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Masterpiece Cakeshop Case

 “[D]efendants' contention that the Act was invalid because it 'contravenes the will of God' and constitutes an interference with the 'free exercise of the Defendant's religion'” [is “patently frivolous”].

Newman v. Piggy Park Enterprises, Inc., 390 U.S. 400, 403 n. 5 (1968)

Compare what the Supreme Court did in connection with conflicts between religious rights and racial discrimination in 1968 and religious rights and gender discrimination in 2018 and you can see how America has declined.

Compare what the Supreme Court did in connection with conflicts between religious rights and racial discrimination in 1968 and religious rights and gender discrimination in 2018 and you can see how America has declined.

In Newman v. Piggy Park Enterprises, Inc., the petitioners brought a class action on the grounds of racial discrimination against the operator of five drive-in restaurants and a sandwich shop. The defendant lost and yet contested the right to attorneys’ fees. The defendant argued, in part, that the Civil Rights Act was “invalid because it 'contravenes the will of God' and constitutes an interference with the 'free exercise of the Defendant's religion'.” In an 8-0 decision, the Supreme Court stated that this argument was “patently frivolous.” Newman v. Piggy Park Enterprises, Inc., 390 U.S. 400, 403 n. 5 (1968).

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Now compare these words with the Court’s recent decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Comm’n, 584 U.S. ____ (June 4, 2018). Here, a baker refused to prepare a wedding cake for a homosexual couple. His grounds for doing so was that requiring him to prepare the cake violated his religious beliefs and was unconstitutional under the First Amendment. By a 7-2 decision, SCOTUS agreed with him.

Yes, 50 years have elapsed between the two decisions. But supposedly our constitution does not change. So why is it frivolous to argue that one can discriminate racially on religious grounds and not on gender grounds?

Let’s imagine the next case before SCOTUS in 2020, when a taxi driver refuses to permit a gay couple to ride in his cab, arguing that driving for such a couple would violate his religious scruples. And what happens when the taxi driver refuses to drive for a Jewish couple on similar grounds?

It’s one thing to say that people can discriminate on religious grounds when they are in their church. Yes, they can bar black people from crossing their threshold. But once they start engaging in the real world of commerce, they cannot make special rules for themselves.

SCOTUS has permitted special rules exempting churches from taxation. But if it was decided that churches would be taxed in the same way as anyone else, this wouldn’t violate the First Amendment. Churches are taxed on businesses that they own. So a church that sells cakes through a bakeshop can be taxed, but they can violate the rights of their customers by refusing to sell to them? This makes little sense.

Michael Hertz