Christian baker who refused to bake cake for lesbian wedding prevails in court

Devout Christian Cathy Miller, owns Tastries Bakery in Bakersfield, California.
Devout Christian Cathy Miller, owns Tastries Bakery in Bakersfield, California. | (Photo: Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund)

A court has ruled that the Christian owner of Tastries Bakery in California acted lawfully when she refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple and instead referred them to a different bakery, citing her sincere religious belief that marriage is intended to be between one man and one woman.

Catharine “Cathy” Miller’s “only motivation, at all times, was to act consistent with her sincere Christian beliefs about what the Bible teaches regarding marriage,” Kern County Judge Eric Bradshaw wrote in the verdict, The Bakersfield Californian reported Saturday.

“That motivation was not unreasonable, or arbitrary, nor did it emphasize irrelevant differences or perpetuate stereotypes,” the judge added, concluding that the state's Department of Fair Housing and Employment failed to prove Miller intentionally discriminated against Eileen and Mireya Rodriguez-Del Rio five years ago in violation of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act.

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“It’s been a long five years,” Miller was quoted as saying. “I’m hoping that in our community we can grow together … and we should understand that we shouldn’t push any agenda against anyone else.”

On Facebook, the bakery wrote, “We appreciate your prayers and support as we joyfully continue to do business with you in the future.”

The Thomas More Society, which supported Miller in the lawsuit, called it “a First Amendment victory.”

“There’s a certain irony there, that a law intended to protect individuals from religious discrimination was used to discriminate against Cathy for her religious beliefs,” said Paul Jonna, Thomas More Society Special Counsel and partner at LiMandri & Jonna LLP.

“Cathy believes in the Bible,” noted Jonna, noting that Miller was “harassed by opposing attorneys for her adherence to its teachings.”

In February, State Attorney Gregory Mann asked Miller, “Do you try to follow everything that the Bible says?” Miller responded, “I do my best, but I’m a sinner, but I do my best.” Mann then asked, “Do you follow some of the eating practices from the Old Testament in terms of not eating pigs, not eating shellfish, et cetera?”

Jonna pointed out that the state questioned the sincerity of Miller’s faith. “The fact that they called Miller’s open and sincerely held beliefs into question is almost as disturbing as quibbling over her status as an artist.”

Del Rio called the ruling “disappointing.”

“We anticipate that our appeal will have a different result,” she was quoted as saying.

When Eileen Del Rio wrote about the incident on Facebook in 2017, it led to a flood of criticism against Miller, so much so that she said she had to temporarily take down the Tastries Bakery website and Facebook page.

The state's Department of Fair Employment and Housing later petitioned the court to issue a restraining order against Miller and her bakery to force the company to make cakes for same-sex weddings or stop making wedding cakes altogether if she refused.

“My conscience doesn’t allow me to participate in certain activities that are contrary to my biblical beliefs. I pray that we can all come to an understanding so that we can continue to get along,” Miller explained at the time.

In 2018, Superior Court Judge David Lampe rejected the state’s petition, saying Miller’s decision is protected by the First Amendment.

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