Following the momentous decision handed down by the Supreme Court to rule in favor of a Christian baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, attention is now turning toward other critical religious freedom cases. On Monday, Supreme Court justices voted 7-2 in favor of baker Jack Phillips, backing his claim that forcing him to bake a cake would violate his religious beliefs.
“The reason and motive for the baker’s refusal were based on his sincere religious beliefs and convictions. The Court’s precedents make clear that the baker, in his capacity as the owner of a business serving the public, might have his right to the free exercise of religion limited by generally applicable laws,” Justice Kennedy wrote in the decision. Phillips had been embroiled in the legal battle for the past six years.
But there are many other similar cases that are still pending a conclusive ruling. Many of these, seen across a range of different states, relates to the permitting of private agencies to block gay couples from adoptions or taking in foster children.
Currently, nine states have laws which allow state-funded and religiously affiliated adoption agencies to refuse to place children with gay couples. Kansas and Oklahoma both passed such laws this year. Alabama, Mississippi, Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas and Virginia all enforce similar rules. Many are of the view that cases lodged against these laws could eventually find their way up to the Supreme Court.
But the legal challenges have been seen to go both ways. Just last month, Catholic Social Services in Philadelphia sued the city when municipal officials stopped placing children with the group, citing its concerns with the service’s religious objections to gay marriage.
Many of those who are campaigning for religious liberty in the workplace say that the rhetoric used to criticize right-leaning religious conservatives is wildly unfair.
“In my experience, a lot of the rhetoric being tossed around to justify why (private) agencies shouldn’t be given (government) contracts has been that they are ‘religious bigots,’ a lot of the same language directed against Jack,” said Matt Sharp, a lawyer with the conservative Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing Christian baker Jack Phillips.
The Supreme Court ruling made clear “that type of hostility is not permissible,” Sharp added, according to Reuters.
Many who are seeking to overturn the various laws that endow business owners with the right to refuse service on account of their religious beliefs will now look to the future justices of the Supreme Court to predict which way rulings will swing. The 81-year-old Justice Kennedy is likely nearing the end of his time on the bench, and if he were to retire, President Trump would be tasked with appointing another justice to the court. His first appointment, Justice Neil Gorsuch, is a staunch conservative.
Under Oklahoma’s current law, private agencies that deal with adoption and foster care cannot be forced to participate in placing a child “when the proposed placement would violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies.”
In Mississippi, it is legal for businesses to refuse marriage-related services to same-sex couples. It is also legal for judges to refuse to perform same-sex weddings due to their religious beliefs.