Court allows Christian baker Jack Phillips to sue Colorado for anti-religious hostility
Colorado Christian baker Jack Phillips can continue his lawsuit against the state, accusing them of anti-religious bias against him for refusing to make cakes that support transgender identity and gay marriage, a federal court has ruled.
Judge Wiley Y. Daniel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado issued an order last Friday allowing Phillips’ lawsuit against Colorado and its Civil Rights Commission to continue.
In his order, Judge Daniel did grant the Civil Rights Division Director Aubrey Elenis’ motion to dismiss Phillips’ claims against them for compensatory, punitive and nominal damages, and the motion to dismiss Phillips’ claims for prospective relief against Governor John Hickenlooper.
However, Daniel denied the motion to dismiss the other aspects of Phillips’ litigation, among them being his claim of having the standing to sue the defendants and Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s motion to dismiss the claims against her.
Phillips is being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative law firm that has successfully argued litigation on behalf of Phillips at the U.S. Supreme Court.
ADF Senior Counsel Jim Campbell, who argued the lawsuit in front of the district court last month, said in a statement released on Monday that “Colorado is acting in bad faith and with bias toward Jack.”
“The same agency that the Supreme Court rebuked as hostile to Jack Phillips has remained committed to treating him unequally and forcing him to express messages that violate his religious beliefs,” stated Campbell.
“We look forward to moving forward with this lawsuit to ensure that Jack isn’t forced to create custom cakes that express messages in conflict with his faith.”
Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission that the state of Colorado showed an anti-religious bias when it punished baker Jack Phillips for refusing to make a same-sex wedding cake.
"When the Colorado Civil Rights Commission considered this case, it did not do so with the religious neutrality that the Constitution requires," read the majority opinion authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy.
"Given all these considerations, it is proper to hold that whatever the outcome of some future controversy involving facts similar to these, the commission's actions here violated the Free Exercise Clause; and its order must be set aside."
Soon after the decision, however, Phillips again found himself in legal trouble as the state Civil Rights Commission then argued that Phillips discriminated against Denver attorney Autumn Scardina, who wanted the baker to make a cake celebrating the lawyer’s gender transition.
Oral arguments were held last month, with Daniel quoted as explaining at the time that “I’m inclined to deny the motion to dismiss.”