Jack Phillips, the Christian baker who fought an unjust decision against him by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won last year, is now 2-0 against the religious bigotry of said Commission.
This week, following the revelations of ongoing anti-religious animus against Phillips by members of the Commission, the Commission agreed to dismiss its most recent administrative action—Masterpiece II—against Phillips related to a discrimination complaint against him for refusing to use his artistic skills to create a “gender transition” cake. The “gender transition” cake request, from a male Denver attorney who now identifies as female, appears to have been an intentional effort to enlist the state in harassing Phillips a second time.
Phillips and his attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom did not take this second case lying down. They filed their own lawsuit against the State of Colorado and the Commission for religious discrimination and harassment.
It was already well-known that one commissioner called Jack a “cake hater” in a Twitter thread in 2013 concerning the same-sex couple’s request for a wedding cake that was at issue in Masterpiece I. It is also well known that one commissioner, Diann Rice, likened Phillips’ religious claims in Masterpiece I to the perpetrators of the Holocaust and slave-owners. She also called Phillips’ religious defense “one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use.” Those comments were specifically noted by Justice Anthony Kennedy in his majority opinion in Masterpiece I that Colorado had violated Jack’s First Amendment right to freedom of religion by its display of religious hostility and unfair treatment.
Recently, evidence surfaced that two current commissioners made statements following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Masterpiece I in support of the anti-religious sentiments expressed by Commissioner Diann Rice noted above. Instead of feeling chastened by the Supreme Court’s rebuke in Masterpiece I, these commissioners doubled down and re-stated their support for the hateful statements made by Commissioner Rice.
Also, about the same time that those revelations surfaced, a Colorado legislator spoke with another current commissioner who alleged that indeed there was anti-religious bias at the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The commissioner was willing to speak in public about it, but feared the repercussions that might come from it. Clearly, supporting religious freedom in Colorado can be risky.
Faced with this evidence, Colorado had no choice but to cave and dismiss its action against Phillips, who also agreed to drop his lawsuit against Colorado.
Make no mistake. This “settlement” enables Colorado to avoid another embarrassing repeat of Masterpiece I. It also serves to highlight the more dangerous aspects of today’s civil rights commissions, especially those with sexual orientation and gender identity (“SOGI”) laws to enforce. These commissions—and Colorado has been a perfect example—typically include LGBT activists and supporters whose interest in a case like Phillips’ is not to observe constitutional niceties like our freedoms of speech and religion, but to enforce an agenda that tramples those freedoms.