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SMALL BUSINESS NEWS

Jul 2018

 

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Supreme Court Rules On Religious Clause

Can businesses refuse to provide certain services to customers based on religious objections.  That was the question before the Supreme Court in the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a 7-2 ruling Monday in favor of Masterpice Cakeshop [a bakery in Lakewood, CO.] who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

Masterpiece Cakeshop made headlines in 2012 when it’s owner refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple based on his religious beliefs.  The couple sued and two years later the Colorado Civil Rights Commission said that Phillips violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act.  In 2015, the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld earlier rulings in favor of the couple.

The case was finally heard by the U.S. Supreme Court and rendered a decision in favor of the Baker.   But, the court did not rule on the larger issue of whether businesses can discriminate against potential customers based on religious beliefs.

Specifically, the Supreme Court ruled that the state commission’s actions in this case violated the Free Exercise Clause under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits Congress from making laws “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise” of it.

In the opinion authored by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court noted that members of the Commission showed hostility toward the religious beliefs of Phillips, the business owner, during hearings on the matter.

"The commissioner even went so far as to compare Phillips’ invocation of his sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust," Kennedy wrote. "This sentiment is inappropriate for a Commission charged with the solemn responsibility of fair and neutral enforcement of Colorado’s antidiscrimination law — a law that protects discrimination on the basis of religion as well as sexual orientation."

In 1993 the Religious Freedom Restoration Act [RFRA] became law.  It offered religious protections for individuals and non-profit organizations.  However, it was not until 2014 when Hobby Lobby challenged the law that the Supreme Court ruled that for-profit organizations were also covered.

Today approximately 30 States have their own Religious Freedom Restoration Act [RFRA].

 

Sources:
First Amendment and Religion
MASTERPIECE CAKESHOP, LTD., ET AL. v. COLORADO CIVIL RIGHTS COMMISSION ET AL.
Wikipedia: Religious Freedom Restoration Act [RFRA]

By Wendy Stewart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

  
 

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