In June, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. In that case, two men came into the small Colorado bakery owned by Jack Phillips, a devout Christian, to order a customized cake for their same-sex wedding. Mr. Phillips sells his premade goods to anyone. He politely told the couple, however, that he would not (1) create a cake (2) for their gay wedding because of (3) his religious opposition to gay marriage. The couple filed a charge with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, alleging sexual orientation discrimination in violation of the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act. (A version of the statute exists in many states.) Colorado ruled in favor of the couple, but the U.S. Supreme Court reversed. Continue reading
In June, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a case called National Institute of Family and Life Advocates “NIFLA” v. Becerra, addressed a challenge to a California law called the Reproductive “FACT” Act. It was enacted to regulate crisis pregnancy centers. They are “pro-life (largely Christian belief-based) organizations” that “aim to discourage and prevent women from seeking abortions.” The FACT Act states that centers that do not perform abortions must provide this prominent, pre-written notice to clients: “California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services including ***abortion for eligible women.” Continue reading
Justice Kennedy announced his retirement this summer. He was a moderate “swing” voter. He was appointed by President Reagan in the 1980s and confirmed when Democrats controlled the Senate. He often provided the decisive fifth vote in groundbreaking cases. For example, he was the deciding vote in favor of gay marriage, and wrote the Obergefell majority opinion. In 1992, he rejected the opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade and the right to an abortion.
President Trump nominated D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill this vacancy on the nine-member Court. Judge Kavanaugh follows the principle of “originalism” in interpreting the Constitution. Its major champion, Justice Scalia, defined it this way: “The Constitution that I interpret and apply is not living but dead, or as I prefer to call it, enduring. It means today not what current society, much less the Court, thinks it ought to mean, but what it meant when it was adopted.” Continue reading
All 50 states have their own constitution. Religious entities should consider having a lawyer check the constitution of the state where they are located concerning its free exercise of religion and free speech protections, as well as state appellate cases interpreting these clauses. U.S. Supreme Court cases construing the U.S. Constitution grab the headlines. But state constitutions and the state appellate cases interpreting them should not be overlooked because they often provide greater protections to free speech and the free exercise of religion. Also, state constitutions often contain additional protections against civil lawsuits. Continue reading