The Colorado Civil Rights Commission announced Tuesday that it will dismiss its most recent charges against cake artist Jack Phillips in the wake of newly discovered evidence of the state’s ongoing hostility toward religious freedom. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a federal lawsuit, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Elenis, on behalf of Phillips after the state began to prosecute him even after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
“The state of Colorado is dismissing its case against Jack, stopping its six and a half years of hostility toward him for his beliefs,” said ADF Senior Vice President of U.S. Legal Division Kristen Waggoner, who argued on behalf of Phillips at the U.S. Supreme Court. “Jack’s victory is great news for everyone. Tolerance and respect for good-faith differences of opinion are essential in a diverse society like ours. They enable us to peacefully coexist with each another. But the state’s demonstrated and ongoing hostility toward Jack because of his beliefs is undeniable.”
The fact that one commissioner called Phillips a “hater” on Twitter was already publicly known. But a Colorado state legislator recently disclosed that he spoke in November 2018 to a current commissioner who expressed the belief that “there is anti-religious bias on the Commission.” And just last week, ADF attorneys uncovered statements from a 2018 public meeting in which two commissioners voiced their support for comments that a previous commissioner, Diann Rice, made in 2014. Those comments, which the U.S. Supreme Court sternly condemned in its ruling in favor of Phillips last year, called religious freedom “a despicable piece of rhetoric.”
At the June 22, 2018, public meeting, members of the commission discussed the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling. During that discussion, Commissioner Rita Lewis said, “I support Commissioner Diann Rice and her comments. I don’t think she said anything wrong.” Later, Commissioner Carol Fabrizio added, “I also very much stand behind Commissioner Rice’s statements…. I was actually proud of what she said, and I agree with her…. I’m almost glad that something the Commissioner said ended up public and used, because I think it was the right thing.”
The prosecution of Phillips that the commission has decided to drop began after an attorney who targeted Phillips complained to the state about the cake artist’s decision not to create a cake designed pink on the inside and blue on the outside to reflect and celebrate a gender transition. The attorney who requested that cake later asked Phillips to design a cake with satanic themes and images.
“We’re pleased that the state will be dismissing its case against Jack,” said Waggoner. “This is the second time the state has launched a failed effort to prosecute him. While it finally appears to be getting the message that its anti-religious hostility has no place in our country, the state’s decision to target Jack has cost him more than six-and-a-half years of his life, forcing him to spend that time tied up in legal proceedings.”
“We hope that the state is done going along with obvious efforts to harass Jack,” added ADF Senior Counsel Jim Campbell. “He shouldn’t be driven out of business just because some people disagree with his religious beliefs and his desire to live consistently with them. We look forward to the day when Jack doesn’t have to fear government punishment for his faith or harassment from people who oppose his beliefs.”
“When I set out to build my dream of opening my own cake shop, combining my love for art and baking in a family business, I never imagined this chapter would be part of the Masterpiece Cakeshop story,” said Phillips. “I have and will always serve everyone who comes into my shop; I simply can’t celebrate events or express messages that conflict with my religious beliefs. The Supreme Court affirmed that government hostility against people of faith is unconstitutional, and that Colorado was hostile to my faith. That hostility cost me 40 percent of my business and the wedding work that I love to do.”
“But even after this, Colorado was relentless in seeking to crush me and my shop for living consistently with my deeply held religious beliefs,” Phillips continued. “The state launched a new prosecution against me just weeks after the Supreme Court ruled in my favor. Yet today, as evidence of the state’s hostility toward my faith continues to emerge, the state announced that it will be dismissing its most recent complaint against me. Today is a win for freedom. I’m very grateful and looking forward to serving my customers as I always have: with love and respect.”