A Christian baker who won a major religious freedom case last year at the Supreme Court claimed victory again Tuesday when the Colorado Civil Rights Commission announced it was voluntarily withdrawing a suit for his failure to bake a cake celebrating transgenderism.
Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, had won a landmark ruling against the commission at the Supreme Court in 2018 when, weeks later, the commission opened an additional case against him.
In the second case, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission claimed Phillips violated the state’s anti-discrimination law when he refused to bake a cake celebrating Autumn Scardina’s transition from male to female. Scardina wanted the cake to be blue on the outside and pink on the inside, but Phillips declined to make it due to his deeply held Christian beliefs.
Colorado’s attorney general announced Tuesday the commission reached an agreement with Phillips to voluntarily dismiss the case. For his part, Phillips and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) agreed to voluntarily dismiss their federal lawsuit against the state. In January, a federal judge refused Colorado’s request to dismiss ADF’s suit.
“After careful consideration of the facts, both sides agreed it was not in anyone’s best interest to move forward with these cases,” said Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, a Democrat.
The state’s decision may have been driven by new evidence ADF discovered that potentially showed hostility toward Phillips’ faith -- an issue at the heart of the 2018 Supreme Court case. In his majority opinion last year, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “The Civil Rights Commission’s treatment of his case has some elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs that motivated his objection.”
That earlier case involved Phillips’ decision not to bake and design a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding. The newer case involved transgenderism, but ADF claimed the commission remained hostile toward religion. ADF uncovered a Tweet in which one commissioner called Phillips a “hater.” Further, a state legislator had come forward saying he had spoken to a current commissioner who said “there is anti-religious bias on the commission.” The commissioner was willing to speak publicly.
ADF applauded the commission’s decision to drop the complaint. Phillips battled the commission for more than six years.
“Jack’s victory is great news for everyone,” said ADF’s Kristen Waggoner, who argued his case at the Supreme Court. “Tolerance and respect for good-faith differences of opinion are essential in a diverse society like ours. They enable us to peacefully coexist with each other. But the state’s demonstrated and ongoing hostility toward Jack because of his beliefs is undeniable.”
Phillips said he has “and will always serve everyone who comes into my shop.”
“I simply can’t celebrate events or express messages that conflict with my religious beliefs,” he said. “The Supreme Court affirmed that government hostility against people of faith is unconstitutional and that Colorado was hostile to my faith. That hostility cost me 40 percent of my business and the wedding work that I love to do. … Today is a win for freedom. I’m very grateful and looking forward to serving my customers as I always have: with love and respect.”
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: Alliance Defending Freedom
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.