After the Colorado Supreme Court refused to hear his “religious-freedom” challenge to the state’s nondiscrimination ordinance, a cake shop owner has filed a petition for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court.
As you may recall, Jack Phillips—the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, CO—refused to bake a cake for the wedding reception of Charlie Craig and David Mullins back in 2012, citing his religious belief that marriage for same-sex couples is a sin. The couple filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and an Administrative Law Judge subsequently found that Mr. Phillips had violated the state’s nondiscrimination statute, which prohibits discrimination against customers on the basis of sexual orientation.
Mr. Phillips decided to appeal that decision, arguing that the First Amendment to the federal Constitution gives him the right to ignore public accommodations law. Americans United filed a friend-of-the-court brief in that case, and a Colorado appellate court rejected his claims. But now Mr. Phillips—who is trying to bolster his First Amendment claim by emphatically insisting that he is a “cake artist” instead of just a baker—wants the U.S. Supreme Court to take his case.
Although religious freedom is a central tenet of our constitution, it cannot be used to justify harming others, and commercial businesses that provide services to the public do not have the right to excuse themselves from complying with state and local nondiscrimination laws. Mr. Phillips is free to advocate his personal religious beliefs, but he cannot impose those beliefs on his customers.
Because Mr. Phillips decided to open the doors of his business to the public, he does not have the right to pick and choose who he will serve. The U.S. Supreme Court, thus, should do exactly what the Colorado Supreme Court did last month: refuse to hear the case.