Supreme Court Sends Back Lower Court Ruling That Punishes Christian Bakers

June 17, 2019 Updated: June 17, 2019

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Supreme Court on June 17 sent back to a lower court a ruling against the owners of an Oregon bakery who refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple due to Christian beliefs.

Photo of the exterior of Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Gresham, Oregon on Feb. 5, 2013. (Everton Bailey Jr./The Oregonian via AP)

The justices sent the case back to an Oregon court so it can reconsider its ruling against the bakery owners in light of the Supreme Court’s June 2018 decision in a strikingly similar case from Colorado.

The state court will have to come up with a new decision and potentially could rule against bakery owners, Melissa and Aaron Klein, a second time even after taking into consideration last year’s Supreme Court decision in favor of a Denver-area Christian baker who had refused to make a cake for two gay men. In December 2017, the Oregon court had let stand a lower state court ruling against the Kleins.

Melissa and Aaron Klein ran a bakery called Sweetcakes by Melissa in Gresham, a city east of Portland. They were contesting Oregon’s $135,000 penalty for violating a state anti-discrimination law by refusing to serve the couple, Rachel Bowman-Cryer and Laurel Bowman-Cryer. The Kleins argued that the state fine violated their rights of free speech and free exercise of religion under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

The Supreme Court ruled last year 7-2 in favor of the Colorado baker Jack C. Phillips, who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, citing his Christian faith.

“The commission’s hostility was inconsistent with the First Amendment’s guarantee that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion,” Justice Anthony Kennedy said in the majority opinion on the Colorado cake case.

Kennedy claimed the commission was required under the First Amendment’s free exercise clause to “proceed in a manner neutral toward and tolerant of Phillips’ religious beliefs.” However, the Supreme Court did not rule on whether Phillips’ actions actually violated Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws.

The Epoch Times reporter Janita Kan contributed to this report.

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