MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: the ongoing battle for religious liberty in the United States.
Religious freedom is a constitutional right in this country, but it is under attack. One man who symbolizes the defense of religious liberty is Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips.
NICK EICHER, HOST: LGBT activists first targeted his business 9 years ago after he declined on religious grounds to create a specialized, custom cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony.
After two big legal victories, including one at the U.S. Supreme Court, Phillips has been dragged back to court again.
REICHARD: This time, an attorney has accused him of violating Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws. Joining us now to explain all this is Steve West. He’s a lawyer and writes about religious liberty issues for WORLD Digital.
Good morning, Steve!
STEVE WEST, REPORTER: Good morning, Mary!
REICHARD: Jack Phillips prevailed at the Supreme Court already and it was a bit of a convoluted decision. I think a reminder might be useful here, Steve. What did the high court decide there?
WEST: Well, in 2018 the high court decided that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had acted with hostility toward Phillips’ Christian beliefs on marriage and so the court found that it was unconstitutional what they had done and sent the case back. He basically won that case.
REICHARD: And then here’s what happened next: an attorney in Denver named Autumn Scardina called Phillips and asked him to make a custom cake to celebrate his “gender transition.” We can guess this person already knew what the answer would be. And when Phillips declined, Scardina filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. What happened next?
WEST: Well, that’s right. The same commission that had already been chastised by the Supreme Court for acting with animus toward Jack Phillips went ahead with this case. The commission moved forward with an administrative case against Jack and pursued him. And he was going to be forced to fight that. So, rather than just fight that, he actually sued the commission with the help of the Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys. And then after some information came out about hostile comments that had been made on the record by some of the commissioners, the commission decided to dismiss its administrative action. And so Phillips dropped his action against the commission as well. So, you might say he won that case as well.
REICHARD: And then in summer 2019, Scardina filed a private lawsuit accusing Phillips of violating the state’s anti-discrimination laws. Flesh out Scardina’s legal argument here for us, Steve?
WEST: Well, there’s not much of a legal argument but I’ll give it a try. Scardina filed his lawsuit based on the fact that Jack would not make a cake for him that celebrated his gender identity. So he contended in addition to the claims that were made in the other case—the commission case—he went in and said that Jack violated the consumer protection laws by false advertising. Here’s what he said, basically. He said, “Jack, you said you made birthday cakes. This is kind of a birthday cake for me. You won’t make it for me, so you lied. False advertising.” That’s the sum of it.
REICHARD: Where does this case go from here, Steve? What happens next?
WEST: Well, I talked with Jake Warner at ADF—Alliance Defending Freedom—today and he said that a four day trial is scheduled for this matter on March 22nd in Colorado’s state court and there’s also a motion for summary judgement, simply a motion to end the case without actually having to have a trial. That’s pending with the court and so they’re hoping for a decision on that soon. And, you know, I asked Jake what else listeners might need to know and he just said this has been quite an ordeal for Jack. He’s still in business but he hasn’t been able to make wedding cakes for anyone since this all has started. But he asked that listeners pray. And I would say, yeah, that should be a first and not a last resort for all of us.
REICHARD: Steve West writes about religious liberties for WORLD Digital. You can read his work at WNG.org. Steve, always good to have you on. Thank you!
WEST: Thank you, Mary.