On Monday, Nov. 13, the Religious Freedom Center and the Alliance Defending Freedom hosted a mock court centered on the upcoming Supreme Court case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
In 2012, Colorado baker Jack Phillips refused to create a wedding cake for a gay couple. The couple, Charlie Craig and David Mullins, sued Phillips for discrimination based on sexual orientation. After lower courts ruled that Phillips had violated Colorado’s anti-discrimination law, the case made its way to the Supreme Court, whose decision will have major implications for both religious freedom and LGBT rights in America.
On Monday evening in the Newseum’s Knight Conference Center, ACLU attorney Ria Tabacco Mar faced off against ADF senior counsel David Cortman, whose argument centered mainly around the violation of Phillips’s free speech rights. Cortman argued that Phillips’s cakes are a form of artistic expression, and as such are protected by the First Amendment right to free speech.
Mar asserted that it didn’t matter whether the cake could be considered a form of speech. She claimed instead that the anti-discrimination law was not intended to target free speech, but instead regulate “commercial conduct” when an individual is selling to the public.
Both attorneys supported their assertions with previous rulings. Cortman pointed to Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston, where the court held that the case was an incident of “compelled speech,” which overrode anti-discrimination concerns and violated the First Amendment. Mar cited the case of United States v. O’ Brien, where the Supreme Court ruled against a man’s right to burn his draft card, because it interfered with the government’s ability to administer the draft. Mar said this was an example of the government regulating speech in a way that was consistent with the First Amendment.
The Supreme Court will hear the Masterpiece Cakeshop case on Dec. 5, 2017.
In April, the Religious Freedom Center and the Alliance Defending Freedom also hosted a mock court that centered on the pivotal Supreme Court case Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia Inc. v. Comer. These free programs, open to the public and live-streamed on the Newseum website, offer the opportunity for the public to better understand some of the biggest debates of our time, some of which pit religious freedom against civil rights. To receive updates on these and other programs and initiatives from the Religious Freedom Center, please subscribe to our newsletter.