Jack Phillips, the Christian “cake artist” of Masterpiece Cakeshop fame, asked a federal court Tuesday to temporarily stop a new civil rights prosecution brought against him by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
Three weeks after Phillips prevailed June 4 at the U.S. Supreme Court, the state agency issued a probable cause determination finding that he likely discriminated against a transgender customer who asked him to create a custom cake celebrating a gender transition. In turn, Phillips sued the commission alleging several violations of his constitutional rights.
Phillips’ filing Tuesday asks a federal court in Denver to issue a preliminary injunction stopping the commission’s proceedings while his lawsuit is heard.
“The same agency that the Supreme Court just said is hostile to Jack Phillips remains committed to treating him unequally and forcing him to express messages that violate his religious beliefs,” said Kirsten Waggoner, senior vice president of Alliance Defending Freedom, a public interest law practice that represents the Colorado baker.
In its decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the high court found the commission was impermissibly hostile to Phillips’ religious beliefs while considering his case. One commissioner compared Phillips’ invocation of religious liberty to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust.
Citing his Christian beliefs, Phillips had declined an order from two gay men who wanted him to create a custom cake to celebrate their same-sex marriage, while saying he would selling the two men anything else in his shop.
“The record here demonstrates that the commission’s consideration of Phillips’ case was neither tolerant nor respectful of his religious beliefs,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the 7-2 majority decision.
Phillips and his attorneys argue in Tuesday’s filing that the Colorado agency is still tainted by anti-Christian feeling, violating his right to due process.
They note that one commissioner, Jessica Pocock, styled Phillips as the “cake-hater” in a 2013 Twitter conversation with a former commissioner, Heidi Hess. A second commissioner, Anthony Aragon, shared pro-LGBT imagery on Facebook while discussing Phillips’ Supreme Court case.
The filing alleges that the commission’s process is itself unlawful. Since the commission decides whether to prosecute alleged offenders and— if they are found guilty—makes a final decision as to their punishment, Alliance Defending Freedom argues that commissioners effectively act as both prosecutor and jurors.
“This arrangement, which places the commission over the decision to begin proceedings and the decision to punish the accused, is an affront to due process,” Phillips’ motion reads.
Elsewhere in the motion, his lawyers argue that the commission’s latest prosecution of Phillips violates his rights to free speech and free exercise of religion.
The commission asked the court to dismiss Phillips’ lawsuit on Oct. 10 on jurisdictional grounds. A motion hearing is scheduled for Nov. 20.
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