Jack Phillips, the Christian baker who fought and won a “religious freedom” Supreme Court case after refusing to serve a gay couple, is challenging a recent court loss.
Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, is appealing a 2021 ruling that saw him fined for discrimination after he refused to bake a cake in the colours of the trans flag.
He is being represented by Jake Warner of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), designed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Warner appeared in a Colorado appeal court on Wednesday (5 October), arguing that to force Phillips to bake a cake signifying a message that contradicts his beliefs is the same as violating his right to free speech.
The original case was brought against the cake artist by Autumn Scardina, a transgender lawyer based in Denver, Colorado, who requested a cake in the colours of the trans flag from Masterpiece Cakeshop. It refused to make her the cake.
In June 2021 a court found that Phillips denied Scardina “goods and services because of her transgender status”.
Warner accused Scardina of attempting to “test” Phillips with her cake request.
“In this case, an activist attorney demanded that Jack create expressive cakes to test him and ‘correct the errors’ of his thinking,” he said.
“The attorney even promised to sue Jack again if the case is dismissed for any reason. Free speech is for everyone. The Constitution protects the freedom of every American to express ideas even if the government disagrees with those ideas.”
According to Warner, “activists and state laws” have threatened cake artists such as Phillips “because they can’t express messages on marriage and gender that violate their core beliefs”.
One of Scardina’s lawyers, John McHugh, argued she did not ask Phillips to support her view, just to sell her a cake, the Associated Press reported.
Outside the court, Scardina said the case was about the “dignity of LGBTQ Americans and Coloradans and the rule of law”.
In court last year, Phillips, who is “a devout Christian”, testified that he believes being trans is not possible and he told the court that he would not “celebrate somebody who thinks that they can” transition.
However, Denver district judge A Bruce Jones ruled that Phillips had refused Scardina because of her status as a transgender woman, which is illegal. Phillips was ordered to pay a $500 fine.
Jones said: “The anti-discrimination laws are intended to ensure that members of our society who have historically been treated unfairly, who have been deprived of even the every-day right to access businesses to buy products, are no longer treated as ‘others.’
“This case is about one such product – a pink and blue birthday cake – and not compelled speech.”
Masterpiece Cakeshop was first sued in 2012 when it refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. That case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which eventually ruled in Phillips’ favour in 2018.
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