It’s tough to say how history will remember Donald Trump’s presidency, but it’s possible that this era will be most remembered for its conservative wins in the Supreme Court.
Two major conservative victories regarding religious liberty have now come down from the court, confirming that the judicial branch — to the left’s chagrin — is no liberal ally. Last year, the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling made headlines after seven justices sided with a Christian baker in Colorado.
Now, the highest court in America is pointing to that earlier ruling to send a clear message on similar cases in other states: Stop going after people who have sincere religious objections.
On Monday, the Supreme Court threw out a lower court’s ruling on the Sweet Cakes by Melissa case, which many conservatives had followed closely.
While the justices decided not to rule directly on the issue, they essentially pointed to their Masterpiece Cakeshop decision and told other courts to read it.
“The Supreme Court’s order tosses out a 2017 Oregon Court of Appeals opinion that ruled against the baker, Sweetcakes by Melissa, [which had] upheld a $135,000 fine against the business,” The Hill reported.
See Melissa and Aaron Klein’s interview with The Daily Signal below:
Both cases have strong similarities and involve Christian craftspeople who objected to specific custom orders due to religious liberty. As we covered this past spring, the landmark Masterpiece ruling set a clear pro-liberty precedent with seven out of nine justices agreeing with the baker.
“The controversy surrounding Masterpiece Cakeshop began back in 2012 when Phillips declined to supply custom cakes for a gay wedding between residents Charlie Craig and David Mullins,” as we explained in March. “Phillips cited his religious beliefs for not being part of the wedding but indicated that he didn’t hold any ill will toward gay couples.”
Indeed, in the majority opinion for that case, Justice Anthony Kennedy scolded the state of Colorado for what basically amounted to punishment against genuine religious views and warned officials about respecting “religious neutrality that must be strictly observed.”
By applying the same standard to the Sweet Cakes controversy and ordering the Oregon Court of Appeals to reconsider that case in light of the past ruling, the Supreme Court has sent a clear message.
“This is a victory for Aaron and Melissa Klein and for religious liberty for all Americans,” said Kelly Shackelford of First Liberty, a legal group representing Sweet Cakes by Melissa.
“The Constitution protects speech, popular or not, from condemnation by the government,” Shackelford said.
“The message from the Court is clear, government hostility toward religious Americans will not be tolerated.”
But will lower courts, especially in more liberal areas of the country, honor that message or continue to push back against the top justices? The jury is still out.
Last year, for example, the Supreme Court sent back yet another similar case against a Christian florist, but a Washington state judge doubled down on a liberal ruling, setting up a future showdown.
“The Washington Supreme Court earlier this month upheld the ruling against the florist, Arlene’s Flowers. But the florist, represented by the conservative Christian group Alliance Defending Freedom, has promised to present the case once again to the Supreme Court,” The Hill said.
In other words, there are strong signs that the highest court in the land sides with conservatives on this issue, but the question is far from settled.
It may take more back-and-forth squabbling between the high court and liberal judges at the state level, and the judicial world isn’t exactly fast-moving. For now, however, there is a strong conservative trend among the recent rulings, and that’s definitely a “win” for pro-liberty voices on the right.