Three separate rulings by the US Supreme Court in recent days have been very encouraging for me and countless others who cherish religious liberty and believe the Bible is God’s word.
On June 4 the court ruled by a 7-2 vote that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was wrong in its decision that Jack Phillips and the Masterpiece Cake Shop violated the law when he refused to make a custom wedding cake for a gay couple because of his Christian faith. While he was willing to sell anything in his shop (premade cakes and other baked goods) to any same-sex couple, he was not willing to use his artistic gifts to design cakes for any events that conflict with his Christian values or beliefs. He believes he has the right to do this according to the First Amendment. The US Supreme Court agreed with Jack Phillips – and the vote was not close. Here is a link to a good article on the case and the issues surrounding it: https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2018/june/religious-liberty-takes-cake-supreme-court-makes-right-call.html
On June 25 the court annulled a lower-court ruling against Washington state florist Barronelle Stutzman, a Southern Baptist who declined to design flowers for a same-sex wedding. The order also instructed the Washington Supreme Court to reconsider its previous decision in light of the justices’ June 4 opinion in favor of a Colorado cake artist who refused to design and decorate a cake in celebration of the wedding of two men. This case will continue making its way through the court system and will likely return to the Supreme Court. This link provides a good overview of the case: http://www.bpnews.net/51162/high-court-annuls-ruling-against-florist
On June 26 the court ruled by a 5-4 vote that pro-life pregnancy centers do not have to promote abortion services, as the state of California had mandated. The state attempted to force these mostly Christian pregnancy centers to inform anyone seeking their help about the availability of free or low-cost abortion. The court ruled that the state was violating the First Amendment by compelling individuals to speak a message with which they disagreed. Here is a link to an article about the case and the court’s ruling: http://www.bpnews.net/51169/high-court-affirms-pregnancy-centers-speech-rights
In the years ahead there will likely be many similar cases before the US Supreme Court and their rulings will have major implications for the exercise and expression of religious liberty in America. More is at stake than simply the freedom to believe and worship as one pleases. What is at stake is the freedom to actually live out our faith without violating our conscience and being forced by the state to act in a way contrary to our beliefs.
One fact is undeniable. If the Supreme Court had more liberal justices than it currently does, these outcomes would likely have been different and religious liberty would be dying a slow and painful death in our country. With more threats to our freedom to practice our faith to come in the years ahead, it is essential that conservative justices be appointed to the Court.
With July 4 just a week away, today I feel better about the Court and the future of religious liberty in our country than I did a month ago. It will make this Sunday’s Celebration of Freedom even more meaningful.
Pastor Steve Hogg