The Supreme Court Can End the Persecution of Religiously Traditional Small-Business Owners. But Will It?

June 18, 2019 | David Harsanyi
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In a case nearly identical to that of the Colorado baker Jack Phillips, Oregon’s Board of Labor and Industries imposed a $135,000 fine on the proprietors of a bakery for declining to provide a cake for a lesbian wedding. Yesterday, the Supreme Court temporarily spared the bakery owners the fine—which threatened to put them out of business—and sent the case back to the lower courts that had initially upheld it. David Harsanyi hopes that in the future in the Supreme Court will take a less ambiguous stance on such cases:

[M]ainstream news outlets like to report that Phillips refused “to bake a wedding cake” or denied a gay couple “service.” Phillips, however, didn’t query his customers about their sexual preferences or their preferred pronouns; nor did he bar anyone from purchasing any products made in his shop, a place of public accommodation. No, Colorado had attempted to compel a citizen to say something he didn’t believe.

After years of fiscal and personal struggles, Phillips finally prevailed, but only because of a narrow Supreme Court decision that found that [Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission, which first took action against him], hadn’t displayed religious neutrality and exhibited “a clear and impermissible hostility toward [his] sincere religious beliefs” when pursuing Phillips. That is a nice way of saying commissioners had compared orthodox Christians to Nazis and segregationists—because nothing says “inclusion” like comparing a genteel baker . . . to a murderous SS officer. . . .

Next time, though, commissioners in Colorado and elsewhere will, no doubt, be more careful about their public statements. What stops them from destroying a business then? Very little, apparently. . . .

The Supreme Court could effectively strip these extra-constitutional civil-rights commissions, which have become little more than star chambers that punish citizens for wrongthink, of much of their power. It might even undermine frivolous lawsuits.

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