DENVER (Christian Examiner) – The Colorado wedding cake artist who refused to bake and decorate a wedding cake for a homosexual couple is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene since the Colorado Supreme Court refused to take up his case, the Denver Post has reported.
Jack Phillips, owner of the Masterpiece Cakeshop, has been deep in legal turmoil since 2012 when Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked the shop to bake a cake for their same-sex wedding. Phillips refused, claiming his religious beliefs wouldn't allow him to support same-sex marriage.
Craig and Mullins sued and in December 2013 a judge ruled Phillips could not turn away customers based on what kind of wedding they were having. In addition to that, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled Phillips was required to provide quarterly reports on what cake orders he had turned away and for what reason – for a period of two years.
Phillips then appealed, but lost the appeal when the appellate court affirmed the earlier ruling of the lower court and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
The appellate court said the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act "prohibits places of public accommodations from basing their refusal to serve customers on their sexual orientation." The court said Phillips was guilty of discrimination and violating a "generally applicable" law.
The petition brought by the baker and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) now claims the Colorado courts violated "controlling precedent" which grants artists free speech protections when it ruled against Phillips.
"Cake design and creation is its own art form and mode of expression," the petition says. It claims cake decoration, the central point of a wedding celebration, dates back to 1175 B.C.
The petition also claims the courts were at odds with other rulings on the free exercise of religion from the Third, Sixth and Tenth Circuits.
Jeremy Tedesco, ADF's senior legal counsel, said Phillips – nor anyone else – "should be forced by the government to further a message that they cannot in conscience promote."
"And that's what this case is about. 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 fundamentally disagrees. We are asking the U.S. Supreme Court 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."
Tedesco also said the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had clearly targeted Christian beliefs because they refused to punish other bakers who refused to bake cakes on the grounds that doing so would violate their personal beliefs. Those bakers, however, weren't challenging the central tenet of the gay rights movement.
"It is undisputed that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission...does not apply CADA [Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act] to ban (1) an African-American cake artist from refusing to create a cake promoting white-supremacism for the Aryan Nation, (2) an Islamic cake artist from refusing to create a cake denigrating the Quran for the Westboro Baptist Church, and (3) three secular cake artists from refusing to create cakes opposing same-sex marriage for a Christian patron," Tedesco claims in the petition to the high court.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado has said it will contest the petition with the U.S. Supreme Court.
"As we've argued and the courts have consistently and correctly ruled in this case, everyone has a right to their religious beliefs. But business owners cannot rely on those beliefs as an excuse to discriminate against prospective customers," Mark Silverstein, legal director for the group, told the Denver Post.
The ACLU is upholding the opinion of the Obama administration which has attempted to shift the First Amendment's definition of religious freedom to "freedom of worship," meaning freedom of religious expression only within the confines of the four walls of the church.