The Many Layers of SCOTUS's Cake Ruling

The Many Layers of SCOTUS's Cake Ruling

June 05, 2018

It's the reason Jack Phillips got into baking in the first place. "I love doing wedding cakes," he said. Unfortunately, it was a passion he had to put aside when the battle over religious liberty came knocking. Now, five years and a Supreme Court ruling later, Masterpiece Cakes is back in business. And the Phillipses aren't the only ones celebrating.

"God Bless America and Masterpiece Cakeshop!" was the message spelled out in red icing on a cherry cake brought in by an emotional customer yesterday. From locals to long-distance fans, Americans everywhere were thrilled to see the court finally vindicate Jack for exercising his most basic liberties. "People don't have to share my beliefs to support my freedom," he tried to explain. "They just need to agree that the decision should be mine to make -- not the government's to make for me... If the government can force me to celebrate events and express views that violate my conscience, they can do it to anyone."

The Phillipses, meanwhile, are just anxious to get to back to work after a half-decade legal detour that almost closed their shop for good. "We're just looking forward to hopefully getting back into the wedding business," Jack told reporters on Monday, especially after a four-year hiatus from that side of the industry. Wedding vendors like Aaron and Melissa Klein, parents of five who had to close their bakery's doors when Oregon officials slapped them with a $135,000 fine for turning down a similar order, aren't so lucky. Until the court hands down a broader ruling in this debate, they'll be limbo, fighting in state courts for the right to live and work according to their beliefs. Clarence Thomas, who was equally frustrated that the court didn't address the bigger question of religious liberty and same-sex marriage, thinks the time is coming – and soon – when the justices will have to weigh in.

That day could come as soon as Thursday, when the justices will decide whether to take the case of Christian florist Barronelle Stutzman. The Washington grandmother, who is being personally and professionally sued by the state, could lose everything in a suit brought by two men who accused her of "discrimination" when she turned down their custom wedding order. Barronelle's ordeal took a sickening turn last year, when the Washington Supreme Court sided with the men, leaving her with one last resort: SCOTUS. It will be up to these same justices to decide if they deny the appeal, send it back to Washington's Supreme Court for a second look after Jack's ruling, or hear it next term.

Until then, National Review's David French writes, Americans should take comfort in the fact that the justices took the opportunity to "[remind] state authorities that people of faith have the exact same rights -- and are entitled to the exact same treatment -- as people of different faith or no faith at all. And it did so in an opinion that decisively rejected the exact talking points so favored by the anti-religious Left." That, he thinks, is the most important part of Monday's ruling. Justice Kennedy may never be able to undo the damage he did to religious liberty when he took a wrecking ball to marriage in Obergefell, but he is at least trying to repair some of it. For once, French points out, "the court breathed a bit of life back into religious-liberty jurisprudence. And the justice who did it is none other than Anthony Kennedy... the justice most responsible for the gay-rights revolution.

Across the nation's capital, leaders cheered the justice for Jack. Reps. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) and Mike Johnson (R-La.), who were behind Congress's 86-member amicus brief in the case, called it a landmark win. "No one should be banished from the marketplace for peacefully living out his or her faith and for shaping business practices accordingly," Vicky said in a statement. "The First Amendment protects Jack's deeply held beliefs in the sanctity of marriage and his ability to create art reflective of his convictions and conscience." Tolerance, Johnson echoed, should be "a two-way street." Surely, Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) chimed in, "We can disagree as Americans on topics like marriage, sexuality, and conscience, but still respect the views and conscience of all without forcing a belief on everyone." Over at the Department of Justice, where officials filed their own brief on Jack's behalf, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he was "pleased" with the decision and vowed to keep defending the free speech and religious freedom "of all Americans."

Hopefully, that will be a little easier now that the court seems willing to hold the anti-faith bullies accountable. It's exactly, David French points out, the kind of pushback Americans have been waiting for. "Since the rise of the gay-marriage movement, it has become fashionable to decry dissenters as haters and bigots, to attempt to write them out of polite society in the same way that the larger American body politic has rightfully rejected the Klan... This week, the Supreme Court said 'enough.'"

For more on the impact of the Masterpiece case, don't miss Tony Perkins's interview yesterday on Fox News @ Night with Shannon Bream.

