6 Quotes: Free Expression,  Religious Freedom, and the Masterpiece Cakeshop Ruling
Religion & Liberty Online

6 Quotes: Free Expression, Religious Freedom, and the Masterpiece Cakeshop Ruling

Earlier today the Supreme Court handed down a ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the most important religious freedom case of the year. Despite being a win for the bakery and its owner, Jack Phillips, the future implications of this case for religious liberty are rather narrow in scope.

“In this case the adjudication concerned a context that may well be different going forward in the respects noted above,” said the Court. “However later cases raising these or similar concerns are resolved in the future, for these reasons the rulings of the Commission and of the state court that enforced the Commission’s order must be invalidated.”

Despite not setting a strong precedent protecting freedom of conscience for artists, the opinions on the case reaffirm the importance of religious expression and free speech. Here are six quotes from the ruling that you should know about.

Justice Kennedy: “The Constitution ‘commits government itself to religious tolerance, and upon even slight suspicion that proposals for state intervention stem from animosity to religion or distrust of its practices, all officials must pause to remember their own high duty to the Constitution and to the rights it secures.”

Justice Kagan: “[S]tate actors cannot show hostility to religious views; rather, they must give those views ‘neutral and respectful consideration.’”

Justice Gorsuch: “The Constitution protects not just popular religious exercises from the condemnation of civil authorities. It protects them all.”

Justice Gorsuch: “In this country, the place of secular officials isn’t to sit in judgment of religious beliefs, but only to protect their free exercise.”

Justice Thomas: “States cannot punish protected speech because some group finds it offensive, hurtful, stigmatic, unreasonable, or undignified.”

Justice Thomas: “Because the Court’s decision vindicates Phillips’ right to free exercise, it seems that religious liberty has lived to fight another day. But, in future cases, the free­dom of speech could be essential to preventing Obergefell from being used to ‘stamp out every vestige of dissent’ and ‘vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.’”


Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).