A Christian baker in California just wants to run her business called Cathy’s Creations and Tastries in accordance with her faith, but the state continues to relentlessly persecute her and pursue her in the courts because of her faith.
Cathy Miller opened her bakery more than a decade ago in the San Joaquin Valley city of Bakersfield, but has been targeted by the California Department of Civil Rights for the past seven years. In 2017, it launched an investigation into her business and sued the baker after she explained to a same sex couple that her faith did not allow her to design their wedding cake. The state then repeatedly compared Ms. Miller’s religious beliefs about marriage to racism and argued that those beliefs harmed “the dignity of all Californians,” according to her attorneys from the Becket Fund For Religious Liberty.
CBN News reports that Tastries was then flooded with angry social media posts, death threats, and harassing emails and phone calls that threatened to violently assault Ms. Miller and her staff. As a result, some employees quit, fearing for their safety. Contracts were also cancelled.
“Targeting a family-run bakery because of the owner’s religious beliefs is mean-spirited, illegal, and deserves no place in our society,” said Adèle Keim, senior counsel at Becket. “California officials should have never started this campaign against Cathy and her bakery. California should let Cathy bake in peace,” she added.
Cathy Miller’s bakery’s mission statement is to “honour God in all that we do,” and her Baptist faith influences everything from the Bible verses she puts on her business cards to the music she plays in the shop. She also developed written design standards to ensure that Tastries’ custom bakery items didn’t violate her religious beliefs.
They included not designing violent, satanic or obscene images; depicting drug use and racism; and demeaning others; as well as celebrating divorce and same sex marriage. When same sex couples requested a custom-designed wedding cake, the policy was to refer them to a nearby bakery which would undertake the job.
“My faith calls me to serve others with joy and compassion, and Tastries has been my way of answering that call since I opened its doors, All I want is to continue serving my local community without being forced into court or threatened for following my faith,” Ms. Miller explained.
Her hopes rose in 2018 when a county judge ruled that she had the legal right to not make a wedding cake for a same sex couple. Kern County Superior Court Judge David Lampe ruled at the time that cakes celebrating events are a form of speech and that the state cannot force her to act against her sincerely held beliefs.
The Court of Appeal later vacated that ruling and sent the lawsuit back to the county where in 2022, a second judge ruled in Ms. Miller’s favour after the state’s Department of Fair Housing and Employment sued her, arguing she intentionally discriminated against the same-sex couple in violation of California’s Civil Rights Act. Kern County Superior Court Judge Eric Bradshaw ruled Ms. Miller acted lawfully while upholding her beliefs about what the Bible teaches regarding marriage.
California appealed that verdict as well and sent it back to the Court of Appeal with state officials reportedly arguing that “because the pre-designed, unadorned cake was not inherently expressive, it was not entitled to First Amendment protection traditionally given to speech or other expressive conduct
CBN News reports state’s attorneys have since compared Ms. Miller’s beliefs about marriage to racism and claimed that her beliefs are harmful to Californians. “During the Department’s six-year-long prosecution, it has engaged in repeated mischaracterisations of Ms. Miller’s beliefs and publicly compared her to vile racists, while turning a blind eye to the hate crimes that she and her staff have suffered. The Department’s bias is another reason its appeal should fail,” wrote the baker’s responding brief which was submitted to the Court of Appeal last week, requesting affirmation of the lower court rulings in her favour.
Ms. Keim told Bakersfield.com that the state has unfairly compared Ms. Miller’s case to the racist policies of the post-Civil War South. “They’ve spent a lot of time comparing her to racists and accusing her of trying to ‘turn back the clock’ for other people. The evidence in this case shows that is not what she has done, that is not her beliefs,” the Becket attorney stressed.
The California Family Council which is also supporting Ms. Miller wrote that; “The First Amendment ensures that we all are free to live and work by our religious beliefs. Ms. Miller is simply asking that these cherished freedoms be preserved for all Californians.”
The case is expected to be heard mid-year.
Photo: Becket Law