- The Washington Times - Monday, June 17, 2019

The Supreme Court delivered victory to yet another Christian bakery Monday, erasing a lower court’s ruling that had upheld penalties on the owners of an Oregon bakery who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding.

The justices vacated that lower court decision and ordered a do-over in line with the Supreme Court’s ruling last year where the justices found anti-religious sentiments poisoned Colorado’s case against a different baker.

The Oregon case involved Melissa and Aaron Klein, who closed their bakery after the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries fined them more than $130,000 for refusing to create a cake for a same-sex wedding, saying the couple violated the state’s public accommodation law.

“The Constitution protects speech, popular or not, from condemnation by the government,” said Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel to First Liberty, which represents the Kleins. “The message from the Court is clear, government hostility toward religious Americans will not be tolerated.”

It’s the latest in a series of clashes between devout business owners and states’ accommodation laws.

Last June, the court delivered a similar victory to Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cake Shop in Colorado. The justices ordered a do-over after finding the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had acted with religious animus when investigating the baker’s actions.

Specifically, the court took issue with a member of the commission comparing Mr. Phillips’ religious beliefs to the defense of the Holocaust or slavery.

Mr. Phillips argued his freedom of speech as an artist was being trampled by being forced to bake a cake with a message he opposed. He said same-sex couples were free to buy his cakes with pre-made designs.

Yet another case out of Washington could soon return to the high court.

The justices last year ordered Washington state to review its treatment of Barronelle Stutzman, who owns Arlene’s Flowers, in light of the Masterpiece ruling.

The state Supreme Court recently completed its do-over and said it didn’t detect any of the animus that was present in the Colorado case.

Jennifer Pizer, senior counsel for Lambda Legal, which represents the same-sex couple the Kleins turned away, said the court’s decision Monday was disappointing.

“It is a longstanding legal rule that the freedom of religion is not a license for businesses to discriminate, and this is one more case about a wedding cake in which an anti-gay business owner is trying to use religious beliefs to excuse denying commercial services to a lesbian couple,” Ms. Pizer said.

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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