I’ll keep this brief because 1) I am not a lawyer and 2) you’ve probably been inundated with takes already. Still, I had some thoughts I spent most of yesterday evening trying to collect, so bear with me a moment.
As my colleague Streiff mentioned yesterday, this wasn’t necessarily a decision to celebrate. It’s complicated, and what the Supreme Court handed down was a 7-2 decision on very narrow grounds. In essence, what they decided wasn’t so much that the Masterpiece Cakeshop had a greater right to religious freedom than Colorado gave them, but rather that Colorado was way too aggressively prejudiced against the bakery.
So, we don’t have a clearly-defined religious liberty – yet. But, we did get something out of it that, to me, seems to be understated in a lot of coverage: The bureaucracy got a pretty stern reprimand from the nation’s highest court. And I do love me a rebuked bureaucracy.
What the decision says is that the government can’t aggressively attack someone over practicing their religious beliefs in their work, though they didn’t go so far as to say that practicing religious beliefs in your work isn’t cause for the state to come after you. They just can’t be jerks about it. It isn’t as helpful as we would like, but it is helpful in that it forces the government to be more restrained.
The next step for those pursuing greater religious liberty is to re-define it at the state level. Red states should pass laws putting a leash on what government can and can’t do in these cases. Many have tried, and a few have failed. But, conservatives need to keep the fight going.