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Did SCOTUS Restore Religious Liberty in Phillips Case?

After the SCOTUS decision on Phillips, could the state of Colorado or any other state force a Christian to act against his faith?

According to Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the answer would be yes — so long as the Colorado state officials forcing the Christian to act were enforcing a “generally applicable law” and took a “neutral” approach to the person’s religion.

“In Masterpiece, the question was whether Colorado could force a Christian baker to make a customized wedding cake for a same-sex wedding. The baker said this violated both his First Amendment rights to the free exercise of religion and freedom of speech. Kennedy’s majority opinion did not offer a conclusion on the baker’s free speech claim. But it did make clear that the court believes a state can force a Christian to act against his faith.

“‘The reason and the motive for the baker’s refusal were based on his sincere religious beliefs and convictions,’ Kennedy concedes. But then Kennedy says, ‘The court’s precedents make clear that the baker, in his capacity as the owner of a business serving the public, might have his right to the free exercise of religion limited by generally applicable laws.’

“The reason the court reversed Colorado’s action in this specific case was because the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had not been neutral in its treatment of religions and had showed ‘hostility’ toward the baker’s Christian faith.

“Specifically, the commission had allowed three other bakers to refuse to make cakes that would have featured religious arguments against same-sex marriage, and some of the commissioners had publicly made disparaging remarks about the Christian baker’s religious convictions when they held hearings on his refusal to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. Rather than enforcing the law in a neutral way, they had demonstrated bias against a particular religious view.

“‘Still, the delicate question of when the free exercise of (the baker’s) religion must yield to an otherwise valid exercise of state power needed to be determined in an adjudication in which religious hostility on the part of the state itself would not be a factor in the balance the state sought to reach,’ wrote Kennedy. ‘When the Colorado Civil Rights Commission considered this case, it did not do so with the religious neutrality that the Constitution requires.’

“The court let stand the Colorado law that makes it unlawful to deny someone ‘services’ not only because of their ‘sexual orientation’ but also because of their ‘creed’ — and the possibility this law can be enforced in a way that compels someone to act against their faith.”

So, can a Christian still conduct his business according to his religious convictions? Or can a state force him/her to act against his faith. “Under the standing Supreme Court precedent, it could so long as the law was applied to everyone with what Kennedy calls ‘the neutrality that the Free Exercise Clause requires.’

“We still have a court that believes that under the right circumstances, when done in the correct manner, the government can require Christians to act against their faith.”

This is not what the founders intended. Nor is it clear religious freedom. It is technically tolerance, not freedom. In other words, you can practice your faith so long as the state says so, and if done “correctly,” without open bias the state can force a Christian to violate his conscience.

Justice Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, carefully framed the opinion according to his own point of view. It is patently obvious that he does not believe that the individual has the priority in matters of conscience as the founders of the U.S. Constitution did.

“Protestants will throw their whole influence and strength on the side of the papacy. By a national act enforcing the false sabbath they will give life and vigor to the corrupt faith of Rome, reviving her tyranny and oppression of conscience.” Maranatha, 179 (1893), Last Day Events, page 128.

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