Colorado Baker Faces Heat for Religious Expression

homo sinA same-sex couple in Denver has filed a discrimination complaint against baker Jack Phillips for refusing to provide his services to help celebrate their wedding.

Phillips declined on the grounds that participating in such a ceremony violates his religious beliefs about marriage. Similar cases have involved a Washington florist and a New Mexico photographer.

Even though the Colorado celebration was for a marriage actually performed in Massachusetts, and Colorado does not recognize same-sex marriage under its laws, the baker stands accused of violating Colorado’s nondiscrimination law. Heritage’s Tom Messner has written how situations such as those in Colorado are triggered:

Conflicts between same-sex marriage and religious freedom will often involve some type of previously adopted nondiscrimination law or policy, and nondiscrimination laws can impose burdens on religious freedom even in jurisdictions that do not legally recognize homosexual unions as marriages.

Colorado is proving the point. Same-sex marriage is not formally recognized in the state, but nondiscrimination law can, even in states without same-sex marriage, produce conflicts with religious freedom.

In this case, the attorney general of Colorado issued a formal complaint at the behest of the ACLU. The case is expected to go before Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission. The complaint urges Phillips to “cease and desist” his activity. Phillips could face fines of $500 and up to a year in jail.

For Phillips, the issue at stake is whether law will force him to use his creative services in a way that violates his faith.

Phillips told a reporter he serves non-wedding cakes to all customers—regardless of sexual orientation. It’s the same-sex marriage to which he objects.

Phillips’s attorney believes that actions against him are yet another example of recent trends that restrict conscience.

“At its heart, this is a case about conscience,” said Nicolle Martin, his attorney. “It would force him to choose between his conscience and a paycheck. I just think that’s an intolerable choice.”

Phillips refuses to compromise and remains determined to stand up for his religious views. “If it came to that point, we would close down the bakery before we would compromise our beliefs, so that may be what it comes to,” Phillips told KCNC-TV.

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