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While a baker from the same state won his challenge, court upholds Colorado anti-discrimination requirements for the owner of a creative agency. A US appeals court has ruled against a Christian web designer who didn’t want to create wedding websites for same-sex couples and sued to challenge Colorado’s anti-discrimination law, another twist in a series of court rulings nationwide about whether businesses denying services to LGBTQ people amounts to bias or freedom of speech.A three-judge panel of the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Monday denied Lorie Smith’s attempt to overturn a lower court ruling throwing out her legal challenge.The Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents Smith, argued that the law forced her to violate her Christian beliefs.In the 2–1 ruling, the panel said Colorado had a compelling interest in protecting the “dignity interests” of members of marginalized groups through its law.The anti-discrimination law is the same one at issue in the case of Colorado baker Jack Phillips that was decided in 2018 by the US Supreme Court.The high court decided the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had acted with anti-religious bias against Phillips after he refused to bake a cake for two men who were getting married. But it did not rule on the larger issue of whether a business can invoke religious objections to refuse service to LGBTQ people.The Scottsdale, Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom also represented Phillips. Founded in 1994 by Christian leaders concerned about religious freedom, the group said it would appeal Monday’s ruling.“The government should never force creative professionals to promote a message or cause with which they disagree. That is quintessential free speech and artistic freedom,” the group’s senior counsel, John Bursch, said in ...Continue reading...
While a baker from the same state won his challenge, court upholds Colorado anti-discrimination requirements for the owner of a creative agency. A US appeals court has ruled against a Christian web designer who didn’t want to create wedding websites for same-sex couples and sued to challenge Colorado’s anti-discrimination law, another twist in a series of court rulings nationwide about whether businesses denying services to LGBTQ people amounts to bias or freedom of speech.A three-judge panel of the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Monday denied Lorie Smith’s attempt to overturn a lower court ruling throwing out her legal challenge.The Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents Smith, argued that the law forced her to violate her Christian beliefs.In the 2–1 ruling, the panel said Colorado had a compelling interest in protecting the “dignity interests” of members of marginalized groups through its law.The anti-discrimination law is the same one at issue in the case of Colorado baker Jack Phillips that was decided in 2018 by the US Supreme Court.The high court decided the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had acted with anti-religious bias against Phillips after he refused to bake a cake for two men who were getting married. But it did not rule on the larger issue of whether a business can invoke religious objections to refuse service to LGBTQ people.The Scottsdale, Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom also represented Phillips. Founded in 1994 by Christian leaders concerned about religious freedom, the group said it would appeal Monday’s ruling.“The government should never force creative professionals to promote a message or cause with which they disagree. That is quintessential free speech and artistic freedom,” the group’s senior counsel, John Bursch, said in ...Continue reading...
It's one thing to tell the city that you're there for its good. It's another to show it.Six weeks after Stu Davis left his job as pastor at one of Colorado Springs’s largest churches in 2013, most of his kitchen appliances broke. Then his car broke. When his employee health insurance ran out, all three of his children had to make separate visits to the hospital.“There were definitely times when I was angry at the Lord,” Davis said. “It was just a super, super hard season.”Those trials made Davis think differently about the role of the church in his city. He had helped build a large youth program at Woodmen Valley Chapel, an ambitious multiyear missions project to Swaziland, and, if he was being honest, a big platform for himself. But he hadn’t really focused on the problems of people struggling in Colorado Springs.The experience changed him. He says the trials “dislodged” him. Now, Davis serves as the executive director of COSILoveYou, a Christian nonprofit that connects nearly 100 local churches to address suffering and promote flourishing in Colorado Springs.In some ways, Davis’s story is the story of evangelicalism in Colorado Springs, the city of 464,000 that celebrates its 150th birthday this July. Evangelicals were really successful in the city starting in the 1980s, earning it the title of the “evangelical Vatican” as Colorado Springs became a platform for high-profile Christian leaders. Then there were some broken appliances—some dislodging—and the city’s evangelicals rediscovered the importance of caring for their local community.“The majority of local churches that would describe themselves as evangelical churches have started to step back or dial back,” Davis said, “and focused a lot more on either ...Continue reading...
