A state civil rights commissioner compared a Colorado baker to a Nazi and slave owner for his refusal to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, according to a recording and pleadings filed with an appellate court Monday by the baker’s lawyers.
Jack Phillips, d/b/a Masterpiece Cakeshop, turned down a same sex couple’s request to bake and decorate a wedding cake in 2012 on religious grounds, but offered to bake any other kind of cake they wanted, according to The Washington Times.
The two men left the shop and filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
Phillips was adjudged guilty of discrimination at a July 25 hearing, in which he was represented by attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based, conservative, faith-oriented advocacy group.
“I would also like to reiterate what we said in the last meeting [on Mr. Phillips]. Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the Holocaust,” Commissioner Diann Rice said at the hearing.
“I mean, we can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination,” Rice added. “And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use — to use their religion to hurt others.”
The Times reported:
Jeremy Tedesco, ADF senior legal counsel, said in a statement that Ms. Rice’s comments reveal an “anti-religious bigotry” that “undermines the integrity of the entire process and the commission’s order as well.”
The audio recording was released Monday along with a brief filed with the Colorado Court of Appeals, which challenges the seven-member commission’s May 30 ruling based in part on Ms. Rice’s “alarming bias and animus toward Phillips’s religious beliefs.”
“At least one Commission member holds such beliefs,” the brief said. “And her comment suggests that other members of the Commission may share her view that people who believe marriage is only between a man and a woman are comparable to those who committed the Holocaust. This anti-religious bias undermines the integrity of the Commission’s process and final order.”
The Times continued:
The Masterpiece Cakeshop case is one of several working its way through the court system that pits gay couples against Christian small business owners who have declined to provide services for same-sex marriages.
Refusing to create products for same-sex weddings amounts to discrimination, say gay rights groups, while Mr. Phillips and others argue that their products, such as wedding cakes, floral arrangements and photographs, constitute artistic expression protected by the First Amendment.
Phillips was ordered to re-educate himself and his staff on constitutes discrimination, and file quarterly compliance reports with the commission.
“The reports must include the number of patrons declined a wedding cake or any other product and state the reason for doing so to ensure he has fully eliminated his religious beliefs from his business,” the ADF said in a statement.
The ADF also questions Rice’s knowledge and understanding of federal appellate court case law, when she claimed, “the U.S. Supreme Court has found over and over that you cannot discriminate on the basis of race, and sexual orientation is a status absolutely like race.”
ADF disagrees with this interpretation.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has never found that sexual orientation is a status equivalent to race. In fact, the high court has twice held that the First Amendment bars the government from relying on sexual orientation nondiscrimination laws to force people or groups to speak messages with which they disagree,” the ADF’s statement said.
On the basis of the commission’s clearly “demonstrated misstatements on constitutional law,” ADF attorney Nicolle Martin told the Times that its decision should be reversed.
“Jack should not be forced by the government — or by another citizen — to endorse or promote ideas with which he disagrees,” Ms. Martin said. “But it’s worse when he is forced to do so by one or more officials who make serious errors in their legal analysis and justify coercing the speech of a private citizen by citing their own hostility to religion.”