DENVER (BP) — Christian cake artist Jack Phillips can proceed with his latest lawsuit alleging Colorado harassed him based on his religious beliefs, but he may no longer seek damages from nine of the 10 defendants targeted.
Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, has legal standing to challenge Colorado’s discrimination law, the U.S. District Court for Colorado ruled Jan. 4 regarding a motion to dismiss the 2018 case. But most defendants successfully blocked Phillips’ pursuit of compensatory, punitive and nominal damages against them as government officials and individual citizens.
Only Colorado Atty. Gen. Cynthia H. Coffman remains an individual defendant in the case, having lost her appeal to block Phillips from pursuing equitable relief against her in her official governmental capacity.
“Because the Attorney General represents the Commission in proceedings to enforce” Colorado’s statute, Senior Judge Wiley Y. Daniel wrote, “and Phillips claims this enforcement is currently violating his constitutional rights, Attorney General Coffman is a proper defendant.”
Colorado Civil Rights Division Director Aubrey Elenis, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and the entire seven-member Colorado Civil Rights Commission won their motion to have the case against them dismissed, proclaiming immunity under the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In the district court ruling, Daniel acknowledges Phillips’ Christianity and the fact that the state law limits Phillips’ operation of his business. Because of the law, Phillips may not post on his business website a statement explaining that he refuses to bake items that violate his religious beliefs and free speech.
Phillips’ attorneys with the Alliance Defending Freedom praised the district court’s ruling to allow the case to continue, despite the limitations.
“We look forward to moving forward with this lawsuit to ensure that Jack isn’t forced to create custom cakes that express messages in conflict with his faith,” ADF Senior Counsel Jim Campbell said in a Jan. 7 press release. “Colorado is acting in bad faith and with bias toward Jack.”
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Source: Baptist Press