able to vacuum up tax dollars, create programs large and small for public benefit, and then exclude religious individuals or institutions from those programs, it has functionally created two tiers of citizenship. Secular individuals and institutions enjoy full access to the government they fund, while religious individuals and institutions find themselves funding a government that overtly discriminates against them.
That’s the issue the Supreme Court addressed today in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer. By a 7–2 margin, the Court held that when a state creates a neutral program for public benefit — in this case, a program that uses scrap tires to provide rubberized safety flooring for playgrounds — it can’t exclude a church from that program, even if that means state benefits flow directly to a house of worship.
Social conservative Maggie Gallagher writes this in The Stream:
The good news is the Trinity Lutheran victory shows us the current Court is more supportive of religious liberty than many of us feared.
Justice Elana Kagan joined the majority opinion without any reserve. Justice Breyer wrote his own concurring opinion limiting his judgement to playground resurfacing programs and not all government benefits.
Only Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginbsurg dissented. In Justice Sotomayor’s dissent, she warned of almost apocalyptic consequences:
This ruling, “weakens this country’s longstanding commitment to a separation of church and state beneficial to both,” she wrote, “If this separation means anything, it means that the government cannot, or at the very least need not, tax its citizens and turn that money over to houses of worship. The court today blinds itself to the outcome this history requires and leads us instead to a place where separation of church and state is a constitutional slogan, not a constitutional commitment.”
If so, it’s a good thing.
You’ll remember that Sotomayor was the wise Latina nominated by Barack Obama, who many Christians-in-name-only voted for. And of course separation of church and state is nowhere in the Constitution. What Sotomayor and her ilk on the secular left want is for Christian taxpayers to channel their earnings into the coffers of their secular leftist overlords, who apparently know much better how to spend it than the fools who earned it.
This is good news, but it’s also a hopeful sign that the Supreme Court will come out in favor of religious liberty and conscience in another case, a case that pits powerful and wealthy gay rights activists and their government allies against Christian small business owners trying to follow Jesus in everything they do.
The other case is reported on in the Daily Signal:
By deciding to hear the appeal of a Colorado baker, the Supreme Court could make its first ruling next year on whether government may coerce some Christians, Jews, and Muslims to use their creative gifts to celebrate same-sex marriage.
The high court announced Monday that it would review the case of baker Jack Phillips, who cites his Christian faith in declining to make custom cakes for same-sex weddings.
The Supreme Court’s eventual ruling could be the first since its 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage to say whether bakers, photographers, florists, and others must be part of such celebrations through their creative expression.
Phillips, whose Masterpiece Cakeshop is in Lakewood, Colorado, stopped making all wedding cakes in 2014 rather than be compelled by the state to design and bake them for same-sex marriages—or be fined for not obeying.
State agency and court decisions said Phillips must make such cakes after a gay couple complained about him in July 2012.
“There’s just certain events, certain cakes I don’t make,” Phillips told The Daily Signal in a phone interview in August 2015. “That was one of them.”
He also won’t make cakes depicting witchcraft, ghosts, and demons or sexually suggestive images, Phillips said in the interview.
The Supreme Court previously delayed nine times on deciding to hear Phillips’ appeal in the case, first filed last July. But with the newest justice, Neil Gorsuch, settled into his seat to succeed the late Antonin Scalia, the high court announced Monday morning that it would do so in its next term, which begins in October.
You can find out more about the Masterpiece Cakes case by watching this short video from Alliance Defending Freedom:
Although today’s decision makes me more optimistic, David French is less optimistic, because of Justice Kennedy’s previous statements on the gay marriage decision.
He writes in National Review:
Third, if Justice Kennedy views this case primarily through the LGBT lens, then the First Amendment may well lose. Kennedy is obviously proud of his long line of LGBT-friendly precedents, and that pride has even led him to a relatively rare First Amendment misstep, so it will be critical to explain to him (and the other justices, of course) that this isn’t a case about “discrimination” but rather about forced speech. Framing matters, and the other side will wrongly frame the case as raising the specter of Jim Crow. The right framing is found in the First Amendment.
I’ll be watching this case closely.