LAKEWOOD, COLORADO — Masterpiece Cakeshop’s Jack Phillips may be an evangelical Christian, but he has a host of supporters from other faiths behind him as he takes his religious-freedom case next month to the Supreme Court.
Leaders from the Catholic, Jewish and Mormon communities — as well as other evangelical small-business owners — came together Wednesday to offer their encouragement at a rally Wednesday at Colorado Christian University.
Oral argument is scheduled Dec. 5 before the Supreme Court in the Masterpiece case, the first to be considered by the high court involving whether bakers, florists, filmmakers and other creative professionals who cater to weddings must serve same-sex ceremonies.
“I don’t know how the justices will rule in this particular case, but I do hope they will treat this very important liberty with reverence,” said Denver attorney and law professor Stephen Collis, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“If it is wrongly discarded as nothing more than a justification for bigotry, every single one of us will lose, and I do mean every single one of us, including those people who think they oppose Mr. Phillips,” he said.
Mr. Phillips stopped baking wedding cakes after the Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled in 2013 that he had violated anti-discrimination laws by declining in 2012 to prepare a cake for a same-sex marriage, even though he has long served gay customers.
Attorneys for Mr. Phillips have argued that the government is forcing him to violate his conscience by promoting a message counter to his religious beliefs, while the state contends that his refusal is no different from turning down clients based on their race. The ACLU has framed the case as a question of “whether a business open to the public has a constitutional right to discriminate.”
Mr. Phillips, who’s represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, said he has rejected any number of requests for custom cakes that would violate his conscience, including cakes celebrating Halloween, bachelor or bachelorette parties, and anti-American sentiment.
“I’ve turned down a cake order for an anti-LGBT message and I turned down a request from someone asking for a cake that would disparage their boss,” he told the crowd of about 400. “But again, it’s never about the person making the request. It’s about the event.”
Yaakov Menken, director of the Coalition for Jewish Values, said the wedding-cake case is particularly relevant for Jews because so much their religious observance involves behaviors and actions.
“Need I tell you that this is dangerous to no one more than Jews because our religion is all about action. The way we tie our shoes in the morning is a religious act,” he said.
He cited the risk to Jewish ceremonies such as kosher slaughter and circumcision, and accused Mr. Phillips’ foes of practicing the very intolerance they claim to abhor.
“So no, if you tell us we have freedom of speech and freedom of worship but we cannot let religion guide how we do business, that is not religious freedom,” Mr. Menken said. “And we Jews have seen this before. We have long, bitter, deadly experience with governments trying to force us to follow earlier versions of political correctness.”
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