This will be an unpopular position among some of you with religious affiliation, but I would cheerfully junk the special vaunted position religion holds in this country – particularly when it is allowed to be used as a cudgel to excuse the religious from treating people decently. Will I burn in Hell for that?
This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for Colorado baker Jack Phillips, who refused for religious reasons to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. David Mullins and Charlie Craig went to Masterpiece Cakeshop in Denver 6 years ago, with Charlie’s mother, to order a cake for their wedding reception; nuptials in Massachusetts to be followed by a celebration back home in Colorado. But bakery owner Jack Phillips told them that the bakery won’t sell wedding cakes to couples like them. Colorado law prohibits public accommodations, including businesses open to the public like Phillips’ Masterpiece Cakeshop, from refusing service based on characteristics like race, religion, or sexual orientation. So Dave & Charlie filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights division contending the bakery violated Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act. They Division agreed the bakery discriminated against the couple illegally. A unanimous Appeals Court decision backed that, finding the baker’s discrimination was a violation of state law, and that CO’s Anti-Discrimination act did not infringe on the bakery’s right to free speech or free exercise of religion. SCOTUS heard the case on December 5, 2017. Today, they reversed the decision. HuffPo:
“The justices, in a 7-2 decision, faulted the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s handling of the claims brought against Jack Phillips, saying it had showed a *hostility to religion*. In doing so, the commission violated his religious rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”
Hostility. to. religion. Hobby Lobby, with its 10 stores in Jersey, will be delighted, I’m sure, as will other bigots itchy for cover from on high to do what they’ve wanted to do all along, use their place of business to make members of their communities feel unwanted, unwelcome, and rejected. And feel protected and sanctified while they do it to people. A damn shame in a country with so many bigots now crawling out from under their rocks, emboldened by the siren call of Donald Trump’s dogwhistles and failure to provide presidential leadership (from here in Bedminster, yet), equalizing the acts of prejudiced aggressors and their victims as though they’re one in the same.
There are days when America feels like its regressing, maybe further than we can bring it back. For me, this is one of those days. Yes, it is significant that two of the Court’s liberals, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer side with the majority. Yes, it cheers me (a little) the decision was narrow in scope, based its mainly on the failure of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to take Phillips’s religious views seriously. And yes, I understand SCOTUS made a legal decision today, not a cultural commentary. And I’m not a lawyer, though in dinner table conversations with the lawyer I live with, when I make the distinction between the law and justice, this is the kind of thing I mean.