Baker Faces Prison for Refusing to Bake Same-Sex Wedding Cake
This column by ACRU Senior Legal Analyst Ken Klukowski was published December 12, 2013 on Breitbart.com.
Jack Phillips is a baker who declined to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because his Christian belief is that marriage exists only between a man and woman. Now a Colorado judge has ordered him to bake cakes for same-sex marriages, and if Phillips refuses, he could go to jail.
Phillips owns a small business, Masterpiece Cakeshop, in Lakewood, Colorado. A homosexual couple–Charlie Craig and David Mullins–visited Phillips’s store on July 19, 2012, asking him to bake them a cake to celebrate their wedding. Although the Colorado Constitution defines marriage as between only one man and one woman, these men claimed to have been already married in Massachusetts and wanted to celebrate the wedding in Colorado.
Phillips is an Evangelical Christian who holds to the belief that marriage is between a man and woman. When Phillips bakes a wedding cake, he interprets it as participating in the wedding celebration, and he explained that, therefore, he does not make cakes for gay marriages.
Craig and Mullins complained to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. On Dec. 6, 2013, an administrative law judge–Robert Spencer–ruled that Masterpiece Cakeshop and Jack Phillips violated Colorado’s antidiscrimination law. Spencer ordered Phillips to bake cakes celebrating gay marriage for any other parties that ask for such a cake in the future.
Spencer readily acknowledged the authenticity of Phillips’s faith, including in his findings of fact:
Phillips has been a Christian for approximately 35 years, and believes in Jesus Christ as his Lord and savior. As a Christian, Phillips’ main goal in life is to be obedient to Jesus and His teachings in all aspects of his life[;] Phillips believes the Bible is the inspired word of God[;] its commands are binding on him[;] God’s intention for marriage is the union of one man and one woman.
Relevant to his professional work, Spencer included as a factual finding, “Phillips believes that if he uses his artistic talents to participate in same-sex weddings by creating a wedding cake, he will be displeasing God and acting contrary to the teachings of the Bible.”
Phillips’s lead lawyer is Nicolle Martin, who is representing him pro bono as part of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a network of over 2,000 Christian attorneys nationwide who defend people in their local communities when their religious liberties are violated.
Spencer understands Martin’s argument that Phillips uses his artistic talents to make cakes that convey a message. Phillips is engaging in a form of speech when he makes a cake, and making a gay-marriage cake for these two men would therefore compel him to send a message that his religious conscience cannot allow.
Nonetheless, Spencer held that all this “fails to take into account the cost to society and the hurt caused to persons who are denied service simply because of who they are.”
In other words, Phillips has no right to follow his Christian faith, or any other religion, when it involves refusing to embrace and celebrate gay marriage, even if there is no legal same-sex marriage in the state where all this happened.
Therefore, Jack Phillips is currently under a court order to bake same-sex wedding cakes if asked to do so. Under a Colorado law in effect in 2012, Phillips could be sent to jail for up to 12 months for his decision. Although that law has been repealed, it is possible that he could still be criminally prosecuted.
Phillips refuses to participate in same-sex wedding celebrations even though he realizes that, both under the now-repealed law, as well as for violating a court order, he could be incarcerated.
Martin told Breitbart News that Jack Phillips is committed to faithfully following Jesus Christ, regardless of the personal cost. As Martin explained:
American citizens should not have to live in fear of a prison sentence merely for disagreeing with the government’s opinion. All Americans should remain free to honor God in our lives and in our work. The government has no business threatening Americans with jail time for simply exercising their constitutionally-protected freedoms of religion and speech. Every American, whatever you think about this issue, should fear a government that ignores the First Amendment in order to exercise this kind of power over its citizens.
Martin and ADF will now take this case to the Colorado Court of Appeals.