FFRF joins amicus brief against Colorado discrimination

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has signed on to an amicus brief in support of a gay couple who were refused a wedding cake by a Colorado bakery owner.

While FFRF does not usually get involved with issues that do not fall under the Establishment Clause, FFRF strongly opposes the redefinition of “religious freedom” to include the right to discriminate in violation of the law.

Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, refused to make a cake for David Mullins and Charlie Craig for their 2012 wedding reception. “I’m a follower of Jesus Christ so you can say it’s a religious belief, but I believe that the Bible teaches that that’s not an OK thing,” said Phillips.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado brought a case on the couple’s behalf. The state Civil Rights Commission ruled in May 2014 that Masterpiece Cakeshop violated state anti-discrimination laws, ordering the bakery to change its policy of not serving gay people. The bakery’s appeal sits at the Colorado Court of Appeals.

FFRF joined Americans United for Separation of Church and State’s amicus brief, written by AU Legal Director Ayesha Khan.

The order telling Phillips to stop discriminating does not violate his rights to free speech and free exercise of religion, the brief argues. Cakes are made to order for customers, who commission them for their own enjoyment, “not because they want to assist the bakery in expressing itself,” it says.

Requiring the bakery to make cakes for gay couples doesn’t force the business to proclaim its approval for gay people, says the brief — a bakery might serve gay people “because it wishes to increase its revenue by serving as many customers as possible, because it values same-sex marriages as much as straight couples’ marriages, because it did not inquire about its customers’ sexual orientations and does not consider that information relevant to its business, or because it simply wishes to follow applicable state antidiscrimination laws.”

In addition, the constitutional guarantee of free exercise of religion does not excuse people from following laws that are neutral and applicable to everyone.

When a business opens its doors to the public, it must accommodate everyone protected by the anti-discrimination statute, which, the brief points out, “governs business transactions conducted in the public sphere, not the use of an individual’s private, personal property.”

FFRF thanks AU for the opportunity to join in in speaking out on this important issue.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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