Perspectives

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission is after Jack Phillips again

Ignoring the Supreme Court

In June, Jack Phillips won a five-year battle against the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The Supreme Court, by a 7-2 margin, ruled that the Commission had displayed impermissible bias towards his faith.

What kind of bias? Well, statements comparing Phillips’ unwillingness to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding to the Holocaust. Yes, there was ample evidence, the court ruled, that the Commission was out to get Phillips.

It seems like the Commission, which was almost defunded for their shenanigans by the Colorado State legislature, is out to prove the Supreme Court correct, but at least we have to say that they’re after Jack Phillips again.

This time the issue is not a same-sex wedding cake. About a year ago, a caller to Jack’s store asked Jack to bake a cake celebrating a gender transition. To be blunt, it was an obvious set-up.

For starters, the request came in hours after it was reported that the Supreme Court would hear Jack’s case. Jack’s wife, who answered the phone, was asked for a cake with blue on the outside and pink on the inside, to represent the caller’s transition from male to female. When Mrs. Phillips politely told the caller that her husband didn’t make custom cakes for that kind of event, she was asked to repeat herself so that someone else could hear.

The “charging party” called again and this time an employee answered the phone and politely explained the shop’s policy. After berating her about the policy, the “charging party” hung up.

At no time did anyone in the Phillips family ask the caller about any personal characteristics, such as sex or gender identity. The only thing they knew about the caller was the request itself.

But that didn’t matter. About a month later Phillips received a copy of a complaint charging him with discriminating on the basis of gender identity.

Now, given their stinging rebuke by the Supreme Court, you would guess the Civil Rights Commission might be more cautious instead of going after Jack Phillips again. While this complaint involves a different party and a different set of alleged facts, it’s still the same Commission and the same Jack Phillips. It requires an out-of-this-world naivete to believe that this time they will treat Phillips and his beliefs with the respect they deserve.

But not only was the Commission undeterred by its loss at the Supreme Court, it actually cited the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision—which they lost—in their new charge against Phillips.

But you have to hear how they quoted it. The entire passage from the decision quoted by the Commission reads like this, “While it is unexceptional that Colorado law can protect gay persons in acquiring products and services on the same terms and conditions as are offered to other members of the public, the law must be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion.”

But the Commission omitted the word “While,” and the entire second part of the quote, “the law must be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion.” In other words, the Commission selectively quoted the passage in such a way as to turn the Supreme Court’s meaning on its head.

This kind of bad-faith reading of the Supreme Court’s opinion proves the Colorado legislature should have eliminated the Civil Rights Commission while it had the chance.

Yesterday, the Alliance Defending Freedom filed suit against the Commission on Jack’s behalf, claiming that the Commission has systematically acted in a way that violates Phillips’ First Amendment rights.

ADF is doing its job. And we have to do ours—to pray—certainly for victory in the courts, but even more, for strength and grace for Jack, his family, and his ADF team. He didn’t ask to be the champion of religious freedom in this post-Obergefell world. But he has fulfilled that role with grace and courage. And for that, he deserves our gratitude, our prayers, and he deserves to be left alone once and for all.

John Stonestreet

 

— by John Stonestreet

Stonestreet is the Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and is heard on Breakpoint. Copyright© 2018 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. BreakPoint is a ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries.

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