DENVER — A district judge in Colorado heard arguments yesterday in Craig and Mullins v. Masterpiece Cakeshop, a case concerning a Christian bakery owner who refused to provide a wedding cake to a same-sex couple.
In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins visited the Masterpiece Cakeshop bakery to ask for a cake for their wedding reception, following their same-sex “marriage” ceremony in Massachusetts. The owner, Jack Phillips, an evangelical Christian, declined to make one on the basis of his faith.
“We are confident that we put our best foot forward today for liberty, for religious liberty, and that Jack’s free-speech rights and free exercise (of religion) rights will be vindicated,” Nicolle Martin, the lead counsel representing Phillips, told EWTN News.
“This case is not about access to commerce or access in the marketplace, because the complainants had no trouble procuring a wedding cake immediately, and I might add, for free,” Martin said. “It really isn’t a situation where gay people don’t have access to the services and goods that they need, so we like to think it’s about conscience; it’s always been about conscience.”
Phillips’ counsel, associated with Alliance Defending Freedom, added that the Christian baker “has always served everyone; he just doesn’t communicate all messages, and I think everyone can agree that a wedding cake carries with it a very significant message about marriage.”
She said, “And he would rather remain silent, if that wedding cake is going to convey a message about same-sex marriage.”
Natalie Decker, co-counsel for Phillips and his business, added that Phillips “was more than willing to provide any other baked goods” to Craig and Mullins and “told them that he would provide cookies, brownies and so on.”
Following the incident, Mullins and Craig filed charges of discrimination against Phillips with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, holding that Phillips had discriminated against them on the basis of their sexual orientation.
The state’s Civil Rights Division concluded that Phillips’ Masterpiece Cakeshop had discriminated against the couple on the basis of their sexual orientation, and Colorado’s attorney general filed a complaint against the business.
Religious Freedom and Compelled-Speech Arguments
Phillips’ attorneys maintain that the case is one of religious freedom and compelled speech, going “directly to the heart of the protections that the First Amendment and the Colorado Constitution provide.”
“We believe the government shouldn’t be forcing people to promote messages against their will,” Decker said, adding that government should not “be forcing people to do things that violate their conscience and their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
“It’s undisputed in this case what Jack Phillips’ beliefs are, and he should have a right to run his business in accord with his sincerely held religious beliefs,” she said.
Martin and Decker’s brief for the court explained that “Jack did not decline to design and create a wedding cake for complainants because of their sexual orientation,” but, rather, “because of his religious beliefs about both marriage and how God will feel about him if he participates in and promotes a same-sex wedding.”
It added, “His decision was not motivated by any type of animus toward, or bigotry against, gay people. His decision was motivated by his unwavering Christian beliefs.”
Amanda Goad, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, stated in contrast that, while “religious freedom is an important American value ... no one’s religion gives a business the right to refuse service to customers,” adding that, “under long-standing Colorado law, a store owner who serves the public cannot turn customers away just because of who they are.”
Decker concluded her comments in defense of Phillips saying that the relevant statute “requires that the [prohibited] discrimination be because of sexual orientation, and Jack Phillips did not discriminate because of sexual orientation.”
She said, “It’s not that he was unwilling to serve them because of their sexual orientation. This was because of his Christian faith that prevents him from promoting, facilitating or participating in a same-sex ceremony of this kind.”