A group of African-American rights activists have spoken out in defense of Colorado Christian baker Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop as his religious freedom case will be argued before the United States Supreme Court in December.
Three conservative African-American public policy groups — the Frederick Douglass Foundation, Star Parker's Center of Urban Renewal and Education (CURE) and pro-life activist Ryan Bomberger's Radiance Foundation — launched a new website titled WeGotYourBackJack.com in support of Phillip's First Amendment right.
The website was announced at a press conference outside the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. on Monday in which a handful of African-American activists and leaders spoke in defense of Phillips.
Among those who spoke at the press conference were Dean Nelson, the chairman and co-founder of the Frederick Douglass Foundation, and Rev. William Avon Keen, the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Virginia, which was founded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
"Jack is somebody to be admired and someone who is standing for what he believes in," Nelson, who is also the head of African-American affairs at the social conservative advocacy group Family Research Council, said in a video featured on the new website.
"Wherever there is a person who is degraded, Frederick Douglass insisted that those people needed to be supported and to be advocated for," Nelson continued. "I think Jack's story is a powerful story of how a person who loves people can be twisted with a culture that has demeaned and castigated him."
Phillips was found guilty of violating state discrimination law by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission in 2014 after he refused to bake a cake for the wedding of Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig in 2012.
Although Phillips sells baked goods to anybody regardless of their sexual orientation, he objects to participating in certain events that violate his religious beliefs such as gay weddings and even Halloween cakes. The commission ordered Phillips to undergo sensitivity training and change his policies to conform to state law.
Although Phillips appealed, he lost his case before the Colorado Court of Appeals in 2015 and in 2016, the state Supreme Court decided not to hear the case. However, the U.S. Supreme Court decided this summer to take up the case.
Leading conservative religious liberty groups have referred to the case — Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission — as one of the most important U.S. Supreme Court cases "in our lifetimes."
As the debate over whether Christian wedding vendors should be forced to provide their services, products and works of art to same-sex weddings, many LGBT advocates have compared the discrimination faced by those in the LGBT community today to the racism, injustice and segregation faced by African-Americans throughout American history.
However, Nelson decried such an argument and insisted that Phillips struggle for First Amendment rights is more comparable.
"When I am asked to compare the civil rights struggle to the movement of the LGBT community, I think first and foremost that there is no comparison," Nelson argued in the video.
"To be honest, if I think about it deeply, Jack is probably a modern representation of someone who went through what African-Americans actually went through," Nelson added. "He simply wants to live his life peaceably, to conduct himself and run his business without being bothered. But yet, he is subjugated and ostracized simply because of what he believes. I believe that idea is absolutely absurd and I think that people of good conscience, if they knew his story, would understand that he is the furthest thing from a racist but is the one who is being subjected."
Day Gardner, the founder of the National Black Prolife Union, is another leader whose defense of Phillips can be found on WeGotYourBackJack.com.
"I can't believe we've gotten to the place where people like Jack Phillips are being discriminated against because of who they are," Gardner said in a statement. "I have Jack's back because we live in this great country — America — where we are able to pursue Life , Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."
Bomberger said in a statement on the website that no one should be forced to design something that is contrary to their beliefs.
"The First Amendment guarantees our freedom of expression. #JusticeForJack is justice for every creative professional," Bomberger argued. "We have to distinguish between loving every human being and loving every human doing. The LGBT movement has tried to co-opt the blood-bought civil rights legacy of black Americans. But, contrary to GBT rhetoric, gay is not the new black."