Christian baker loses appeal in same-sex wedding cake case

Religious Liberty | Jack Philips and his attorneys evaluate legal options—including taking the case to the U.S. Supreme Court
by Kiley Crossland
Posted 4/26/16, 10:13 am

The Colorado Supreme Court will not hear the case of a Christian baker who declined to make a cake for a same-sex wedding celebration.

The decision, released yesterday, upholds a prior ruling by the Colorado Court of Appeals against the baker, Jack Philips of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo. Philips had appealed the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s order to create cakes for same-sex weddings, reeducate his staff on discrimination policy, and file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years after he declined to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple in 2012.

Philips’ attorneys said Monday they are evaluating all legal options—including an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We asked the Colorado Supreme Court to take this case to ensure that government understands that its duty is to protect the people’s freedom to follow their beliefs personally and professionally, not force them to violate those beliefs as the price of earning a living,” Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the legal group representing Philips, said in a statement released Monday.

In 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins requested Philips bake them a custom wedding cake to celebrate their Massachusetts marriage. Philips declined, citing his religious convictions, but recommended another bakery nearby. Craig and Mullins filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which eventually ruled against Philips in 2014. Philips appealed the decision, and the Colorado Court of Appeals also ruled against him in August 2015. In October he appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court.

ADF and Philips contend he did not discriminate based on sexual orientation but instead exercised his religious freedom by declining to use his artistic gifts to support an event that contradicts his faith.

“Jack, who has happily served people of all backgrounds for years, simply exercised the long-cherished American freedom to decline to use his artistic talents to promote a message and event with which he disagrees, and that freedom shouldn’t be placed in jeopardy for anyone,” Tedesco said. Philips also declines to make cakes celebrating Halloween or bachelor parties, and cakes containing profanity, among other things.

According to a March 2015 Marist poll, 65 percent of Americans oppose fining wedding vendors for declining to participate in same-sex ceremonies.

But LGBT advocates applauded yesterday’s decision as a victory for tolerance.

“We hope today’s win will serve as a lesson for others that equality and fairness should be our guiding principles and that discrimination has no place at the table, or the bakery as the case may be,” Ria Tobacco Mar, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents Craig and Mullins, said in a statement yesterday.

But Philips’ attorneys note tolerance should apply to everyone.

“Every artist must be free to create work that expresses what he or she believes and not be forced to express contrary views,” said ADF lead counsel Nicolle Martin. “Forcing people to promote ideas against their will is not an American concept. It undermines our constitutionally protected freedom of expression and our right to live free.”

In contrast to the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission last spring upheld the rights of three Denver bakers who refused to bake cakes for a customer requesting confections that reflected his disagreement with same-sex marriage.

Kiley Crossland

Kiley is a former WORLD correspondent.

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  • Laura W
    Posted: Tue, 05/10/2016 02:56 pm

    @Jeff S, interesting position. It solves some things, for sure, but I'm not sure we really want to go that far. What if it happened the other way round? What if someone had been offered a job, and then when he came in to work the next day, the boss noticed a Bible tucked in his bag and fired him? Or suppose he just asked about religion outright during the interview to save himself the trouble. Should the applicant have a legal recourse?

  • hawaiicharles
    Posted: Tue, 05/10/2016 02:56 pm

    Even though this and other cases are certainly related to religious liberty, I'm not certain that's the right way to frame it.  I see this more as being a free speech issue.  The right to speak freely also means the right NOT to engage in speech that a person doesn't agree with.  Thus, the question becomes: why should an artist be forced to use his/her artistic talents to promulgate an idea that he/she finds objectionable?  Should a tattoo artist be forced to draw a Nazi swastika on someone's arm if he doesn't want to?  Should a print-shop owner be forced to print posters for a KKK rally?  In a culture that increasingly hears "religious liberty" as equivalent to "license to discriminate", I think the free speech angle makes a more persuasive argument.

  •  West Coast Gramma's picture
    West Coast Gramma
    Posted: Tue, 05/10/2016 02:56 pm

    What tolerance is to some means oppression to others. Ultimately, the bottom line is "anything goes."

  • B Newman
    Posted: Tue, 05/10/2016 02:56 pm

    This is a reflection of the spiritual state of the country. And history proves that this state usually precedes the fall of that empire.  The most damning evidence is the last paragraph of the article.

  •  Chelsey McNeil's picture
    Chelsey McNeil
    Posted: Tue, 05/10/2016 02:56 pm

    Would you force a Jew to bake a pro-Nazi cake? I feel this analogy pretty much sums it up.

  • Auslander
    Posted: Tue, 05/10/2016 02:56 pm

    I don't say this casually or flippantly - but anything Mr. Philips loses over this, he will gain back a hundredfold; if not now, then in eternity (which is where it really matters anyway).  (Matthew 19:29)

  •  SleeperSRT10's picture
    Posted: Tue, 05/10/2016 02:56 pm

    Lord, bless Jack Philips for standing up for what is right...

  • Jeff S's picture
    Jeff S
    Posted: Tue, 05/10/2016 02:56 pm

    The core issue is not religious liberty - it's private property rights and the right of free association.  Even if we think it's wrong morally or ethically to discriminate for any reason, privately owned business should be legally allowed to refuse service to anyone for any reason, and privately owned businesses should be able to hire and fire whomever they want for whatever reason or no reason at all.  There should not be bans against age discrimination, religious discrimination, gender discrimination, or even race.  If society doesn't approve, society can boycott, but the government should not violate the rights of property owners.

  • Zinger
    Posted: Tue, 05/10/2016 02:56 pm

    Who needs fundamentalist Muslims and sharia law?    We already have  a despotic judiciary who is imposing their ideology on the populace.

  •  William Peck 1958's picture
    William Peck 1958
    Posted: Tue, 05/10/2016 02:56 pm

    "Charlie Craig and David Mullins requested Philips bake them a custom wedding cake to celebrate their Massachusetts marriage."- I guess they didn't have time to get a gay cake in Massachusetts ???

  •  William Peck 1958's picture
    William Peck 1958
    Posted: Tue, 05/10/2016 02:56 pm

    How is this any different than "play me a concert" ?

  • VT
    Posted: Fri, 02/10/2017 02:01 pm

    Is it bad to decline makin a cake for a same-sex couple? It doesn't seem like something to get upset about.