No legal protections for religious baker’s discrimination

The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled today that Masterpiece Cakeshop and its owner Jack Phillips violated Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act by refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in 2012.

The evangelical legal giant the Alliance Defending Freedom has championed Phillips and a handful of other bakers and florists in a national fight to protect what evangelicals claim is their constitutional right to discriminate based on religious beliefs.

The American Civil Liberties Union legal director Mark Silverstein argued that discrimination is not a so-called religious freedom. It is a violation of constitutionally protected equality.

“It’s a great day for equality under the law,” said Silverstein. “The court held that a business that supplies wedding cakes to heterosexual couples but refuses to provide wedding cakes to same-sex couples discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation and is in violation of the Colorado public accommodations act.

“The court said that the business can’t use religion as an exemption to the law, can’t use religion as an excuse to discriminate. I think that might set a precedent.”

Many conservative evangelicals view that precedent as a governmental assault on Christianity.

“Americans are guaranteed the freedom to live and work consistent with their faith,” wrote Jeremy Tedesco, Alliance Defending Freedom’s senior legal counsel, in a statement. “Government has a duty to protect people’s freedom to follow their beliefs personally and professionally rather than force them to adopt the government’s views.

“Jack simply exercised the long-cherished American freedom to decline to use his artistic talents to promote a message with which he disagrees. The court is wrong to deny Jack his fundamental freedoms.”

Phillips and the Alliance Defending Freedom may take further legal action by bringing his case to the state Supreme Court.

In the meantime, Masterpiece Cakeshop is legally bound to serve all customers regardless of their sexual orientation, age, race or nationality.

Photo credit: Kimberly Vardeman, Creative Commons, Flickr.