A Colorado Civil Rights Commissioner has said that a Christian cake company's decision to invoke religious freedom rights to refuse to bake a pro-gay marriage cake is comparable to slavery and the perpetrators of the Holocaust.
Alliance Defending Freedom, the legal firm representing Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, said that such comparisons have "no place in civil society."
"Such alarming bias and hostility toward Jack's religious beliefs — and toward religion in general — has no place in civil society, let alone on a governmental commission that sits in judgment of whether he may follow his faith in how he runs his business," said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco.
"Commissioner [Diann] Rice compared a private citizen who owns a small bakery to slaveholders and Holocaust perpetrators merely for asking that the state respect his right to free speech and free exercise of religion. Her comments suggest that others on the commission may share her view. This anti-religious bigotry undermines the integrity of the entire process and the commission's order as well."
Rice's comments apparently stem from a July 25, 2014, commission, which ordered Phillips to re-educate himself and his employees about marriage.
"I would also like to reiterate what we said in … the last meeting [concerning Jack Phillips]. Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the Holocaust. … I mean, we can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination," Rice said back then.
"And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use — to use their religion to hurt others."
Phillips was asked in 2012 by Charlie Craig and David Mullions to bake a cake for their wedding reception. Although the cake artist agreed to make them other baked items, he said that because of his Christian beliefs, he could not fulfill the request to make a cake for a same-sex wedding.
Craig and Mullions then filed a complaint with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union against Phillips, which led to the Colorado Civil Rights Division determining that Masterpiece Cakeshop had discriminated against the couple.
"The undisputed facts show that (Phillips) discriminated against complainants because of their sexual orientation by refusing to sell them a wedding cake for their same-sex marriage," wrote Administrative Law Judge Robert N. Spencer in his decision in December 2013.
Phillips has since stopped baking any wedding cakes for either straight or same-sex couples as a result of the decision.
ADF legal counsel Nicolle Martin added that contrary to Rice's views, the U.S. Supreme Court has not found sexual orientation to be a status equivalent to race.
"The First Amendment plainly forbids this type of religious bias, which together with the commission's demonstrated misstatements of constitutional law raises serious questions about their judgment," Martin said.
"Jack should not be forced by the government, or by another citizen, to endorse or promote ideas with which he disagrees. But it's worse when he is forced to do so by one or more officials who make serious errors in their legal analysis and justify coercing the speech of a private citizen by citing their own hostility to religion."