UPDATED: The biggest religious freedom case of 2017, Masterpiece Cakeshop, held oral arguments today.
The case of a Christian baker in Colorado who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding gets its big day in court today. While Jack Phillips’s legal team has emphasized his right to artistic expression as a cake decorator, many following his US Supreme Court case focus on another legal matter at stake: religious freedom.
Advocates on both sides anticipate Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission will set a nationwide precedent for whether the government can require businesses, organizations, and individuals to act against their own sincerely held religious beliefs—particularly following the legalization of same-sex marriage and equal rights granted to LGBT Americans.
As CT previously reported, Phillips’s refusal to bake the same-sex wedding cake in 2012 violated Colorado’s antidiscrimination law, and a state appeals court denied his free speech and free exercise claims. This spring, the high court opted to hear Phillips’s case, one of several cases involving Christian wedding vendors (such as florists, photographers, and caterers) currently making their way through state judicial systems.
Oral arguments in the case begin today at the Supreme Court. Most commentators expect Masterpiece Cakeshop will be a tight decision come spring, even with religious liberty defender Neil Gorsuch on the bench.
With Gorsuch, “there is some reason for optimism that the Court might narrowly find for Masterpiece Cakeshop,” Christian historian Thomas Kidd recently wrote for The Gospel Coalition. “If they do not, it will be a devastating blow to a number of Christian business people who have been disciplined under similar circumstances.
“A decision against Masterpiece Cakeshop …