- The Washington Times - Monday, April 6, 2015

DENVER — The battle over gay rights and religious freedom heated up a notch Monday as conservatives pointed to a Colorado panel’s ruling in favor of three bakeries that refused to bake anti-gay cakes as evidence of a double standard.

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission rejected complaints filed by Castle Rock resident William Jack against three Denver confectioners — Azucar Bakery, Gateaux and Le Bakery Sensual — after their owners refused to make cakes with Bible verses and images condemning homosexuality.

What rankled critics on the right is that nearly a year ago, the commission ruled against Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, whose owner Jack Phillips declined to create a cake for a gay wedding, citing his Christian faith.

“Taste the double standard: Colorado bakeries can refuse anti-gay cakes, but not gay wedding cakes,” said the conservative website Twitchy in a post.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jeremy Tedesco praised the commission for its ruling in support of the three bakeries, but said the panel should have reached the same decision in the cake of Masterpiece Cakeshop.

“The commission found that these three cake artists have the freedom to decline creating unique cake creations because the artists found the requests offensive, but all Americans should be alarmed that the same commission determined that Jack doesn’t have that same freedom,” Mr. Tedesco said in a Monday statement.

The commission found that Azucar Bakery owner Marjorie Silva did not discriminate against Mr. Jack because she based her rejection on the “derogatory language and imagery,” not the fact that he was a Christian.

“The evidence demonstrates that [Silva] would deny such requests to any customer, regardless of creed,” said the decision as cited by 7News.

Evan Hurst, social media manager for the website Wonkette, called Mr. Jack a “blithering wingnut” who wanted to “show that, as always, Conservative Christians are the real victims.”

“We know anti-gay cake bakers feel that this imposes extra trials, tribulations and travails on top of their truffles, but this is America, and that is how things work,” Mr. Hurst said in a Monday post.

Mr. Jack, who says he will appeal the decision, had asked the bakeries for two cakes shaped like Bibles: One with the verses, “God hates sin. Psalm 45:7” and “Homosexuality is a detestable sin. Leviticus 18:2,” and the other with the messages, “God loves sinners” and “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Romans 5:8.”

He also asked for images on both cakes with a male couple in wedding tuxedos holding hands with a red “X” over them.

Azucar Bakery’s website is now offering for sale T-shirts with the message, “Because God Loves Everyone … Don’t Hate … let’s eat cake!”

“It’s been a roller coaster,” Ms. Silva told 7News. “We were not just morally right but also legally right.”

In a statement, Mr. Jack said, “It is offensive that the bakers who refused me service deemed the Bible verses I requested on two cakes ‘discriminatory’ and the CCRD considered that reason enough for them to deny me service.”

The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act “is being used to censor Christian business owners’ free speech and is being used to coerce them to participate in events that violate their consciences. This is hypocrisy and unequal treatment before the law,” Mr. Jack said.

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh said in January on his website the Volokh Conspiracy that Mr. Jack “doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on,” noting that nothing in Colorado law forbids discrimination based on ideology.

“To win on a religious discrimination claim, Jack would have to prove that he would have been served based on his religion, and he can’t do that if the Azucar people credibly testify that they would have rejected such an anti-gay message regardless of whether or not it was religious,” Mr. Volokh said.

Not that Mr. Volokh is unsympathetic to the plight of religious business owners. He submitted a brief last year defending a New Mexico photographer’s right to refuse to provide services for a gay wedding, a case she lost before the New Mexico Supreme Court.

“[A] couple that is told by a photographer that she does not want to photograph their commitment ceremony may understandably be offended,” said Mr. Volokh in a March 2014 op-ed written with Cato Institute senior fellow Ilya Shapiro in the Wall Street Journal. “But avoiding offense is not a valid reason for restricting or compelling speech.”

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