The state of California is launching a “witch hunt” against a baker who was cleared of anti-discrimination charges for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex duo, her lawyers say.
The charges against Tastries Bakery owner Cathy Miller were dropped by a judge who ruled the case centered on the First Amendment, not a new anti-discrimination regulation, and the state could not force Miller to express a message her faith forbade.
But now, according of Charles LiMandri of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, which is defending Miller, the state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing is “relaunching” an investigation, “despite suffering a resounding court defeat.”
Her case was decided by a California judge prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that a Colorado Christian baker was not required to make a wedding cake for a same-sex duo.
“This is a witch hunt. Once again, the California government is proving that it will stop at nothing to punish Cathy for her Christian faith,” LiMandri asserted.
The state agency went after Miller when a same-sex couple filed a discrimination complaint last year alleging she refused to bake a wedding cake for them because of their sexual orientation.
After opening a formal investigation, government officials then filed a motion asking the court to order Miller to create custom wedding cakes for all customers or none at all, FCDF said.
Miller’s lawyers argued the First Amendment prohibits the government from forcing their client to violate her sincerely held religious beliefs, and Judge David Lampe agreed.
He held Miller cannot be compelled to engage in expressive speech that violates her conscience. The state initially appealed the decision but quickly withdrew it.
However, the state demanded again to interrogate Miller, her husband and an employee.
“Under California state law, a final judgment is the ultimate determination of a party’s rights. Thus, Cathy has already been completely vindicated of any claim against her,” her lawyers said.
If the state insists on continuing to prosecute Miller, FCDF said it will move to enforce the existing judgment and seek attorneys’ fees under state law.
“The court’s ruling ended this case. The DFEH had their chance to appeal the ruling, but they conceded defeat. Any further action the government takes against Cathy is merely to bully and persecute her,” the lawyers said.
Lampe, a superior court judge, had rejected the state’s demand to sanction Miller, explaining the issue was First Amendment free-speech rights, not discrimination. The judge said the state was asking the 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,” the judge said.
He made clear that the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing was pursuing a losing cause.
“The state cannot meet the test that its interest outweighs the free speech right at issue in this particular case, or that the law is being applied by the least restrictive means,” the judge wrote. “The court cannot retreat from protecting the free speech right implicated in this case based upon the specter of factual scenarios not before it.”