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20180604T1215 17812 CNS SCOTUS RELIGION CAKE 800Baker Jack Phillips decorates a cake in his Masterpiece Cakeshop in 2017 in Lakewood, Colo. In a 7-2 decision June 4, the Supreme Court sided with the baker, who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The case put anti-discrimination laws up against freedom of speech and freedom of religious expression. (CNS photo/Rick Wilking, Reuters)WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In a 7-2 decision June 4, the Supreme Court sided with a Colorado baker in a case that put anti-discrimination laws up against freedom of speech and freedom of religious expression.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, said the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had violated the Constitution's protection of religious freedom in its ruling against the baker, who refused to make a wedding cake for the same-sex couple.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

Kennedy noted the case had a limited scope, writing that the issue "must await further elaboration." Across the country, appeals in similar cases are pending, including another case at the Supreme Court from a florist who didn't want to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding.

The ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission stems from the case argued before the court last December from an incident in 2012 when Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked the Colorado baker, Jack Phillips, to make a cake for their wedding reception. Phillips refused, saying his religious beliefs would not allow him to create a cake honoring their marriage.

The couple filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which decided the baker's action violated state law. The decision was upheld by the Colorado Court of Appeals. The Colorado Supreme Court wouldn't take the case, letting the ruling stand. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

During oral arguments at the high court, many questions came up about what constituted speech, since the baker claimed he should have freedom of speech protection.

The ruling's opinion honed in on the argument of free speech and religious neutrality, saying the baker's refusal was based on "sincere religious beliefs and convictions" and when the Colorado Civil Rights Commission considered this case, the court said, "it did not do so with the religious neutrality that the Constitution requires."

The court opinion also noted the delicate balance at stake in this case, saying: "Our society has come to the recognition that gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth. For that reason, the laws and the Constitution can, and in some instances must, protect them in the exercise of their civil rights. The exercise of their freedom on terms equal to others must be given great weight and respect by the courts. At the same time, the religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression."

But delving further, the court deemed the specific cake in question was an artistic creation, not just a baked good. It said, "If a baker refused to sell any goods or any cakes for gay weddings, that would be a different matter," noting that the state would have a strong case that this would be a denial of goods and services going beyond protected rights of a baker.

Here, the court said the issue was the baker's argument that he "had to use his artistic skills to make an expressive statement, a wedding endorsement in his own voice and of his own creation."

The court opinion goes on to say that as Phillips' contention "has a significant First Amendment speech component and implicates his deep and sincere religious beliefs. In this context the baker likely found it difficult to find a line where the customers' rights to goods and services became a demand for him to exercise the right of his own personal expression for their message, a message he could not express in a way consistent with his religious beliefs."

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops filed a friend-of-the court brief in support of the baker, joined by the Colorado Catholic Conference, Catholic Bar Association, Catholic Medical Association, National Association of Catholic Nurses-USA and National Catholic Bioethics Center.

After oral arguments were presented late last year in this case, the chairmen of three USCCB committees issued a statement saying: "America has the ability to serve every person while making room for valid conscientious objection."

The committees' statement also said it hoped the court would continue to "preserve the ability of people to live out their faith in daily life, regardless of their occupation," noting that artists "deserve to have the freedom to express ideas -- or to decline to create certain messages -- in accordance with their deeply held beliefs."

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.