Colorado’s highest state court has agreed to hear the case of a Christian baker who declined to make a cake celebrating a gender transition. Jack Phillips has been fighting the discrimination claim for more than six years.
Under state law it’s illegal to refuse to provide services on protected charateristics such as race, religion, sexuality and gender. CBN News reports the key issue in Mr. Phillips’s case is whether forcing him to make a cake with a message he does not support, is a violation of his rights to free speech. The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled it was not. That decision will now be reviewed by the state’s Supreme Court which gave no reason for deciding to hear the case.
In an opinion piece for The Christian Post, senior counsel Jake Warner from Christian legal advocates Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) writes Mr. Phillips’ fate could hinge on the landmark decision issued earlier this year by the US Supreme Court when it upheld free speech for all, blocking the state’s intent to compel a Colorado web designer to create custom websites celebrating views of marriage against her faith.
Mr. Warner argues the same law challenged in that case — Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act — is the one activists and state officials “have been misusing for 11 years to coerce Mr. Phillips to create custom cakes that celebrate ideas and communicate messages he doesn’t believe in.”
“The first case tried to force the baker to create a custom cake celebrating a view of marriage contrary to his beliefs. The Supreme Court justices determined that a lower court ruling against Mr. Phillips was compromised by deep bias against his religious beliefs.”
“The second case was precipitated by a phone call from an activist attorney requesting that Mr. Phillips create a custom cake symbolising and celebrating a gender transition. The same attorney called again to request a second custom cake, depicting Satan smoking marijuana. The baker politely declined both requests.”
Mr. Warner writes that the attorney then filed the current lawsuit, threatening to continue harassing Mr. Phillips until he is punished. “Two lower courts in Colorado have ruled that the baker can be forced to create custom expression promoting ideas he doesn’t believe in, but since then the web designer decision has underscored the Supreme Court’s determination to protect the free speech rights of all Americans under the First Amendment of the US Constitution.”
The ADF senior counsel believes that ruling should mean success for Mr. Phillips in his current appeal. He argues that “because the requested cake expresses a message, it is protected speech. A loss at the Colorado high court would likely mean another appeal to the US Supreme Court, inviting the justices to apply the web designer case precedent to protect Mr. Phillips’ freedom. A win in Colorado would be a meaningful affirmation of the right of all Americans — whatever their beliefs — to express those beliefs without fear of government punishment.”
“It would also mean a welcome end to the more than a decade of suffering Mr. Phillips and his family have endured in pursuit of their constitutionally protected freedoms. As one of his attorneys for most of those years, I’ve watched him move through challenge after challenge with persistence and faith — always hopeful, always thankful, always looking for a way to love his neighbour and to honour his God in the face of unrelenting opposition.”
“His example reminds me of Paul’s words to the Corinthians: We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”