Colorado officials rejected discrimination claims filed by a man who was refused service at three bakeries because he requested cakes that included Bible verses calling homosexuality a sin, according to a decision released last week. Critics of the ruling argue it runs in sharp contrast to a decision in 2014 by the same agency, which declared a Christian baker cannot refuse to make a cake for a gay wedding ceremony.
Bill Jack approached three Denver-area bakeries last spring and asked for two cakes, both in the shape of an open Bible. He presented a drawing showing what he wanted on each: “God hates sin—Psalm 45:7” and “Homosexuality is a detestable sin—Leviticus 18:22” on one cake; “God loves sinners” and “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us—Romans 5:8” on the other. All three businesses—Azucar Bakery, Le Sensual Bakery, and Gateaux Pastries—refused to make the cakes. Jack filed three claims of discrimination with the Colorado Civil Rights Division (CCRD).
The case drew a firestorm of media attention in January when Azucar Bakery owner Marjorie Silva talked to the press about the discrimination claim. Some outlets initially misrepresented Jack’s request, claiming he asked Silva for a cake with “God hates gays” written on it.
In late March, CCRD officials released the findings of their investigations and their decisions by letter to Jack and the bakeries. In all three cases, the CCRD sided with the bakeries, declaring they had the right to refuse Jack service and did not discriminate against his creed, Christianity. The decisions said Jack’s request included “derogatory language and imagery” and argued all three bakeries would deny such requests to any person, regardless of creed.
Supporters of the bakeries are claiming victory, but Jack said he acted intentionally to shed light on the inequitable application of Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws.
“I believe that these bakers should have the right, and do have the right, to refuse me service,” Jack told me. The law in question, Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act, makes it unlawful for any place of public accommodation to refuse service to someone based on disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, or ancestry.
“My goal is to expose the hypocrisy of the application of the statute,” he said. “This is a violation of the 14th Amendment. States are to apply their laws equally to all citizens. … As far as I can see, it is only being applied against Christian business owners.”
Jack said any decision by the CCRD would be unjust—either by denying him equal footing to customers requesting gay wedding cakes, or by unconstitutionally forcing the three bakeries to violate their conscience. The later would have put the bakers in the same position as Jack Phillips, the Denver-area baker and Christian charged in 2014 by the CCRD with discrimination against a gay couple for whom he declined to bake a wedding cake.
Jack plans to appeal the judgment against him in an effort to highlight the commission’s unequal treatment and lack of justice.
— by Kiley Crossland