Trump’s DOJ Backs Christian Baker Before Supreme Court

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by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  September 8, 2017   

86 Congressmen support baker's right to refuse to bake wedding cake for gay couple

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WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Department of Justice (DOJ) and 86 Congressmen are showing strong support for a Christian baker, whose rights to free speech and religious liberty will be tested this fall in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Trump's DOJ filed an amicus brief with the High Court Thursday in support of the Christian baker, Jack Phillips, who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in Colorado back in 2012, on grounds of his Christian faith. The landmark case is pitting the baker's First Amendment rights against public accommodation laws involving same-sex weddings.

In their friend-of-the-court brief, the DOJ advised the Supreme Court that creating a wedding cake involves the baker in the actual ceremony itself, which then brings in the rights of free speech and the practice of religion:

When Phillips designs and creates a custom wedding cake for a specific couple and a specific wedding, he plays an active role in enabling that ritual, and he associates himself with the celebratory message conveyed. Forcing Phillips to create expression for and participate in a ceremony that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs invades his First Amendment rights.


 

Because Phillips refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in 2012, the couple filed a complaint, which was upheld by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission (CCRC). The CCRC found Philipps in violation of Colorado's public accommodation laws for refusing to sell the gay couple "wedding cakes or any product" that he normally "would sell to heterosexual couples."

The Colorado Court of Appeals upheld the CCRC's ruling, which Phillips is now appealing before the Supreme Court.

The DOJ's brief notes that Phillips has no problem serving homosexual couples in his store. He does, however, object to being involved in the "event" of their so-called wedding, which violates his religious beliefs. He further objects to being forced to use his artistic expression contrary to his will. The DOJ's brief notes that the public accommodation law generally doesn't involve an examination of First Amendment rights. They conclude that in this case, however, the violation of Phillips' First Amendment rights of free speech and the free-exercise of religion "bars the application of Colorado's public accommodation law."

It was reported Thursday that 86 U.S. Congressmen are supporting Phillips by signing another amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court. This brief questions whether Colorado's public accommodation law can "compel artists to create expression that violates their sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage." They also conclude that the application of the accommodation law in such a case would violate an artist's rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion as guaranteed by the First Amendment.

This isn't a case where someone refused to sell a pre-made good to someone else based on their sexuality.

One of the Congressmen signing the brief, Sen. Mike Lee, on Thursday commented, "This isn't a case where someone refused to sell a pre-made good to someone else based on their sexuality or their orientation."

Lee admits that such cases would fall under the accommodation law, which bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Phillips has always maintained, however, that he has no problem serving homosexuals in his store.

Lee further explains:

It is instead one in which the couple at issue requested the cake baker make a specialty cake, not a pre-ordered, pre-made, pre-designed sort of thing. But [they were] asking the baker to use the baker's talents and specialty to craft a cake carrying a message with which the baker disagrees. So these cases are different than cases involving public accommodations.

In June, the Supreme Court agreed to review the case during its upcoming session that begins in October. It's widely speculated that the newest member on the bench, Justice Neil Gorsuch, played a leading role in getting the High Court to hear the case.

 

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Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.

Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th. is a staff writer for ChurchMilitant.com.

Follow Bradley on Twitter: @BradleyLEli