DENVER (CN) – The Colorado baker who convinced the U.S. Supreme Court he was unfairly targeted by his state for declining business from gay customers sued Colorado’s civil rights commission Tuesday, claiming he’s still being persecuted for his beliefs.
“The U.S. Constitution stands as a bulwark against state officials who target people – and seek to ruin their lives – because of the government’s antireligious animus. For over six years now, Colorado has been on a crusade to crush plaintiff Jack Phillips because its officials despise what he believes and how he practices his faith,” Phillips says in his 52-page federal lawsuit.
A devout Christian, Phillips describes himself as “a follower of Jesus Christ who bases his religious beliefs on the Bible.”
As the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Phillips was first sued by the Civil Rights Commission in 2014 after he refused to make a same-sex couple’s wedding cake. In a 7-2 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the commission’s finding – which had been upheld by an administrative law judge and the Colorado Court of Appeals – albeit narrowly. The justices found the commission hadn’t treated Phillips with “neutral and respectful consideration,” and had made “official expressions of hostility to religion” in the handling of Phillips’ case.
Phillips claims the commission continues its vendetta against him. In June 2017, on the same day the Supreme Court agreed to hear his case, Phillips received a call requesting a pink cake with blue frosting representing the transition from one gender to another. He refused.
The customer, Denver-based attorney Autumn Scardina, filed a discrimination complaint with the commission, which made a “probable-cause determination against Phillips” in short order.
“The state of Colorado is ignoring the message of the U.S. Supreme Court by continuing to single out Jack for punishment and to exhibit hostility toward his religious beliefs,” Phillips’ attorney Kristen Waggoner, the senior vice president of the Alliance Defending Freedom based in Scottsdale, Arizona, said in a statement.
“Even though Jack serves all customers and simply declines to create custom cakes that express messages or celebrate events in violation of his deeply held beliefs, the government is intent on destroying him – something the Supreme Court has already told it not to do,” Waggoner said.
Since his refusal to make the same-sex wedding cake in 2014, Phillips has refused a number of other requests for baked goods with sexually explicit images and items to promote marijuana use – which is legal in Colorado.
Phillips says he recently received and declined a request for “a three-tiered white cake. Cheesecake frosting. And the topper should be a large figure of Satan, licking a 9” black dildo.” According to the lawsuit, the customer wanted the dildo to be a functioning item “that can be turned on before we unveil the cake.”
According to the lawsuit, “all people – no matter who they are, what they believe, or what protected characteristics they have – are welcome in Phillips’s shop and may purchase anything available for sale. But as a devout man of faith, Phillips cannot create custom cakes that express messages or celebrate events in conflict with his religious beliefs.”
Phillips says the case forced him to shut down his side wedding business, causing him to lose 40 percent of his income and half of his employees. If the state continues to act against him, he claims, he may be forced to close his cake shop as well.
He founded Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, in 1993. In addition to holding Bible study in the shop, Phillips says he “welcomes homeless men and women into his store, offers them cookies and brownies free of charge, and befriends them.”
Phillips wants a federal judge to bar the commission from ordering him to bake the gender-transition cake or any other item that would violate his beliefs. He also seeks $100,000 in damages from Colorado Civil Rights Commission director Aubrey Elenis and $1 in nominal damages from each of the other members of the commission.
Both the commission and the Colorado Attorney General’s Office declined to comment on the case.