Written by Don Byrd
Are we headed for a sequel? Masterpiece Cakeshop, Part 2? It would seem so now that cake artist Jack Phillips has filed a new lawsuit challenging a Colorado agency’s determination that he has violated the state’s public accommodation laws by refusing to create a custom cake as requested by a transgender attorney. The cake, Phillips’ complaint argues, would have expressed a message in conflict with his religious beliefs and as a result his refusal is protected by the First Amendment. In addition, he alleges, Colorado officials have engaged in “unconstitutional bullying” in its enforcement of nondiscrimination law against him.
The Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s ruling came less than a month after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in a case involving the same baker. There, the controversy surrounded his refusal to provide a custom cake to celebrate a same-sex marriage. The 7-2 opinion in that case, written by recently retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, found that expressions of religious animus by commissioners had amounted to discrimination invalidating the commission’s action against him for violating the nondiscrimination law. Notably, the ruling declined to address the substantive question of whether Phillips was entitled to a religious exemption because of his objection, or is protected by Free Speech principles.
Here is an excerpt from the Washington Post’s coverage of this new development, suggesting that once again the focus may be on the specific actions of the Colorado Commission:
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal nonprofit that funded Phillips’s previous case, said Colorado officials were “doubling down on their anti-religious hostility” in their treatment of the baker, according to a statement regarding this new lawsuit, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Elenis.
The group pointed out that Scardina’s request for a blue-and-pink cake came on the same day — June 26, 2017 — that the Supreme Court announced that it would hear Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, indicating Phillips had been “targeted” by some Colorado citizens.
“The first time around, it looked like Colorado was biased against people of faith,” the group stated. “Now it just looks like the state is biased against people named ‘Jack Phillips.’ In moving ahead on this new case, the government is yet again confirming that it applies its law in an arbitrary and unequal way, which the Supreme Court has already said it cannot do.”
For more on the original Masterpiece Cakeshop case, see the Baptist Joint Committee’s resource page.