A state commission in Colorado that punished Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips for refusing to use his artistry to promote same-sex marriage could be eliminated.
Future funding for the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, where one member even likened Christians to Nazis, failed in a vote in the state’s Joint Budget Committee.
State Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, tweeted that the decision came down to a party-line vote that tabled plans to continue sending money to the commission.
“My argument against approving their funding today is we need to wait and see what the legislature does with the renewal of the law authorizing the commission, which is up for sunset review in this session,” he said, according to The Denver Channel.
The commission was a key player in the dispute over states’ authority to force Christian business operators to endorse same-sex “marriage” with their work. The panel accepted a complaint from a homosexual duo who demanded Phillips use his artistry for their wedding event, which took place before same-sex marriage was legal in Colorado.
Phillips declined the couple, and the state commission ordered him and his staff to undergo a reindoctrination program.
The state commission’s antagonism to Christian beliefs became evident at the outset of the case when commissioner Diann Rice publicly exhibited bias against Phillips during a hearing, comparing him to a Nazi.
“I would also like to reiterate what we said in the hearing or the last meeting,” Rice said during consideration of Phillips’ case. “Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the Holocaust, whether it be – I mean, we – we can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use to – to use their religion to hurt others.”
Hear a recording of Rice’s statement:
The Alliance Defending Freedom, which is defending Phillips, also pointed out that the same Colorado commission that punished Phillips exonerated three other “cake artists who refused to express religious messages” with which they disagreed. The rejected messages were all Christian messages.
“Had the commission applied the same rationale to those artists that it applied to Phillips, it would have punished them too. After all, [the law] forbids refusing service because of religious beliefs, and those cake artists admitted that they declined the requests because of the religious beliefs expressed on the cakes,” the organization said in its presentation to the Supreme Court.
Republicans on the legislative committee said they tabled the vote so they could hear the results of a sunset review, a periodic legislative look at whether state operations should be continued at taxpayer expense.
House Speaker Crisanta Duran, a Democrat from Denver, is sponsoring the sunset review plan.
State Sen. Kent Lambert, a Republican from southern Colorado, said: “We want to have a civil rights division fully funded to do the things that they’re actually chartered to do. This group of people has not been doing that. I think we will find out from the Supreme Court of the United States that they have exceeded their authority.”
The Phillips case already has been argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, and a decision on whether the state commission ignored the U.S. Constitution and violated his rights will be announced in the coming months.
Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office expressed anger that there was not automatic and full support for the state commission that attacked Christian beliefs.
“The Civil Rights Commission and its staff are charged with protecting Coloradans from unlawful discrimination and promoting equal protection in areas such as housing and employment,” said spokeswoman Jacque Montgomery. “Refusing to fund the commission is puzzling at best, and send the wrong message to Coloradans – and businesses looking to move to Colorado – on the state’s commitment to equal rights.”
The Denver Post reported the vote could be “revisited.”
The paper reported state Sen. Dominick Moreno, a Commerce City Democrat, demanded the funding to protect “‘everyone’s civil rights, whether it’s your sexual orientation, your race, your religion, your national origin.”
“All of those things are protected under the office of civil rights. I don’t see how limiting any of their work benefits the people of Colorado,” he said.
Moreno did not address the state’s violation of Phillips’ religious rights, protected by the U.S. Constitution.
In North Carolina, a judge ruled court officials violated the constitutional rights of a magistrate who refused to perform same-sex “marriages,” and they’ve reached a settlement paying her about a third of a million dollars.
A federal judge ruled last year the state courts were “required by law” to accommodate Gayle Myrick’s beliefs, leading to a settlement in January in which the state will provide Myrick back pay, retirement benefits and attorneys fees.
The other victory for traditional and biblical marriage came in California.
WND reported Tuesday a California judge refused to let the state force a Christian baker to use her artistry to create cakes for same-sex “weddings.”
The result was the opposite of the Colorado commission’s advocacy for same-sex “marriage.”
In the California case resolved this week, Cathy Miller of Tastries Bakery was targeted because she refused to use her artistic talents to promote the “wedding” of two lesbians.
The state asked Superior Court Judge David Lampe to issue a preliminary injunction ordering Miller either to create wedding cakes for same-sex duos or be barred from serving anyone.
But Lampe recognized that the issue is not about discrimination against same-sex couples.
“The state is not petitioning the court to order defendants to sell a cake. The state asks this court to compel Miller to use her talents to design and create a cake she has not yet conceived with the knowledge that her work will be displayed in celebration of a marital union her religion forbids. For this court to force such compliance would do violence to the essentials of Free Speech guaranteed under the First Amendment,” he wrote.
In the 2015 Supreme Court case creating same-sex “marriage, ” Justice Anthony Kennedy stated religious believers who publicly object to same-sex marriage are protected by the First Amendment.
He said it “must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.”
“The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths,” Kennedy wrote.