The Colorado Civil Rights Commission (CCRC) and Christian cake baker Jack Phillips are ending a six-year legal battle over whether Phillips can refuse business projects that violate his religious beliefs.
But the truce leaves unanswered the larger question of whether the First Amendment frees proprietors to limit their business to dealings that honor their religious beliefs, Phillips’ attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) told Baptist Press today (March 6).
In yesterday’s truce, the CCRC dropped its latest discrimination charge against Phillips, and Phillips in turn dropped a 2018 religious bias lawsuit against the commission.
The CCRC approached ADF March 4 with the possibility of dropping the charges against Phillips, ADF senior counsel Jim Campbell said, following the discovery of audio recordings that highlighted potential CCRC prejudice in the case. It’s not clear whether the two developments are related.
“Just late last week we uncovered a recording,” Campbell said, “with two of the current [CCRC] commissioners … publicly stating their agreement with anti-religious comments that the Supreme Court expressly condemned.” There’s “evidence of this anti-religious hostility and how that might have impacted the state’s decision to settle this and to drop its case,” he said, “because we were starting to find a lot of information that was showing that hostility.”
The truce ends the 2018 case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Elenis, the latest case involving Phillips and the state.
“This really just has a huge impact on Jack’s life,” Campbell said, “because it gets the state to back off him and hopefully allows him to get on with his life, and get back to focusing on his cake art and serving his community and doing all the things that he used to do before he got tied up in over six and a half years of legal battles.”
Kristen Waggoner, ADF senior vice president of the U.S. legal division, discussed the audio recordings in an ADF press release.
“A Colorado state legislator recently disclosed that he spoke in November 2018 to a current commissioner who expressed the belief that ‘there is anti-religious bias on the Commission,'” Waggoner said. “And just last week, ADF attorneys uncovered statements from a 2018 public meeting in which two commissioners voiced their support for comments that a previous commissioner, Diann Rice, made in 2015. Those comments, which the U.S. Supreme Court sternly condemned in its ruling in favor of Phillips last year, called religious freedom ‘a despicable piece of rhetoric.'”
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Source: Baptist Press