Today, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced that he is retiring from the Supreme Court. He will leave behind a forceful legacy at the nation’s highest Court.
“As a man who both understood and defined our American cultural moment, Justice Kennedy’s opinions and legal thought process have garnered respect from people across the spectrum of judicial philosophers,” said Alliance Defending Freedom CEO and General Counsel Michael Farris. “That is no small feat.”
In recognizing the significance of Justice Kennedy’s legacy, ADF acknowledges that there are some decisions he made with which we respectfully disagree. Most notably, Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, which redefined marriage to include same-sex unions.
On the other hand, Justice Kennedy’s legacy also includes a commitment to freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion. Farris notes that Kennedy “has ruled to protect minority religious groups (Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye)” and to “guarantee equal access for religious speakers in government forums (Rosenberger and Southworth).”
Most recently, Justice Kennedy authored the 7-2 decision in favor of ADF client Jack Phillips in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. In that opinion, Kennedy emphasized that government hostility towards religion has no place in a free society such as ours. This, as David French at National Review points out, is a “lasting gift” to proponents of religious liberty.
And just yesterday, Kennedy sided with the majority opinion in the case of another ADF client, the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), writing a concurring opinion that specifically condemned viewpoint discrimination.
Here are three quotes from Kennedy’s recent opinions in Masterpiece and NIFLA that are worth noting:
- “[R]eligious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression. As this Court observed in Obergefell v. Hodges, ‘[t]he First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.”’ (Masterpiece)
- “The [Colorado Civil Rights] Commission’s hostility was inconsistent with the First Amendment’s guarantee that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion.” (Masterpiece)
- “Governments must not be allowed to force persons to express a message contrary to their deepest convictions. Freedom of speech secures freedom of thought and belief.” (NIFLA)
“Alliance Defending Freedom honors Justice Kennedy’s sterling legacy defending First Amendment liberties of all Americans,” said Farris. “ADF looks forward to the president’s nomination of a person to replace Justice Kennedy on the Supreme Court who will uphold the First Amendment and the original public meaning of the Constitution.”
Join us in praying that God guides the president and the Senate as they choose and confirm Justice Kennedy’s successor.