A conservative legal firm is accusing a member of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission of comparing a baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding to "slave owners and perpetrators of the Holocaust" in a new legal brief filed with a the Colorado Court of Appeals.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, the firm representing Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, the Christian baker who created a national controversy after refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, released a statement Monday that included controversial words attributed to civil rights commissioner Diann Rice.
Rice's purported comments were uttered during a commission hearing on July 25 last year and include the central claim that religion has, many times in the past, been used to harm and impede the rights of others.
"I would also like to reiterate what we said in … the last meeting [concerning Jack Phillips]. Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the Holocaust," Rice said. "I mean, we can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use – to use their religion to hurt others."
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Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jeremy Tedesco said in a statement that these ideals reflect "alarming bias and hostility" toward Phillips' religious beliefs and are specifically troubling in that they come from a member of a governmental commission that monitors how the baker can conduct his business in light of his faith.
"Commissioner Rice compared a private citizen who owns a small bakery to slaveholders and Holocaust perpetrators merely for asking that the state respect his right to free speech and free exercise of religion," Tedesco said. "Her comments suggest that others on the commission may share her view. This anti-religious bigotry undermines the integrity of the entire process and the commission’s order as well."
As TheBlaze has previously reported, problems began for Phillips after he declined to make a wedding cake for Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig, a gay couple who approached him in 2012; they subsequently waged a complaint against Phillips, which has led to a legal battle over his refusal.
Phillips told TheBlaze last June that he had no intention of providing confectionery services for gay and lesbian weddings even after Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission upheld a judge’s ruling that the baker was wrong to deny making the cake.
“I’m not going to make cakes for same-sex weddings,” he told TheBlaze at the time. “That violates my First Amendment speech … and my duty as a Christian abiding by my savior.”
In this March 10, 2014 photo, Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips decorates a cake inside his store, in Lakewood, Colo. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley) AP Photo/Brennan Linsley
Phillips said that he stopped taking all wedding cake orders last March, just three months after Judge Robert N. Spencer of the Colorado Office of Administrative Courts ruled against him, finding that he must serve gay couples.
In addition to making told he must not discriminate when making wedding cakes, the commission also said that he needed to "re-educate his staff that Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act means that artists must endorse same-sex marriage regardless of their religious beliefs," according to Alliance Defending Freedom.
Additionally, Phillips will need to file quarterly reports for a period of two years to detail which patrons were declined service along with the reason for that decision.