DENVER — A Christian baker in Colorado is appealing a judge’s ruling that he must violate his religious beliefs and bake a cake for a same-sex union ceremony.
“Jack simply exercised the long-cherished freedom to not speak by declining to promote a false view of marriage through his creative work,” said lead counsel Nicolle Martin, who is allied with Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit Christian legal defense organization.
She said, “It’s outrageous that the government would turn its guns on Jack and threaten him with a potential jail sentence unless he says and does what the government demands.”
Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., declined in July 2012 to make a wedding cake for two men who had recently obtained a civil-marriage license in Massachusetts.
Phillips explained that his evangelical Christian faith prevented him from making a cake for a “gay wedding.” In response, the two men filed a discrimination suit.
In December 2013, Colorado Judge Robert Spencer ruled that Phillips’ actions constituted discrimination under Colorado law and do not fall under protected freedom of speech because the requested cake did not explicitly include text supporting “gay marriage.”
Spencer also rejected Phillips claim that he has a right to live out his religious beliefs in his business decisions. The judge said that baking a wedding cake “does not involve an effort by the government to regulate what respondents believe. Rather, it involves that state’s regulation of conduct.”
Phillips was issued a “cease and desist” order that required him to bake wedding cakes for same-sex couples. He is now appealing that decision, aided by Alliance Defending Freedom, which argued in its summary judgment brief that the baker “did not discriminate ‘because of’ sexual orientation.”
“It is undisputed that Jack has served homosexual customers in the past, creating all manner of baked goods for a variety of occasions,” the brief explained, adding that Phillips had specifically told the couple that he would bake other products for them.
While Phillips is happy to serve homosexual customers, his faith prohibits him from affirming “gay marriage” ceremonies through his actions, the brief said.
In making this decision, he is exercising his right to live out his religious beliefs, the law group stated. Furthermore, by choosing not to bake a cake, he is refraining from participating in and promoting speech and beliefs that he does not hold, a practice that ADF says is “both statutory and constitutional” under Colorado law.
In addition to avoiding participation in same-sex wedding ceremonies, Phillips closes his store on Sundays and “does not create baked goods for Halloween because of his deeply held religious beliefs.”
By requiring Phillips to “conform his conscience to their definition of marriage,” the legal brief stated, “government is unconstitutionally attempting to force [him] to violate his sincerely held religious beliefs and to compel him to speak a message that is contrary to his actual beliefs.”
“Every artist must be free to create work that expresses what he or she believes and not be forced to express contrary views,” explained senior counsel Kristen Waggoner.
“Forcing Americans to promote ideas against their will undermines our constitutionally protected freedom of expression and our right to live free. If the government can take away our First Amendment freedoms, there is nothing it can’t take away.”