Religious Colorado cake baker is back in the dock

Jack Phillips is the Christian cake baker from Colorado who had to go all the way to the Supreme Court to avoid being punished after declining to bake a wedding cake for a couple celebrating their gay marriage. To have baked the cake would have violated his strongly held religious beliefs.

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission didn’t care. It found him in violation of the law.

The Supreme Court overturned this outcome, but only on the limited grounds that the agency had displayed open animosity towards Phillips’ religious beliefs. Had the Commission been less candid, Phillips might have lost the case.

Now, Phillips is back in the dock. He was asked, apparently on the same day the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case arising from his refusal to bake a cake for the gay wedding, to bake one celebrating the birthday and the “transitioning” from male to female of the potential customer. The cake was supposed to include a blue exterior and a pink interior to reflect the person’s transgender identity.

Phillips declined to create the cake, given his religious conviction that gender is immutable.

The request was part of a pattern of harassment of Phillips. Reportedly, his bakery has received requests for cakes featuring marijuana use, sexually explicit messages, and Satanic symbols. One solicitation submitted by email asked the cake shop to create a three-tiered white cake depicting Satan licking a functional nine inch dildo.

Extremist gay rights activists certainly are charming.

Phillips, of course, refused all of these requests. His refusal to bake the transgender-celebrating birthday cake resulted in another complaint to the hostile Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

It has now ruled against Phillips. The decision is here.

Unlike Phillips’ specialty baking, the agency’s analysis is cookie-cutter. It does not engage Phillips’ religious liberty claim, perhaps out of fear that to do so would once again expose its raw hostility to his religious views. The words “religion,” “religious,” and “belief[s]” do not appear in the opinion.

The Colorado Commission cites the Supreme Court’s decision in the wedding cake case in support of its ruling against Phillips. The Colorado opinion states:

As asserted by the Supreme Court, “it is unexceptional that Colorado law can protect gay persons, just as it protects other classes of persons, in acquiring whatever products and services they chose on the same terms and conditions. . .offered to other members of the public.” Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Division, 584 U.S. __ (2018).

Justice Kennedy’s attempt at nuance in cases raising situations like this is lost on the Commission. This should surprise no one. “Live and let live” doesn’t resonate with fanatics.

Phillips’ company has sued the Colorado Commission. Once again, Phillips may have to go all the way to Supreme Court in search of relief.

This time, Justice Kennedy, who dodged the underlying issue the first time Phillips was before the Court, will be gone — replaced, we hope, by Brett Kavanaugh. Thus, Phillips has reason to hope that his right to operate his cake shop in ways consistent with his deeply held religious beliefs will be vindicated.

He can also hope for protection from further harassment by gay rights extremists who aren’t really interested in having him bake them a cake — one they could get from other vendors — but rather in oppressing a religious man by forcing him to assist in the celebration of that which his religious conscience doesn’t permit him to celebrate.

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