DENVER, December 19, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The Christian baker in Colorado who won a high-profile religious liberty case earlier this year is back in court, this time going on offense against the state officials he says are continuing to persecute him for refusing to create pro-LGBT products.
This summer, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that Colorado officials had discriminated against the Masterpiece Cakeshop owner’s religious beliefs while trying to force him to bake a cake for a same-sex “wedding.” But on June 26, Autumn Scardina filed a complaint against Phillips for declining to bake a cake that would be pink on the inside and blue on the outside, to celebrate his “transition” from male to female.
Two days later, Colorado Civil Rights Division (CCRD) director Aubrey Elenis wrote a letter concluding there was probable cause to conclude Phillips had unlawfully denied Scardina “equal enjoyment of a place of public accommodation.” It ordered the two to enter compulsory mediation to reach an amicable resolution.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the religious liberty nonprofit that represented Phillips in his original case, responded by filing a federal lawsuit against outgoing Democrat Gov. John Hickenlooper and the state civil rights commission, accusing them of ignoring the Supreme Court’s ruling and continuing to discriminate against Phillips’ faith.
“Jack had no choice but to file a federal lawsuit to defend himself from this targeting,” ADF’s Maureen Collins wrote. “He should not have to fear government punishment for his faith when he opens his cake shop for business every day. But it appears that Colorado will not stop harassing him until he closes down or agrees to violate his faith.”
The case went before the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado on Tuesday, Colorado Public Radio reports.
Jim Campbell, an ADF attorney representing Phillips, argued that the commissioners, all of whom were appointed by Hickenlooper, are acting as both accusers and judges in the case, which is particularly concerning in light of bias they’ve expressed against Phillips online.
“One current commissioner has publicly referred to Jack as a ‘hater’ on Twitter, one of several indications of the commission’s ongoing bias against Jack and his beliefs,” Campbell said prior to the hearing. “We’re asking the federal court to immediately stop Colorado’s efforts to punish Jack in order to shield him from a biased agency and ensure that he is not forced to express messages that violate his faith.”
Attorneys representing the state responded that the commission is merely enforcing duly-enacted state laws against “discrimination,” and that Phillips should be equally willing to make a pink-and-blue cake for a “gender transition celebration” as he would if the same design were requested for any other purpose.
Judge Wiley Daniel rejected ADF’s request for a preliminary injunction as overly broad, but gave them additional time to craft a narrower request with more specificity about the actions they wanted to stop. “Whatever I do here will be appealed,” he added.
“At this point, they're just targeting Christians. This is outright Christian persecution,” Colorado Christian University policy analyst Jeff Hunt, a friend of Phillips, told CBN News. “Jack Phillips is very much a canary in the coal mine with regard to the very important legal issues we're going to be facing.”
Though many conservatives celebrated the earlier Supreme Court ruling as a win for religious liberty, others warned that the narrow ruling ultimately failed to solve the problem because it was about the hostility the commission showed Phillips rather than his right not to bake certain cakes.
American Civil Liberties Union attorney David Cole, who represented the homosexual couple that sued Phillips, wrote after the ruling that his side had “lost a battle but won the war,” interpreting Justice Anthony Kennedy’s words to mean “states are free to require businesses, including bakers, to serve gay and lesbian customers equally, including in the provision of wedding cakes.”
Cole went so far as to say “Charlie Craig and David Mullins could go right back into Masterpiece Cakeshop today and request a cake to celebrate their wedding anniversary.”
Constitutional attorney Jenna Ellis agreed, telling CBN this week that the “Masterpiece decision was very particular to the commission, to say 'you cannot be overtly hostile.' So now what they're doing is they're just going to say, 'Well, we won't be as obvious about our hostility, but we still want to go after Jack.”
She welcomed Phillips and ADF’s more proactive approach. “If Christians are always only on the defensive, then we're going to continue to lose ground,” she said. “We have to be also making sure that we're standing up and we're standing forward.”
“This is about whether or not the government can compel you or me to say something and to embrace and celebrate messages that go against our sincerely-held religious beliefs,” Ellis warned.