What a difference a change in the White House makes.
On Thursday, the Trump Administration’s Department of Justice came down squarely on the side of Jack Phillips, the Christian baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
Phillips violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act after he refused to make a cake for the wedding of Charlie Craig and David Mullins in 2012. Craig and Mullins filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which ruled Phillips violated the state’s anti-discrimination law, a decision upheld by an appeals court. Colorado’s Supreme Court declined to take the case. The case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, was appealed to the Supreme Court, and Trump’s DOJ announced on Thursday that it had filed a brief on Phillips’ behalf.
The DOJ joined Phillips in his belief that that his cakes are a form of expression, and he cannot be forced to work on something violating his religious beliefs.
Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey B. Wall wrote that the case against Phillips would create an intrusion of the First Amendment “where public accommodations law compels someone to create expression for a particular person or entity and to participate, literally or figuratively, in a ceremony or other expressive event.”
When Phillips designs and creates a custom wedding cake for a specific couple and a specific wedding, he plays an active role in enabling that ritual, and he associates himself with the celebratory message conveyed … Forcing Phillips to create expression for and participate in a ceremony that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs invades his First Amendment rights.”
Predictably, Louise Melling, the deputy legal counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union, which says it stands for freedom but is representing the gay couple that attempted to force Phillips to violate his religious precepts, snapped, “The Justice Department has already made its hostility to the rights of LGBT people and so many other crystal clear. But this brief was shocking, even for this administration. What the Trump administration is advocating for is nothing short of a constitutional right to discriminate.”
The Colorado court that rejected Phillips’ argument had stated that Phillips “does not convey a message supporting same-sex marriages merely by abiding by the law.”
Senator Mike Lee, a constitutional scholar, summed up, “What matters is how our laws can be brought to bear against those who believe. The government cannot force you to speak where you would choose to remain silent. These are foundational pillars of the Constitution.”