Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission is dropping its latest prosecution of Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, who last year won his case at the U.S. Supreme Court over his refusal to promote same-sex marriage through his artistry because of his Christian beliefs.
The commission launched the second case after Phillips declined to fulfill a request to provide a cake with pink on the inside and blue on the outside to promote a “gender transition.”
His lead lawyer, Kristen Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom, said that with Colorado’s dismissal of its second case, the state is “stopping its six and a half years of hostility toward [Phillips] for his beliefs.”
“Jack’s victory is great news for everyone. Tolerance and respect for good-faith differences of opinion are essential in a diverse society like ours,” she said. “They enable us to peacefully coexist with each another. But the state’s demonstrated and ongoing hostility toward Jack because of his beliefs is undeniable.”
In its first case against Phillips, the commission ordered him to undergo reindoctrination for allegedly violating its nondiscrimination law.
Throughout the dispute, Phillips has explained he would provide a cake to any customers, but will not include a message that violates his religious beliefs.
The Supreme Court cited the hostility toward Phillips’ faith exhibited by commission member Diann Rice when Phillips’ first case came before the body. The commission operated in recent years under the supervision of Gov. John Hickenlooper, who declared his candidacy for the Democratic Party presidential nomination this week.
Rice compared Phillips to a Nazi: “I would also like to reiterate what we said in the hearing or the last meeting. 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:
Alliance Defending Freedom lawyers also filed a lawsuit on behalf of Phillips against the state for its ongoing and open “hostility” to religious freedom.
Among the new factors that likely played a role in the decision to drop the second case were revelations that a civil rights commissioner called Phillips a “hater” online,” another commissioner expressed concern about “anti-religious bias on the commission” and two other commissioners endorsed Rice’s remarks.
“We’re pleased that the state will be dismissing its case against Jack,” said Waggoner. “This is the second time the state has launched a failed effort to prosecute him. While it finally appears to be getting the message that its anti-religious hostility has no place in our country, the state’s decision to target Jack has cost him more than six-and-a-half years of his life, forcing him to spend that time tied up in legal proceedings.”
“We hope that the state is done going along with obvious efforts to harass Jack,” added ADF Senior Counsel Jim Campbell. “He shouldn’t be driven out of business just because some people disagree with his religious beliefs and his desire to live consistently with them. We look forward to the day when Jack doesn’t have to fear government punishment for his faith or harassment from people who oppose his beliefs.”
The U.S. Supreme Court said the commission’s “treatment of Phillips’ case … showed elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs motivating his objection.”
“As the record shows, some of the commissioners at the commission’s formal, public hearings endorsed the view that religious beliefs cannot legitimately be carried into the public sphere or commercial domain, disparaged Phillip’s faith as despicable and characterized it as merely rhetorical, and compared his invocation of his sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust.
“No commissioners objected to the comments,” the justices pointedly wrote.
It was state Rep. Dave Williams who submitted a statement that a commisioner “said that they believe there is anti-religion bias on the commission.”
Fabrizio said, “I was actually proud of what she [Rice] said.”
Lewis said: “I support Commissioner Diann Rice and her comments. I don’t think she said anything wrong.”
The Denver Post reported in December that at a hearing, the judge said he likely would deny Colorado’s demand to dismiss Phillips’ lawsuit as well as Phillips’ request to dismiss the state’s new complaint.
The problem for the state is that the same commission that has prosecuted Phillips repeatedly has given a free pass to several homosexual bakers accused of refusing to create a cake with a message they oppose.
When complaints of discrimination were filed in those cases, the state concluded the bakers had a right not to produce something that violated their beliefs.
Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., had asked the Department of Justice to intervene.
“Both Mr. Phillips and Masterpiece serve everyone. All people – no matter who they are, what they believe or what protected class they belong to – are welcome in Mr. Phillips’ shop and may purchase anything available for sale,” the congressman argued. “But as a devout Christian, Mr. Phillips cannot create custom cakes the express messages or that celebrate events in conflict with his deeply held religious beliefs.”
Dobson, who has counseled five presidents, written dozens of books and guided Christian families in negotiating the intricate pathways of parenthood, said, “We strongly condemn the decision of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to allow this new claim of discrimination to move forward. This is simply a continued attack on the First Amendment and religious freedom.
“We call upon the Colorado legislature to provide unbiased, fair, constitutional due process for all Coloradoans, including people of faith, and to prevent future hostility by this biased government agency.”
The commission repeatedly have refused to comment to WND.