Lawyers representing a Colorado cake artist who refused to bake a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding filed an opening brief with the US Supreme Court yesterday, defending the baker's right not to create artistic expression that violates his conscience.
The brief by human rights advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) makes the case for Jack Phillips and his company, Masterpiece Cakeshop, whose high-profile baking controversy began in 2012. When Phillips refused to make a cake celebrating a same-sex marriage, the offended party filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
The government commission in 2014 ruled that Phillips must make same-se wedding cakes if requested, shouldn't operate business according to his faith and said his staff should be 're-educated' accordingly, ADF said.
The US Supreme Court agreed to weigh in on the case in June.
'Nobody should be forced to choose between their profession and their faith,' said Kristen Waggoner, senior counsel for ADF. 'Phillips gladly serves anyone who walks into his store, but, as is customary practice for many artists, he declines opportunities to design for a variety of events and messages that conflict with his deeply held beliefs.
'In this case, Jack told the couple suing him he'd sell them anything in the store but just couldn't design a custom cake celebrating their wedding because of his Christian faith.'
She added: 'Individuals can support same-sex marriage and Jack. Tolerance is a two-way street, and people should have the freedom to disagree on critical matters of conscience. The same government that can force Jack to violate his faith and conscience can force any one of us to do the same.'
Robert Clarke, ADF International's director of European advocacy said: 'Free society requires free speech – a fact recognized by every major human rights treaty. Until now, the US has had some of the strongest protections for free speech in the world. Any dilution of that foundational principle will mark a shift towards the sort of speech regulations more associated with totalitarian regimes.
'Artists need to be able to express themselves freely or everyone's freedom is at risk.'