By Cherilyn Crowe

The U.S. Supreme Court made two announcements June 26 in closely watched cases that may have an impact on religious liberty law: the Trump administration’s revised Executive Order barring immigration from six majority-Muslim countries and a case regarding a baker’s refusal to provide services for a same-sex wedding on religious grounds.

When it agreed to review the lawsuits over the revised Executive Order on immigration (which President Donald J. Trump has called a “travel ban”), the Court also partially lifted the stay of the Order, allowing some of it to go into effect. That means people without a “bona fide” relationship to the United States cannot enter the U.S. for 90 days if they are from the six countries named in the Order: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

BJC Executive Director Amanda Tyler reiterated that there are no second-class faiths in America. “The Supreme Court now has the opportunity to make clear that the First Amendment prohibits relegating certain faiths to second-class status or using religious identity as an excuse for exclusion,” she said. “The Baptist Joint Committee will be closely engaged in the days to come to be sure that our Baptist witness of religious freedom for all is represented in the arguments. Meanwhile, we can all redouble our efforts to condemn religious bigotry in all its forms.”

The Court’s decision to hear the appeal in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission surprised many due to its complicated legal history and the state laws involved. The case centers around a bakery owner’s refusal on religious grounds to provide services for a same-sex wedding, despite state law prohibiting businesses from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

“Nondiscrimination and religious liberty are important principles that should be protected, but they have increasingly come into conflict in the area of wedding services,” said BJC General Counsel Holly Hollman. “By taking this case, the Supreme Court will wade into a developing area of law that is highly contentious. The extent to which free speech and free exercise rights demand an exception to an otherwise applicable law is a perennial legal challenge, especially where providing an exception affects the rights of others.”

The Supreme Court will hear both cases in its upcoming term. The travel ban case, which is a consolidation of Trump v. Hawaii and Trump v. International Refugee Assistance Project, will be heard October 10. At press time, the Court had not set an argument date for Masterpiece Cakeshop.

From the July/August 2017 edition of Report from the Capital. You can also read the digital version of the magazine or view it as a PDF.