Last week, a federal judge ruled that Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado, could proceed to sue the state for anti-religious bias.
Phillips previously fought a case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court after the Colorado Civil Rights Commission cited him for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. The Supreme Court found that the commission discriminated against Phillips for his religious views.
On the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take Phillips’ appeal, Denver attorney Autumn Scardina requested Phillips to bake a cake that celebrated gender transition with a blue outside and an pink inside, The Western Journal reports. After Phillips refused, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission cited him again.
Despite Phillips winning his case at the Supreme Court, the state still decided to prosecute him, causing him to file a lawsuit.
In a statement, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which is defending Phillips, said that Colorado is treating Phillips differently than other cake artists who decline custom projects if they disagree with the message.
“While the state ‘allow[s] other cake artists to decline requests to create custom cakes that express messages they deem objectionable and would not express for anyone,’ Colorado treats Phillips differently,” ADF said. “This ‘disparate treatment,’ the court said, ‘reveals’ the state officials’ ongoing ‘hostility towards Phillips, which is sufficient to establish they are pursuing the discrimination charges against Phillips in bad faith, motivated by Phillips’ … religion … ’”
“The same agency that the Supreme Court rebuked as hostile to Jack Phillips has remained committed to treating him unequally and forcing him to express messages that violate his religious beliefs,” ADF Senior Counsel Jim Campbell said in a statement. “Colorado is acting in bad faith and with bias toward Jack. We look forward to moving forward with this lawsuit to ensure that Jack isn’t forced to create custom cakes that express messages in conflict with his faith.”
Campbell added that Phillips serves all customers regardless of their lifestyle but doesn’t create custom cakes that express messages that conflict with his religious beliefs.
“He can’t get a fair shake before the state commission,” Campbell said. “A commissioner set to decide the state’s new case against Jack has publicly referred to him as a ‘hater’ on Twitter, one of several indications of the commission’s ongoing bad faith toward him and his beliefs.”
ADF argues that the state is violating Phillips’ First Amendment rights of exercise of religion, free speech, and due process rights.
“Over his years as a cake artist, Phillips has declined to create cakes with various messages that violate his faith, including messages that demean LGBT people, express racism, celebrate Halloween, promote marijuana use, and celebrate or support Satan,” the statement concludes.
In September, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) called on the Justice Department to investigate the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and its director for harassing Phillips.
“[N]owhere is the assault on religious freedom more pervasive then at the Colorado Civil Rights Commission through their selective application of the law, using it to target viewpoints that contradict their own personal beliefs [sic],” Lamborn said in a letter to former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “For over six years now, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission has been on a crusade against Jack Phillips because its officials despise what he believes and how he practices his faith.”
“I am asking the Department of Justice to protect the rights of religious Coloradans by ensuring that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission cannot continue its harassment of people of faith in my home state and its attempts to violate their first amendment freedoms,” he added.