Don’t Sanction Religious Excuses for Discrimination, CFI Tells Supreme Court in Cakeshop Case

For Immediate Release: October 31, 2017
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director - (207) 358-9785


A business owner’s religious beliefs do not entitle him or her to refuse to serve members of the LGBTQ community, said the Center for Inquiry today in an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. CFI’s brief is cosigned by American Atheists and the Secular Coalition for America.

Jack Phillips, an owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, refused to design a wedding cake for a gay couple, Charlie Craig and David Mullins. After being found to have violated Colorado law by the state’s Civil Rights Commission, and after losing his appeals through the Colorado court system, Phillips has brought his case to the Supreme Court.

Wisely, Colorado has rejected attempts to impose a state Religious Freedom Restoration Act similar to the federal law used by Hobby Lobby to refuse to provide contraceptive access to its employees in its insurance plan. Phillips’ argument, therefore, is an amalgam of legal theories, claiming that both his rights to free speech and his rights to religious freedom are harmed by being required to make a cake for a same sex couple.

“Phillips’ arguments are a smokescreen,” said Nick Little, CFI’s Vice President and General Counsel. “He wants an exception to a law based on his religious beliefs, and Colorado has made clear that he isn’t entitled to special treatment for playing the religion card. So instead he has invented a bizarre claim that baking a cake, the design of which was yet to be decided, forces him to send a message of approval for same sex marriages.”

CFI warns the Court that if this argument is granted, it would allow businesses across the board to reject anti-discrimination laws if they can base their discrimination on a claimed religious belief.

“This isn’t going to stop at one baker and one cake,” said Little. “A restaurant or a hotel owner could make exactly the same argument; as could an accountant or a surgeon. And it won’t just be members of the LGBTQ community being refused service. If allowed in this case, such egregious privileging of religion would permit bigoted businesses to deny service to members of other faiths (or no faith), women, African Americans, and other marginalized groups. It would fatally undermine decades of anti-discrimination law in this country.”

“CFI stands steadfast in favor of equality under the law, as it always has and always will,” noted Robyn Blumner, CFI’s President and CEO. “Phillips and his supporters in the religious right are once again seeking special treatment for being religious so they can ignore the same laws the rest of us obey. That’s unconstitutional, and it’s just plain wrong. The choice for the Justices of the Supreme Court is clear.”

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at