Christian Baker Appeals to Colo. High Court as State Demands He Serve Gay Weddings

Colorado baker Jack Phillips. | (Photo: Screen Grab via CBS 4)

The Christian Colorado baker who was found guilty of discrimination for declining to make a cake for a same-sex wedding in 2012 has appealed his case to the state supreme court, which gives the court the opportunity to weigh the hot-button issue of whether private wedding venders have the right not to work gay weddings on the basis of religious objection.

Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, officially filed an appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court last Friday after the Court of Appeals decided in August to uphold a May 2014 Civil Rights Commission ruling that he could not legally refuse to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples on the grounds that it violated his religious convictions.

The ruling by the commission requires Phillips to not only serve cake at same-sex wedding ceremonies against his will, but also re-educate his staff to be in compliance with Colorado's Anti-Discrimination Act. Additionally, Phillips must file quarterly compliance reports for the next two years.

With the help of lawyers from the Alliance Defending Freedom, Phillips' petition to the supreme court explains that he has long integrated faith with work by honoring God by declining to bake cakes that violate his Christian beliefs.

In over 20 years of service, Phillips has declined to bake cakes with anti-Christian, anti-family, anti-American themes and cakes that promote Halloween, atheism, racism or indecency. Likewise, Phillips has also consistently refused to make cakes for weddings that go against the biblical teachings of marriage.

"It was the duty of the Court of Appeals to adopt a reasonable interpretation of CADA that 'avoid[s] constitutional conflict.' But it did the opposite," the petition states. "By equating an artist's conscience-driven, message-based objection to creating expressive items that offend his beliefs with person-based discrimination based on sexual orientation, the court places CADA in direct conflict with the fundamental rights to free speech and free exercise of religion, and wrongly subordinates these rights to public accommodations law."

"The substantial statutory question concerning the scope of CADA, with its evident constitutional implications, warrants this court's review," the petition adds.

ADF senior legal counsel Jeremy Tedesco believes the government has no place in forcing private business owners to communicate messages that they do not agree with.

"Jack simply exercised the long-cherished American freedom to decline to use his artistic talents to promote a message with which he disagrees," Tedesco said in a statement shared with The Christian Post. "We are asking the Colorado Supreme Court to ensure that government understands that its duty is to protect the people's freedom to follow their beliefs personally and professionally, not force them to violate those beliefs as the price of earning a living."

While the Colorado Civil Rights Commission found Phillips guilty of discrimination for not baking a cake for a same-sex marriage ceremony, the same commission in April found three Denver bakeries not guilty of discrimination when they refused to make a cake for a man who wanted a Bible-shaped cake with Bible verses written on them.

"We commend the commission for reaching the right conclusion that these cake artists should not be forced to violate their conscience, but clearly the commission should have done the same for Jack Phillips," Tedesco said back in April.

"The commission found that these three cake artists have the freedom to decline creating unique cake creations because the artists found the requests offensive, but all Americans should be alarmed that the same commission determined that Jack doesn't have that same freedom."

Phillips is not the only baker in hot water for refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage ceremony. Melissa and Aaron Klein, the Christian owners of the now-closed Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery in Oregon, were fined $135,000 earlier this year by the state's bureau of labor and industries for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. A Christian grandmother in Washington was also fined $135,000 for refusing to provide floral arrangements to a same-sex wedding.

A Marist poll in March found that 65 percent of Americans oppose punishing wedding venders who decline to serve same-sex wedding ceremonies on the grounds of religious objection.

"Forcing people to promote ideas against their will is not an American concept. It undermines our constitutionally protected freedom of expression and our right to live free," Nicolle Martin, the ADF-allied attorney who wrote Phillip's petition to the state supreme court, said in a statement. "Every artist must be free to create work that expresses what he or she believes and not be forced to express contrary views."

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