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Taking the cake: A messy Masterpiece

June 05. 2018 10:53PM

State and federal courts will be grappling with the implications of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s complicated majority decision in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case for years. But the Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision sets an important precedent on the limits of government to coerce people to act contrary to their religious principles.

Kennedy’s focus was on the hostility toward the faith of Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips shown by members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Kennedy hints he might have upheld the complaint against Phillips had the Colorado officials been less obvious in attacking his faith.

In truth, the entire case stems from hostility to religion.

Phillips declined to create a cake for the wedding of a same-sex couple, who then asked the state to punish Phillips. They were not seeking equality or tolerance, but forced acceptance backed by the power of government.

This was not a matter of public accommodation. Phillips would have been happy to sell the couple a cake, but did not wish to participate in a ceremony contrary to his beliefs.

Government bureaucrats should not sit in judgment of a person’s religious beliefs. The transgender discrimination law that Gov. Chris Sununu is poised to sign would similarly seek to punish those who disagree with the Legislature’s creative reinterpretation of biology.

Kennedy’s decision is a win for religious expression. Unfortunately, those who would stifle such expression may simply become more subtle in their contempt for religion.

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