Masterpiece Cakeshop Baker Claims He’s Being Persecuted for His Beliefs Again

15 Aug

Masterpiece Cakeshop Baker Claims He’s Being Persecuted for His Beliefs Again

A discrimination complaint was filed against owner Jack Phillips for refusing to bake a cake for a transgender customer

The baker whose refusal to make a same-sex wedding cake on religious and artistic grounds went all the way to the Supreme Court has filed a fresh lawsuit against the state of Colorado. This time, he’s claiming the state is waging a “war against him by embarking on another attempt to prosecute him” over renewed allegations of discrimination at the bakery, according to NBC News.

In the latest documented incident, transgender woman Autumn Scardina alleges that she called to order a birthday cake from Lakewood, Colorado’s Masterpiece Cakeshop and was welcomed up until she explained that the cake was being ordered to celebrate the anniversary of her transition. “The woman on the phone told me they do not make cakes celebrating gender changes,” Scardina alleged; she filed a discrimination complaint on June 26, 2017.

The state agency that received Scardina’s accusations last year ruled in June of this year that there was probable cause that Masterpiece Cakeshop discriminated against Scardina for being transgender. But attorneys representing Masterpiece Cakeshop bakery owner Jack Phillips filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against officials with the state Civil Rights Commission, the attorney general, and governor John Hickenlooper. The lawsuit claims that the recent decision by Colorado’s Civil Rights Division proves the state is “on a crusade to crush” Phillips because government officials “despise what he believes and how he practices his faith.”

By filing the lawsuit, Phillips seems to be pushing for a more finite religious freedom protection than what was offered in the June 2018 Supreme Court decision that bares his bakery’s name. In that case, which was ruled 7-2 in the bakery’s owner’s favor, SCOTUS reversed a prior court’s decision that ruled the state’s discrimination protections outweighed the freedoms of religion and artistic expression as guaranteed by the First Amendment. It did not, as many erroneously interpreted, hold that religious freedom trumps discrimination protections more broadly. Instead, the SCOTUS decision was quite narrow and avoided addressing those underlying constitutional questions. Future cases could have major consequences for cases involving claims of discrimination.

In the new lawsuit, Phillips claims that during the six years of court hearings that culminated in the SCOTUS decision, he was targeted for his beliefs:

On the same day that the Supreme Court announced it would hear Phillips’s case, a Colorado lawyer called his shop and requested a cake designed with a blue exterior and pink interior, which the caller said would visually depict and celebrate a gender transition. Throughout the next year, Phillips received other requests for cakes celebrating Satan, featuring Satanic symbols, depicting sexually explicit materials, and promoting marijuana use. Phillips believes that some of those requests came from the same Colorado lawyer.

In a written state filing, Scardina, who is an attorney, outlined what she believes to be a discriminatory act: “I believe that other people who request birthday cakes get to select the color and theme of the cake. I believe that I was not allowed to order a birthday cake because I requested that its color and theme celebrate my transition from male to female.”

According Phillips’s new lawsuit, Masterpiece Cakeshop refused to make the cake for Scardina “because it would have celebrated messages contrary to his religious belief that sex — the status of being male or female — is given by God, is biologically determined, is not determined by perceptions or feelings, and cannot be chosen or changed.” Colorado’s “continuing efforts to target Phillips do not just violate the Constitution; they cross the line into bad faith.”

In the decision that Phillips is now contesting, the Civil Rights Commission referred to the SCOTUS case in their argument against him: “As asserted by the Supreme Court, ‘It is unexceptional that Colorado law can protect gay persons, just as it can protect other classes of individuals, in acquiring whatever products and services they choose on the same terms and conditions are offered to other members of the public,’” they write. Phillips’s lawyers, in their suit, say “that citing the Masterpiece decision [represents] support for the state’s renewed efforts to harass Phillips.”

Colorado Baker Back in Court After Turning Away Transgender Woman [NBC]
Baker Wins Supreme Court LGBTQ Wedding Cake Case [E]
The Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Wedding Cake Ruling Does Not Dismantle LGBTQ Protections [E]
All Lawsuits Coverage [E]
All Policy Coverage [E]

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