Ross's thoughts on Masterpiece Cake SCOTUS decision

In a very narrow ruling (narrow in the sense of applicability not in the 7-2 vote), the Supreme Court announced Monday what is being called in the headlines a victory for baker Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, CO. 

What appeared to be the fundamental question is whether anti-discrimination law trumps the First Amendment's guarantee of free exercise of religion. 

In case you missed it, Phillips refused to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage (which he believes is immoral), though he was happy to sell the would-be customers other baked good for other occasions such as birthdays. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled that Phillips violated the law and a Colorado court upheld the Commission.

The Supreme Court overturned the Commission, but not based on a fundamental principle of rights. Instead it was due to finding that the Commission had acted with impermissible anti-religious bias and not treated Phillips fairly.

Two key pieces of evidence: One Commissioner called the use of religion to justify views on certain policies "despicable" and compared Phillips views of same-sex marriage to prior use of religion as an excuse to support slavery or the Holocaust (which, by the way, were rarely defended on the basis of religion.) Also, the Commission sided with three bakers who previously refused to make cakes with anti-gay-marriage messages; those bakers held their own non-religious principles in favor of gay marriage and were not found to have violated the law.

Therefore, the Supreme Court decision has almost no applicability outside of this specific Colorado case unless other victims of similar decisions in other states can make a compelling case that the governmental bodies which made those decisions treated them differently from how they treated others, or showed obvious bias against religion (in a form other than just ruling against them.)

Monday's ruling was indeed a victory for Jack Phillips, but not nearly as big a victory as many of us had hoped.

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