I remember when Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission was argued at the U.S. Supreme Court in December 2017. People hoping to witness the oral arguments had been camped outside the Court for days. That morning, crowds of people waited to hear how the justices would rule on Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker who had declined to make a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding.In May 2021, Phillips published his account of what happened in The Cost of My Faith: How a Decision in My Cake Shop Took Me to the Supreme Court. The book describes his split-second decision to not bake the cake, explains the ensuing years of legal challenges, and recounts the lessons he learned from the experience. His story is an encouraging testimony of God’s faithfulness to sustain His children throughout life’s difficulties.As Legal Battles Mounted, Phillips’ Faith Only GrewPhillips begins by recalling a life-changing conversation he had with two men, David and Charlie, who came into Masterpiece Cakeshop to ask him to create a custom wedding cake for their wedding. Phillips politely declined, stating that he could not create a custom cake for a same-sex wedding but that he would be happy to sell them anything else in his shop. The conversation was brief, and David and Charlie refused to give Phillips a chance to explain his rationale further.Phillips recalls his desire to extend the conversation so he could explain that although he will gladly serve anyone, he cannot express every message “because of the content of the message that the imagery or words on the cake might convey” (3). Since opening Masterpiece Cakeshop in 1993, Phillips had adhered to this simple rule and had previously declined to make cakes featuring a variety of messages, such as obscene language, hateful rhetoric, and statements or images that “mocked or contradicted [his] faith” or celebrated events such as divorce or Halloween (61, 71).The Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled against Phillips and held that compelling him to express messages he disagreed with did not violate his First Amendment rights. After the case worked its way through the lower courts, the U.S. Supreme Court took the case. In June 2018, the Court sided with Phillips and held that the Commission’s actions violated Phillips’ right to freely exercise his religion. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that the record showed the Commission’s “clear and impermissible hostility” toward Phillips’ sincerely-held religious beliefs, and he explained how the Commission treated Phillips differently than other bakers, who declined to create custom cakes that expressed messages opposing same-sex marriage.Less than a month after this victory, Phillips faced another legal challenge. On the same day that the Supreme Court granted cert in Phillips’ case, one would-be customer, Autumn Scardina, had requested a cake that was pink on the inside and blue on the outside to celebrate a gender transition. Phillips declined to create the cake because of its intended message. In response to charges brought against him by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Phillips and his attorneys filed a federal lawsuit against the Commission. In March 2019, the state’s attorneys offered to settle the case after evidence showing the Commission’s continuing hostility to Phillips’ religious beliefs surfaced. After this second victory, Phillips hoped to continue his business in peace.That peace, however, was remarkably short-lived. In June 2019, Scardina, seeking over $100,000 in fines and damages, filed another lawsuit against Phillips in state court. On June 15, 2021, the court ruled against Phillips. The court found that Phillips’ refusal to bake the cake was based on Scardina’s transgender status, not on the cake’s intended message, and that forcing Phillips to bake the cake would not violate his First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of religion.Phillips concludes the book by describing the lessons he learned during the many years of legal challenges. He states that although some may have intended their attacks to destroy his faith, his faith is now stronger than ever. He expresses gratitude for having been given a platform to speak the truth. Phillips has also grown in humility and patience and has learned to be a better listener. He has gained a greater appreciation for the wise system of government instituted by the Founders. Most importantly, though, Phillips experienced God’s goodness:[C]oming through oppressive days, enduring the death threats, the hate mail, the obscene phone calls and public demonstrations, seeing the tears of my wife and the worries of my children, hearing people call me a bigot and a Nazi, listening while elected officials openly mocked the deepest convictions of my soul—let me assure you, this is when God’s mercies abound. This is when He comforts us in the deep places of the soul that only He can reach. (188–89)Peaceful, Unshakeable Faith in God’s ProvisionPhillips’ compelling testimony is a must-read for any believer. First, Phillips’ account provides a thorough and accessible description of one of the most influential religious freedom cases of the past decade. He clearly describes the timeline of events and explains why the case was so momentous, not only for him but for all people of faith (98). Although the case concerned Colorado’s attempts to compel Phillips to speak messages that violated his conscience and to force him to choose between his religious beliefs and his business, the case has broader implications for the rights of all Americans “who share[] his biblical views on human sexuality and marriage” (194).Second, Phillips’ story will encourage believers who may feel disheartened. Although losing 40 percent of his business, facing hateful emails and death threats, and having his reputation attacked by public officials could have caused Phillips to waver in his faith, his testimony overflows with a sense of peace and an unshakeable belief in God’s character and provision. As Phillips recalled while waiting for the Supreme Court’s verdict:You might think the long wait was especially stressful—an exercise in impatient endurance, where we gritted our teeth to get through the endless days. But it wasn’t like that at all. I genuinely felt an immense peace after our arguments. I was content in knowing we’d done everything we could do. That we’d been as faithful as possible and the outcome really was always totally in God’s reliable hands. (143)Phillips’ faith is a testament to the Holy Spirit’s power to encourage believers throughout life’s challenges.Finally, Phillips’ account can inspire believers to stand firm in their faith. Although his experiences could have made him retreat from his faith, Phillips viewed them as an opportunity:What’s the point of suddenly being on so many people’s radars if you can’t use those moments to share with them your deepest beliefs? That, for me, is the best news in the whole world: the love of Jesus Christ. (11)Unfortunately, hostility toward Christianity and toward those who adhere to a biblical worldview is only increasing. Like Phillips, may we all have faith to stand firm and to be willing to serve as God’s instrument whatever the cost.Kaitlyn Shepherd is Research Assistant for Legal and Policy Studies at Family Research Council.
A Colorado judge has ordered Masterpiece Cakeshop and its owner Jack Phillips to pay a Denver attorney $500 for refusing to bake them a cake that celebrated their gender transition.
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