Supreme Court: Religious Individuals Don’t Leave Their Religious Rights at their Business’s Front Door

In a widely anticipated opinion, the Supreme Court ruled in the Masterpiece Cakeshop religious liberty case on June 4. The case involved a Colorado baker who refused to create a custom cake for a same-sex marriage wedding ceremony. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled that the baker’s actions violated the civil rights of the same-sex couple.

The Court largely punted on the primary issue—whether free speech and free exercise of religion allow for the baker’s actions—while focusing on the conduct of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. In an opinion which seven of the nine justices joined, the Court found that the Commission had not acted neutrally toward the baker due to his religion. The Commission’s unequal treatment meant its decision had to be overturned.

The Court disagreed with the Commission’s “view that religious beliefs cannot legitimately be carried into the public sphere or commercial domain, implying that religious beliefs and persons are less than fully welcome in Colorado’s business community.” The Court also took issue with the Commission upholding the actions of three bakers who refused to create cakes demeaning of same-sex marriage while ruling against the baker in this case who refused to make a cake in support of the same.

California Bill Drafted Broadly May Affect Christian Publishing

No stranger to controversial bills, the California Assembly is considering a consumer protection bill labeled AB2943 which would categorize “sexual orientation change efforts” as an unlawful business practice. The issue raised with the bill’s language is its broad definition of “sexual orientation change efforts” along with its broad definition of goods and services. The bill defines “sexual orientation change efforts” as “any practices that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation. This includes efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.” But if books are a “good” under the law and bookselling is a “service,” is the offering of a book promoting a traditional Christian view of sexuality an unlawful business practice?

Even the bill’s sponsors state that Christian books were not the target of this bill but courts have to construe statutes first based on the statute’s plain language. David French of the conservative-leaning National Review pointed out the consequence of the bill’s language in a recent column. However, whether the bill’s drafters had any pernicious intent or it is just a case of sloppy drafting, the bill is unlikely to ban the sale of Christian books. Even if the bill were to pass without any amendments addressing that very problem, the law would not likely survive a constitutional challenge on speech grounds were it applied to religious books.

This article is provided for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice. This article was first published as an ECPA Legal Update.