Cake artist asks Colo. Supreme Court to affirm his freedom of expression
DENVER – A Lakewood, Colorado, cake artist who declined to use his artistic talents to create a wedding cake celebrating a same-sex ceremony asked the state’s highest court Friday to take his case and rule that the government cannot force him to communicate a message with which he fundamentally disagrees.
ADF attorneys and allied attorneys filed the petition after the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled in August to affirm a Colorado Civil Rights Commission decision from May 2014. That decision ordered Jack Phillips and his staff at Masterpiece Cakeshop to design cakes for same-sex celebrations. The decision also ordered Phillips to comply with Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act by re-educating his staff and filing quarterly “compliance” reports for two years.
“The freedom to live and work consistently with one’s faith is at the heart of what it means to be an American,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “Jack simply exercised the long-cherished American freedom to decline to use his artistic talents to promote a message with which he disagrees. 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.”
According to a March 13 Marist poll, 65 percent of Americans oppose penalizing wedding vendors who choose not to provide services for same-sex ceremonies on religious grounds.
In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to design a wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex ceremony. In an exchange lasting about 30 seconds, Phillips politely declined, explaining that he would gladly make them any other type of baked item they wanted but that he could not design a cake promoting a same-sex ceremony because of his faith.
Craig and Mullins, now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, immediately left the shop and later filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which eventually ruled against Phillips. The same-sex couple was easily able to obtain their desired rainbow-themed cake from another nearby baker.
In contrast to the ruling against Phillips, the commission found in March that three Denver bakeries were not guilty of creed discrimination when they declined to create a cake for a Christian customer who sought a cake that reflected his religious opposition to same-sex marriage.
Contrary to the assertions of the commission and the state appeals court, Phillips did not engage in any type of discrimination based on the sexual orientation of the customer, the petition filed with the Colorado Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Craig explains.
“Phillips…honors God through his creative work by declining to use his artistic talents to design and create cakes that violate his religious beliefs…,” the petition states. “This includes cakes with offensive written messages and cakes celebrating events or ideas that violate his beliefs, including cakes celebrating Halloween, anti-American or anti-family themes, atheism, racism, or indecency…. He also will not create cakes with hateful, vulgar, or profane messages, or sell any products containing alcohol…. Consistent with this longtime practice, Phillips also will not create cakes celebrating any marriage that is contrary to biblical teaching….”
“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 petition continues, “the [appeals] 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.”
“Every artist must be free to create work that expresses what he or she believes and not be forced to express contrary views,” added lead counsel Nicolle Martin, one of more than 2,600 private attorneys allied with ADF. “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.”
- Pronunciation guide: Tedesco (Tuh-DESS’-koh)
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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