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Christian Cake Maker Forced to Bake Cake for Gay Couple

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  • Nate Kellum
    Nate Kellum is Chief Counsel for the Center for Religious Expression.
By Nate Kellum, CP Op-Ed Contributor
June 3, 2014|11:54 am

Marie Antoinette may never have said "Let them eat cake," but, in Colorado the seven-member Civil Rights Commission recently declared their intention to make them bake cake, ordering a Christian baker to design and prepare wedding cakes for same-sex couples – or else suffer the consequences.

Two years ago, Jack Phillips, who owns Masterpiece Cakeshop in suburban Denver, politely declined to make a wedding cake signifying a union between two men. Phillips said he would sell them any baked good in his shop, and would appreciate the business, but he could not craft a cake promoting a same-sex wedding due to his faith and beliefs about marriage.

The couple was not pleased, unwilling to accept anything other than a cake demonstrating full, unequivocal support for same-sex marriages. Enlisting the aid of the ACLU, they brought charges, and an administrative judge ruled that Phillips violated civil rights law by discriminating against the couple.

Last Friday, the state Civil Rights Commission considered the matter and unanimously upheld the judge's ruling against Phillips, requiring him to submit quarterly reports for two years, documenting how he has changed company policy and trained employees to end "discrimination" at his workplace.

But Jack Phillips has not engaged in any form of invalid discrimination. Masterpiece Cakeshop has never denied service to anyone. All of the cakes, cookies, brownies and other pastries offered at the shop are available for purchase by any person with sufficient funds.

Phillips only seeks the freedom to refrain from making a product that runs afoul of his deeply-held religious beliefs. ACLU carelessly describes Phillips as "retail service provider," but Masterpiece Cakeshop doesn't sell cookie-cutter items. Each cake Phillips bakes is an individualized creation and represents Phillips as the maker.

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No artist should be forced to express beliefs contrary to his own views in his own art. Though Phillips uses flour and sugar instead of watercolors or pastels, his type of art is still art, and inextricably linked to his identity.

Phillips does not wish to contribute to a same-sex wedding ceremony with his artistry because of his religious conviction that the institution of marriage ought to be reserved for one man and one woman. This earnest belief need not be shared by anyone to be legitimate, and yet, many do share this view.

The belief in the traditional view of marriage is held by millions of other Coloradoans.

Ironically, not even the state of Colorado recognizes same-sex marriages as legal unions. While compelling Phillips to participate in the celebration of same-sex weddings, the state has not yet sanctioned them.

Contrary to the ruling of the Commission, Americans are not obliged to violate their religious beliefs with their own creations. Phillips does not forfeit his constitutional right to act according to conscience by operating a business.

An appeal of the Commission's ruling is anticipated, and for good reason. The issue goes far beyond the marriage debate. The freedom we all enjoy to follow our conscience is fundamental and we cannot forsake this right for a political cause, regardless of how we think marriage should be defined.

According to legend, the phrase, "Let them eat cake," led to outrage among the populace because – in the face of a hunger epidemic – the words exposed a monarchy oblivious to the circumstances of the people. In the same way, the Commission, being a contemporary version of a monarchy, is seemingly oblivious to the impact of their ruling.

To make them bake cake is to trample on freedom.

Nate Kellum is chief counsel for the Center for Religious Expression a non-profit organization in Memphis, TN dedicated entirely to the protection of religious speech.
 

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