Independence Law Center Files Brief in Support of Jack Phillips, SCOTUS case

On Wednesday, September 6th, the Independence Law Center filed a brief in support of Jack Phillips and his court case, now before the United States Supreme Court.

Brief: Click here to download.

Brief Summary: Independence Law Center encourages the U.S. Supreme Court to respect minority viewpoints and to not force expression from those who have a conscientious objection. The brief compares two Jehovah’s Witness flag salute cases, one from 1940 and the other from 1943. In the first (Minersville), the Court allowed the school to expel the Jehovah’s Witnesses for refusing the salute. That was followed nationally by a backlash against Jehovah’s Witnesses, resulting in violence and the authorities looking the other way to the harms occurring right in front of them. Failure to respect minority viewpoints in the Court resulted in an absence of respect in the culture at large. Only three years later, the Barnette Court reversed, respecting the conscientious objection of Jehovah’s Witnesses to the flag salute. There the Court said,

“If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

Not only is the precedent squarely applicable to the present controversy, but the lesson that came out of the disrespect from the first opinion is applicable as well.

Case Summary: Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd., et al. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, et al.

Jack Phillips, a Colorado native and cake artist, opened Masterpiece Cakeshop in 1993 and has served the community of Lakewood, Colorado for the last 23 years.

In July 2012, two men came into Jack’s bakery requesting a wedding cake for their same-sex ceremony. Jack declined the request, saying he could not design cakes for same-sex wedding ceremonies. He offered to make the couple any other type of baked good or sell them a pre-made cake, but, because of his faith, he could not design a cake promoting a same-sex wedding ceremony.

The two men filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for sexual orientation discrimination. An administrative law judge ruled against Jack Phillips in December 2013, saying that designing and creating cakes for same-sex wedding ceremonies are not speech protected by the First Amendment. The commission also ordered Jack and his staff to design cakes for same-sex wedding celebrations, go through a “re-education” program, implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years to show that Jack has agreed to every request by customers to promote any event and message that may conflict with Jack’s religious beliefs.

On June 26, 2017, the Supreme Court granted review of the case. Oral arguments will likely be scheduled for some time in the Fall of 2017.

For more about this case, click here.