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Will Unborn Immigrants Live to See Another Day?

June 05, 2018

By Travis Weber, FRC's Director for the Center of Religious Liberty

Of the two rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday, Azar v. Garza didn't garner nearly as many headlines as Jack Phillips's Masterpiece Cakes. But that's doesn't mean it wasn't significant. At the heart of this case is a dispute between the Trump administration and the ACLU, which is suing HHS because the president's team wants to protect protect unborn lives and their vulnerable mothers crossing the U.S. border.

As underage immigrants present themselves at the U.S. border and attempt to enter the country illegally, they are taken into the custody of HHS's Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which will temporarily look after them until they either ask to return to their home countries or are released into the custody of an adult in the United States. While in its custody, ORR will care properly for them, promoting life (unborn and otherwise) as a government policy, and keep its distance from being forced to facilitate any abortions these girls (or more likely, the activists -- ACLU or otherwise -- latching on to their plight) want to obtain.

The ACLU, which has sued the government on behalf of multiple minor girls in this vulnerable situation who supposedly want to obtain abortions, claims it knows best for them. The ACLU has pursued the completion of these abortions with a bizarre (almost spiritual) energy.

At the height of its zeal, ACLU attorneys led Department of Justice attorneys (representing HHS) to believe that one of the girls wouldn't obtain an abortion yet, and on this representation the DOJ waited to file its response in court. Yet the ACLU then helped the girl obtain the abortion before the DOJ filed, in effect mooting the issue. In response to this duplicity, the DOJ asked the Supreme Court to reverse the order of relief the ACLU had received from the lower court, in addition to sanctions on its attorneys for unethical behavior. Yesterday, the Supreme Court granted the former but not the latter. Yet this is a big win for these young girls and their unborn babies, and a check on the almost insane pro-abortion advocacy we see from some of these groups.

At one point, when ORR explored whether attempted abortions should be halted and reversed for girls in its custody, the ACLU vigorously objected, claiming "The Trump administration's cruel and unconstitutional treatment of young immigrant women knows no bounds. The administration forced a minor to go to an emergency room for an ultrasound in the middle of a medication abortion, and contemplated trying to 'reverse' the abortion through an unproven method, against the young woman's will."

The ACLU and its anti-life cronies are the ones who lack "bounds" here. All ORR is trying to avoid is being forced to help end the lives of unborn immigrant children. Who could be more vulnerable, more unprotected, and more in need of a true caretaker than such babies? Yet the pro-abortion lobby, with clear, vested interests in perpetrating the so-called legality of the entire unjust abortion regime, names as "cruel" any actions to protect the unborn baby in a vulnerable, immigrant mother's womb. In light of this, we may understand why some would at times feel as if all the forces of darkness are intent at taking as many baby lives as they can.

While incredibly distressing and seemingly hopeless, we must remember that there will be a final judgment. Jesus is coming back to judge, and his judgment is complete and righteous. All will have to give account for their actions, including those at the ACLU and elsewhere who perpetrate this type of violence against helpless babies.

We shouldn't be vindictive in this, but rather tremble ourselves. Without the mercy of God in the sacrifice of his son Jesus for our sins, we will all fall under judgment. Because we have all offended God in some way, we all tremble before him. Thank God he has sent Jesus to receive the judgment for our sins if we turn away from sin and turn toward Jesus.

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

A Tough Cell for Embryonic Research

June 05, 2018

An astounding 1.5 million people have already been treated through the miracle advancements in adult stem cell research. As FRC has argued for years, these stem cells are not only the most effective, they're the most ethical too! Embryonic stem cell research, on the other hand, hasn't translated into real patient therapies -- and it comes at the cost of human life. Government agencies like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have the ability to perform life-saving research, and it should be their top priority to ensure that research is both ethical and effective.

Today, Congressman Jim Banks (R-Ind.) stopped by FRC to talk about a bipartisan bill he introduced, the Patients First Act, which would direct the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the NIH to prioritize life-affirming stem cell research with near-term benefits for human patients and to refrain from creating or destroying human embryos in the process. Don't miss the discussion, available on-demand below.

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Previous Washington Update Articles »