Religious Exemptions and Antidiscrimination Law in Masterpiece Cakeshop
128 Yale Law Journal Forum 201 (2018)
25 Pages Posted: 30 Jul 2018 Last revised: 16 Sep 2018
Date Written: July 27, 2018
Conversation about Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission has revolved around the Court’s holding that decisionmakers must treat those seeking religious exemptions with respect. But this focus misses important aspects of the Court’s decision. In Masterpiece Cakeshop, the Court addresses the relationship between religious exemptions and antidiscrimination law in cases of sexual orientation as well as race. As we show in this essay, the decision supplies more guidance on Free Exercise exemptions under public accommodations laws than most have acknowledged.
The Court affirms an approach to public accommodations law that limits religious accommodation to prevent harm to other citizens who do not share the objector’s beliefs, in the process repudiating longstanding arguments for expansive exemptions. We situate the Court’s concerns about the third-party harms of accommodation in Masterpiece Cakeshop in prior caselaw on antidiscrimination law and religious liberty. Finally, we relate the majority’s requirement of government neutrality in the adjudication of religious exemption claims to the majority’s instruction to limit religious exemptions in public accommodations. In particular, we demonstrate that the requirement that the government treat religious claimants evenhandedly and with respect does not translate into a requirement that the government grant religious claimants exemptions from public accommodations laws.
Keywords: Masterpiece, religious exemptions, public accommodations, same-sex marriage, free exercise, religious liberty, antidiscrimination
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