by WorldTribune Staff, June 17, 2019
The Supreme Court on June 17 lifted a lower court’s order which punished a Christian bakery for refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
Aaron and Melissa Klein were ordered by an Oregon court to pay a $135,000 fine and cease discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. They have since closed their business, Sweet Cakes by Melissa, because of the financial penalty.
The Supreme Court instructed a lower court to reconsider the Kleins’ dispute in light of the 2018 Masterpiece Cakeshop decision.
“This is a victory for Aaron and Melissa Klein and for religious liberty for all Americans,” said Kelly Shackelford, president of First Liberty Institute, which represents the Klein family. “The Constitution protects speech, popular or not, from condemnation by the government. The message from the Court is clear, government hostility toward religious Americans will not be tolerated.”
The Kleins argued their refusal to make the cake for the same-sex couple was protected under the First Amendment’s free speech and free exercise of religion clauses.
A state court in Oregon upheld the lower court’s decision punishing the Kleins, finding that cakes do not deserve full First Amendment protection because they incorporate many non-expressive elements, and whatever expression they convey is not imputed to the creator. The court further found that precedent barred the Kleins’ free exercise claim.
In the 2018 Masterpiece Cakeshop decision, which pertained to an Evangelical baker in Colorado, the Supreme Court found for the Colorado baker because it said a state panel displayed hostility toward the baker’s religious beliefs. The Court did not say whether conservative religious believers can cite the First Amendment in refusing to accommodate a same-sex wedding.
On remand from the justices, the Oregon court will search the case record for evidence of anti-religious animus against the Kleins.
The Daily Caller noted that a 2018 case in Washington state, where florist Baronelle Stutzman refused a request for floral arrangements at the wedding of a longtime gay patron, was held in abeyance while the Supreme Court weighed the Masterpiece dispute. Eventually the justices returned the matter to a Washington state court with orders to reconsider it in light of Masterpiece.
The Washington Supreme Court again ruled against Stutzman on June 6, so Stutzman will file a second appeal at the U.S. Supreme Court. As such, the question of First Amendment defenses to public accommodations laws requiring all businesses to serve gay patrons will return to the Court in the coming months.