Justice Department Sides with Christian Baker in Supreme Court Case

A tangible defense of religious liberty.

The Courtroom of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, DC.
The Courtroom of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, DC. (photo: Phil Roeder, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr and Wikimedia Commons)

So when people say elections matter I'm thinking this is what they mean.

The Trump administration's Justice Department filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Jack Phillips, the Christian baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. In the words of Joe Biden this is a big...well, never mind what Joe Biden would say. But it is a big deal. If you're playing the home version of Good Trump/Bad Trump game, this might just be your get out of jail free card. Literally, if you're a Christian.

Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips has been getting beat on by every level of government from civil rights commissions to politicians and judges since the day he politely declined to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. As a side note, I hate when the media reports that he refused to bake a cake for a gay man because, while that's technically true, that's not the actual heart of the matter. Jack Phillips would gladly bake a cake or any form of bakery thing that bakers make for a gay person. He did, however, refuse to bake a cake for a certain event which went against his faith. It's sort of a big difference that the media mostly just rolls over. Accidentally on purpose.

But the news here is that the federal government is once again in the business of defending religious liberty. Seeing as its a right (and they're supposed to be unalienable and granted to us by God) this seems like one of the responsibilities that government should take sorta' seriously. This is a refreshing and tangible step in the defense of religious liberty from the Trump administration. One wonders when the Southern Poverty Law Center will declare the Justice Department a "hate group."

“Just as the government may not compel the dissemination of expression, it equally may not compel the creation of expression," states the Justice Department’s brief. "Compelling a creative process is no less an intrusion — and perhaps is a greater one — on the ‘individual freedom of mind’ that the First Amendment protects,”

Predictably, the ACLU is outraged. (When are they not?) “What the Trump Administration is advocating for is nothing short of a constitutional right to discriminate,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU. “We are confident that the Supreme Court will rule on the side of equal rights just as the lower courts have.”

Are they confident? Something tells me they wouldn't be screaming like this if they were all that confident. To be honest, I'm not sure what will happen here when this case is decided. Just last year, Justice Samuel Alito said of the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear a case challenging a Washington state law that forced a family-owned pharmacy to dispense emergency contraceptives, “If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead, those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern." Joining him in that dissent was Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Clarence Thomas. That took place shortly after Justice Scalia's passing but before Neil Gorsuch was seated.

So, once again this may just come down to Justice Anthony Kennedy. Yes, the same Justice Kennedy that enshrined same-sex marriage as a right. (Insert nail biting here.) But, on the other hand, Kennedy also wrote in that decision of the need to respect "those who adhere to religious doctrines." Were those just words? Or do they carry actual legal weight? Only Justice Kennedy knows. In the end, it won't be about unalienable rights or God. It'll be about what one man thinks. I'm not saying that it's Justice Kennedy's world and we're just living in it but it's at least his country.