It’s been a long, long road for Christian baker Jack Phillips. Even after winning a Supreme Court victory that affirmed his right to decline to make same-sex wedding cakes, Phillips has been the target of multiple lawsuits attacking his deeply held Christian beliefs regarding sexuality as bigoted and illegal.
Now, he’s suing Colorado for anti-religious bias. Last Friday a federal court ruled that Phillips may continue his lawsuit against the state and its Civil Rights Commission. Judge Wiley Y. Daniel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado issued the order allowing Phillips’ lawsuit to proceed.
Judge Daniel also, however, granted the Civil Rights Division Director Aubrey Elenis’ motion to dismiss the baker’s allegations for compensatory, punitive and nominal damages, and the motion to dismiss Phillips’ claims for relief against newly elected Governor John Hickenlooper.
But the judge did deny the motion to dismiss the other elements of Phillips’ suit, which is being fought by the conservative legal group, Alliance Defending Freedom.
In a statement released Monday, ADF summarized the background of Phillips’ prolonged legal battle:
On June 26, 2017, the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, an attorney asked cake artist Jack Phillips to create a cake designed pink on the inside and blue on the outside, which the attorney said was to celebrate a gender transition from male to female. Phillips declined the request because the custom cake would have expressed messages about sex and gender identity that conflict with his religious beliefs. Less than a month after the Supreme Court ruled for Phillips in his first case, the state surprised him by finding probable cause to believe that Colorado law requires him to create the requested gender-transition cake.
“The same agency that the Supreme Court rebuked as hostile to Jack Phillips has remained committed to treating him unequally and forcing him to express messages that violate his religious beliefs,” ADF Senior Counsel Jim Campbell, who delivered an oral argument before the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado on December 18, said. “Colorado is acting in bad faith and with bias toward Jack. We look forward to moving forward with this lawsuit to ensure that Jack isn’t forced to create custom cakes that express messages in conflict with his faith.”
ADF maintains that the state sought to violate Phillips’ First Amendment free exercise of religion rights, free speech and due process rights. The group also rebuked the Civil Rights Commission’s adjudicative process as “flawed,” noting that “the same commissioners act as both accusers and adjudicators in the same case, an arrangement that the Supreme Court condemned in a 2016 decision.”
In the winning Supreme Court case, Phillips’ attorneys argued that no American should be forced to use creative or artistic expression if doing so violates his or her conscience.
Phillips has said his opposition to baking same-sex wedding cakes and “gender transition” cakes is based on his biblical beliefs, with the baker proclaiming that he would similarly reject 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,” as previously reported.
“You may recognize Jack Phillips. He’s the Colorado cake artist who was at the center of one of the year’s most-talked-about U.S. Supreme Court decisions,” ADF noted on its website back in September. “Although Jack won an important victory, the State of Colorado didn’t get the message. It is targeting him again!”
“Alliance Defending Freedom is defending Jack again. But this time, we’re not simply playing defense,” the statement continued. “We have filed a lawsuit against the relevant state officials. We have to put an end to this harassment.”