Jack Phillips -- a Christian baker residing in Colorado -- filed a lawsuit against the governor of Colorado and other state officials following a state ruling that he had illegally discriminated against a customer. Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, contends in his lawsuit that Colorado is on a "crusade to crush" him because of his religious beliefs. In June, the Supreme Court sided with Phillips in a 7-2 decision in June which ruled that Colorado had shown hostility towards his religious views in a case that started six years ago. The high court opinion applied only to the specific facts of the case, but did not rule on whether business owners can invoke religious objections to refuse service to persons of homosexual, lesbian, or transgender orientation. 

Phillips first ran into trouble when he refused to bake a cake to honor a same-sex wedding, citing his artistic freedom and religious beliefs. When the Supreme Court ruled in his favor, it chastised the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for having “showed elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs motivating his objection." The Supreme Court, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom, found that Colorado had violated its client’s free exercise of religion. “In fact, the majority found the government’s actions so hostile and so biased that it did not need to consider any of Jack’s free-speech claims.” "The commission's hostility was inconsistent with the First Amendment's guarantee that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the high court’s decision.

Phillips is again represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, which argued in the August 14 filing: “After Phillips defended himself all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won, he thought Colorado’s hostility toward his faith was over. He was wrong." In the filing, ADF contended, “Colorado has renewed its war against him by embarking on another attempt to prosecute him, in direct conflict with the Supreme Court’s ruling in his favor. This lawsuit is necessary to stop Colorado’s continuing persecution of Phillips.”

The lawsuit centers on a decision by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which found on June 28 -- less than a month after the Supreme Court ruled in Phillips’ favor in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission — that Phillips allegedly discriminated against attorney activist Autumn Scardina by refusing to bake a cake to celebrate what in his words is “the 7th year anniversary of my transition from male to female.” 

According to the commission, Phillips’ refusal was based on Scardina's transgender status. In its finding, the commission stated, "A claim of discriminatory denial of full and equal enjoyment of a place of public accommodation has been established.” The commission also cited part of the Supreme Court’s June 4 Masterpiece ruling to bolster the commission’s new finding against Phillips: “As asserted by the Supreme Court, ‘It is unexceptional that Colorado law can protect gay persons, just as it can protect other classes of individuals, in acquiring whatever products and services they choose on the same terms and conditions are offered to other members of the public.’”

In previous cases, the Colorado Civil Rights Division ruled in favor of bakers who refused to bake cakes that supposedly demeaned homosexuals or same-sex marriages. 

Phillips is facing a decision by the Colorado Civil Rights Commision, which determined that he had illegally discriminated against Autumn Scardina. Scardina reportedly wanted a cake that was pink on the inside and blue on the outside. Scardina told the state that she explained to Masterpiece Bakery that he is a transsexual and wanted a birthday cake to celebrate his “transition by having a blue exterior and a pink interior” and that he was told that the bakery could not make the cake because of their religious beliefs. According to the commission, Phillips asserted that he cannot support a message that "promotes the idea that a person's sex is anything other than an immutable God-given biological reality." The commission has ordered Phillips and Scardina to schedule a “compulsory mediation.”

Alliance Defending Freedom has noted that Scardina’s cake order came on June 26, 2017 which was the same day that the Supreme Court agreed to take up its Masterpiece cakeshop case. His lawsuit alleges that his future as a cake artist is at risk and that he "reasonably fears that discrimination charges will continue to be filed against him and that he will continue to face punishment from biased state officials." Believing that many of the requests he has received over the past year were designed to get him into trouble with officials, Phillips said that he has declined several custom cake orders over the last year. 

In a statement, ADF said that Colorado “is waging a crusade against Jack in harassing him again. Enough is enough.” Saying that it is “going on offense,” the firm is suing Colorado for its “blatant targeting.” “You would think that a clear Supreme Court decision against their first effort would give them pause. But it seems like some in the state government are hell-bent on punishing Jack for living according to his faith. If that isn’t hostility, what is?”


 

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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