Free Exercise


A customer walks into a dressmaker’s shop to buy a wedding dress. The customer greets the store owner courteously, and the customer politely states her business. The white store owner politely but firmly informs the customer that they cannot sell the customer a dress because the customer is an African American and is left-handed, and the store owner promptly asks the customer to leave and not come back. According to the store owner, who (unbeknownst to the customer before entering) is an evangelical Christian, the book of Genesis mandates that whites not sell goods to African Americans or to left-handed people, as this is “detestable.” The customer sues, claiming that the store’s policy is discriminatory and violates both the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and a state law that forbids using religious beliefs as a reason for private businesses to refuse service. The store owner claims that, under the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution, the owner has the right to refuse service on religious grounds and that the Civil Rights Act and the state law violate the owner’s right to free exercise.

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If you were a judge, how would you decide this case? Use Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colorado Civil rights commission as only source.

Although the reasoning behind the store owners refusal of service is socially unacceptable (in my own terms), the US constitution holds higher precedent over state law.

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