Despite being at the center of a freedom-vs.-rights cultural flashpoint that incites passion on both sides, Jack Philips, owner of Masterpiece Cake in Lakewood, has a lot of people on his side.
State Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Estes Park, Senate …
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2012 — A same-sex couple shopping for a wedding cake were turned away by Masterpiece Cake in Lakewood. the couple filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, claiming that the bakery’s actions violated Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act.
Following an investigation and hearings, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission determined that the bakery illegally discriminated against the couple.
2015 — The Colorado Court of Appeals agreed with the commission’s decision. The court also concluded that application of Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act did not infringe the bakery’s freedom of speech or free exercise of religion.
2017— In September the Trump Administration’s Department of Justice filed a brief in support of the cake shop owner, and his First Amendment rights.
The United States Supreme Court will hear the case beginning Dec. 5.
Despite being at the center of a freedom-vs.-rights cultural flashpoint that incites passion on both sides, Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cake in Lakewood, has a lot of people on his side.
State Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Estes Park, Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert, R-Parker, and Colorado Christian University President Donald Sweeting were among those who spoke at a rally in support of Philips, “their friend and neighbor,” at CCU’s event center on Nov. 8.
“It has been five years of court battles,” Philips told the more than 75 friends, family members, supporters, and students who attended the event, which was called a religious freedom rally. “If you want a free Colorado and America, no one should be forced to say or do something they don’t believe.”
Philips has been part of the passionate debate over religious freedom and equal rights since 2012, when he declined to make a custom wedding cake for same-sex couple Charlie Craig and David Mullins’ wedding, citing his religious beliefs.
The couple filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission stating that Philips violated the state’s public accommodations law that specifically prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The commission ruled against Phillips, and the appeals court upheld the decision.
In his decision, Judge Daniel Taubman said Masterpiece is free to continue to share its religious beliefs — including not recognizing same-sex marriage.
“However, if it wishes to operate as a public accommodation and conduct business within the State of Colorado, (Colorado law) prohibits it from picking and choosing customers based on their sexual orientation,” Taubman wrote.
In September, the Department of Justice filed a brief on behalf of Phillips, agreeing with his argument that his cakes are a form of artistic expression and he can’t be forced to make something that would be contrary to his beliefs.
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, and oral arguments will start on Dec. 5.
Phillips’ case is one of several happening around the country where business people have cited religious freedom as a reason to not provide certain services to members of the LGBT community.
Kentucky’s Hands On Originals, Telescope Media Group in Minnesota, and Arlene’s Flowers in Washington state are all dealing with similar situations, and all three owners spoke at Philips’ rally.
“I refused to make shirts for a pride parade, but I’ve declined plenty of projects because I don’t agree with them, including shirts that say homosexuality is a sin,” said Blaine Adamson, owner of Hands On Originals, a promotional printing company. “We all find ourselves at a crossroads, and you have to do what you know is right.”
The rally was organized by The Centennial Institute, a department within Colorado Christian that focuses on bringing attention to issues regarding, “faith, family and freedom.”
The Institute does research and sponsors seminars and conferences to share information. The Institute invited Evangelical Christian speakers, but also Larry Smith, President and CEO of Catholic Charities, Steven T. Collis, a Mormon attorney and author, and Rabbi Yaakov Menken, managing director of the Coalition for Jewish Values.
“In our current environment, only people of faith are called bigots,” Menken said. “The people suing Jack aren’t victims of discrimination, but practitioners of the craft.”
Sweeting and other speakers connected Phillips’ struggle to those of the pilgrims and founders, who came to America for religious freedom, and who wrote freedom of speech, religion, and conscience into the Constitution.
“The stakes have never been higher for religious freedom,” Sweeting added. “Our nation has always stood for freedom of conscience.”
The rally ended with Jeff Hunt, director of the Centennial Institute, leading a prayer and a laying of hands on Phillips to support him when he goes to the Supreme Court.
“We’re just here to support our friend, Jack,” said Duane Brigman, executive pastor at Centennial’s Crosspoint Community Church. “This is a critically important decision for all Americans, regardless of which side you fall on.”
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