The state of Colorado is arguing in federal court that, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling, its Civil Rights Commission can issue new discrimination charges against Christian baker Jack Phillips, because the panel’s members have been replaced.
The commission found that Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, discriminated against a same-sex couple by refusing to bake a cake for their wedding. The Supreme Court reversed the decision in a 7-2 ruling in June on narrow grounds, concluding the commission did not employ religious neutrality, violating Phillips’ rights to free exercise of religion.
Now, the state is issuing new charges against Phillips for refusing to create a cake celebrating a “gender transition,” ignoring evidence that Phillips accepts all customers while refusing to create messages that violate his religious beliefs.
Phillips has responded with a lawsuit contending his constitutional rights have been violated.
A Colorado congressman has asked the Department of Justice to investigate the state commission.
The state’s second prosecution of Phillips prompted James Dobson, the noted Christian psychologist and founder of the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute, to call for reform of the commission, decrying the new claim as “a continued attack on the First Amendment and religious freedom.”
Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., has asked U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to intervene.
“Both Mr. Phillips and Masterpiece serve everyone. All people – no matter who they are, what they believe or what protected class they belong to – are welcome in Mr. Phillips’ shop and may purchase anything available for sale,” the congressman argued. “But as a devout Christian, Mr. Phillips cannot create custom cakes the express messages or that celebrate events in conflict with his deeply held religious beliefs.
“We are a stronger as a nation because of the societal contribution of religious Americans like Jack Phillips. Mr. Phillips and other creative professionals should not be targeted by the government for living consistently with their deeply held beliefs just because an agency director or the government doesn’t like those beliefs.”
In the previous case, Colorado was scolded by the Supreme Court for “hostility” toward Christians and toward Phillips.
But Colorado officials now are asking the court to dismiss Phillips’ claims against them, arguing that since the old members of the commission are gone, the new ones have a restored authority to prosecute Phillips.
The state argued the complaint “does not allege that any commissioner who is named as a defendant here was also serving as a commissioner when the commission finally decided the 2012 discrimination charge and defended that decision in the Masterpiece I appeals.”
Phillips’ lawsuit cites the fact that the commission refused to prosecute several homosexual bakers who were given permission to refuse to create a cake with a Bible message that violated their beliefs.
But the state says those decisions also were made by previous commissioners, so it should have no ramification on the state’s current prosecution of Phillips.
The civil rights commission insisted it has immunity to claims for damages.
The commission claims it can order people to violate their faith through its orders to ban “discrimination in all places of public accommodation.”
But it doesn’t address the fact that Phillips repeatedly has confirmed he will serve all customers but has a First Amendment right to free speech.
The commission finding equates “products,” which all persons must be given access to, with “messages,” which are protected by the First Amendment.
The commission argues over and over that it can escape liability because its members changed.
The state investigated Phillips in 2014 after he refused to make a same-sex duo’s wedding cake. The second prosecution came after lawyer Autumn Scardina, a man who says he is a woman, demanded of Phillips a cake celebrating transgenderism.
Kristen Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been working on Phillips’ behalf, said, the state “is ignoring the message of the U.S. Supreme Court by continuing to single out Jack for punishment and to exhibit hostility toward his religious beliefs.”
“Even though Jack serves all customers and simply declines to create custom cakes that express messages or celebrate events in violation of his deeply held beliefs, the government is intent on destroying him – something the Supreme Court has already told it not to do.”