Agudath Israel of America today issued the following response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which involved the rights of a Christian baker who was punished by the State of Colorado for refusing on religious grounds to bake and design a wedding cake for the “marriage” of two men.
The Agudah, a national Orthodox Jewish organization, had urged the Supreme Court in its amicus curiae brief to uphold the religious rights of Mr. Jack Phillips, the Colorado baker who was asked to use his creative talents to bake a cake in celebration of a same-sex marriage, an event that contravenes his sincerely held religious beliefs. While the Supreme Court’s decision requires close review, it is unfortunate that the ruling does not reach or provide clarity on the substantive question of whether Mr. Phillips and other such proprietors faced with similar conflicts will find free exercise protection within the First Amendment.
Nonetheless, the Court’s ruling is gratifying in that it emphasizes that religious freedom concerns must be given a full and deserving measure of consideration, even within the context of local and state anti-discrimination law. It affirms the principle that state agencies may not presume religious rights to be of lesser value or deserving of lesser protection, and they may in no way exhibit hostility toward sincerely held religious beliefs. We are also heartened by the fact that this posture was adopted by the Justices by a wide 7-2 margin. We are also pleased that the Court has explicitly affirmed the right of members of the clergy to be able to refuse to participate in ceremonies to which they object for religious reasons.
We hope that the Court’s posture will, in future cases, be instructive to state and local governments and lead them to give due deference to the religious freedoms that are among our Constitution’s and nation’s highest values.