The state of California’s lawsuit against a Christian who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple on religious grounds is a frivolous case meant to chill the baker’s free-speech rights, contends a petition to dismiss the case.
WND reported last week a judge refused the state’s request for a temporary order to force Cathy Miller of Tastries Bakery either to provide her wedding-cake artistry to homosexual duos or quit the business entirely.
Superior Court Judge David Lampe rejected the state’s request, arguing the issue is over First Amendment free-speech rights, not discrimination. The judge said the state was asking the court “to compel Miller to use her talents to design and create a cake she has not yet conceived with the knowledge that her work will be displayed in celebration of a marital union her religion forbids.”
“For this court to force such compliance would do violence to the essentials of free speech guaranteed under the First Amendment,” the judge said.
He made clear that the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the DFEH, was pursuing a losing cause.
“The state cannot meet the test that its interest outweighs the free speech right at issue in this particular case, or that the law is being applied by the least restrictive means,” the judge wrote. “The court cannot retreat from protecting the free speech right implicated in this case based upon the specter of factual scenarios not before it.”
Now Tastries Bakery’s defense team, the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, is citing the state’s anti-SLAPP law, which protects individuals from lawsuits designed to silence them.
“This case is a quintessential SLAPP because it was brought to infringe defendants’ free speech rights, and the DFEH cannot establish a probability of prevailing on the merits as a matter of law,” the motion contends.
The same-sex couple, Mireya and Eileen Rodriquez-Del Rio, reported Tastries Bakery to the DFEH for refusing to provide them a wedding cake.
“The anti-SLAPP statute is ‘a procedure for a court to dismiss at an early stage nonmeritorious litigation meant to chill the valid exercise of the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and petition,” the new filing explains.
The petition explains there are two issues. The first is that the court has already ruled that the defendant’s unwillingness to design and create a custom wedding cake for the “same-sex wedding ceremony” is a matter of free speech.
The second is that the plaintiffs were unable to show to the court “a probability of prevailing.”
The petition also notes that the California constitution’s protections for speech and religion are even stronger than the First Amendment’s.
It argues that any injury on the part of the same-sex couple was self-inflicted, because Tastries had arranged a referral to another bakery willing to provide the product.
The motion came when the state agency indicated it would likely appeal the ruling that favored Miller.
Charles LiMandri of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund said the state is “more interested in persecuting Cathy than honoring the court’s well-reasoned ruling, so this motion keeps us on the offensive to protect Cathy’s First Amendment rights.”
The same issue is before the U.S. Supreme Court in a case brought by Colorado against Masterpiece Cakeshop baker Jack Phillips, who refused to make a wedding cake for two homosexuals at a time when same-sex marriage was illegal in the state.
The Supreme Court is expected to announce a verdict within the next few months.
The state judge had found that Miller’s expression of her beliefs is entitled to protection in Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion in the same-sex marriage case, Obergefell v. Hodges.
Kennedy wrote that “finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.”
In the Colorado case, WND reported that while LGBT activists have portrayed it as a dispute over being treated equally in public accommodations, it’s actually about the Constitution’s protections for free speech and religious rights.
Critics of state actions in the Colorado case have warned that Muslim bakers could be forced to promote Jewish holidays and black bakers to promote a KKK message.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, which is defending Phillips, has argued that the same Colorado commission that is punishing Phillips exonerated three other “cake artists who refused to express religious messages” with which they disagreed. The rejected messages were all Christian messages.
“Had the commission applied the same rationale to those artists that it applied to Phillips, it would have punished them too. After all, [the law] forbids refusing service because of religious beliefs, and those cake artists admitted that they declined the requests because of the religious beliefs expressed on the cakes,” the organization said in its brief.
Kennedy also pointed out that the Colorado commission was “neither … tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips’ religious beliefs.”
In fact, the state commission’s antagonism to Christian beliefs became evident at the outset of the case, when one member, Diann Rice, publicly exhibited bias against Phillips during a hearing, comparing him to a Nazi.
“I would also like to reiterate what we said in the hearing or the last meeting,” Rice said during consideration of Phillips’ case. “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, whether it be – I mean, we – 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 – to use their religion to hurt others.”
Hear a recording of Rice’s statement:
The response to Phillips from the state of Colorado was an order for him to be reindoctrinated, which has now resulted in a move by Colorado lawmakers to defund the commission entirely.