Colorado Editorials

The Colorado Springs Gazette: Investigate Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission

Author: The Gazette Editorial Board - September 4, 2018 - Updated: September 4, 2018

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Baker Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, at his shop June 4 in Lakewood, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor in a discrimination case. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, an attorney, dove headfirst into cake law last week.

In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Colorado Springs Republican asks the Department of Justice to investigate the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for violating the First Amendment rights of Colorado cake designer Jack Phillips.

Sessions should take the congressman’s advice and launch the investigation.

At issue is Colorado government’s harassment of Phillips, who owns Masterpiece Cake Shop in Lakewood. The commission penalized Phillips for declining to design a cake for the celebration of a same-sex marriage in 2012.

Conversely, the same commission upheld the discrimination rights of a baker who refused to design a cake featuring a scriptural interpretation that offended her.

The commission condemns content-based discrimination against a gay couple but condones content-based discrimination on a basis of religion.

Liberals and conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court understood the double standard and denounced it in the majority ruling of Masterpiece Cake Shop v. Civil Rights Commission.

“A principled rationale for the difference in treatment of these two instances cannot be based on the government’s own assessment of offensiveness,” the ruling explains.

The court cited West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnett, in which the majority ruled “no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.”

The 7-2 majority ruling on June 4 excoriated the commission for violating the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause and the “state’s duty under the First Amendment not to base laws or regulation on hostility to a religion.”

After that ruling, the Civil Rights Commission doubled down. It ruled against Phillips 24 days later for declining to design a cake celebrating the fifth anniversary of attorney Autumn Scardina’s gender transition from male to female.

Newsweek reports Scardina’s history of antagonizing Phillips with cake requests she knows he won’t fulfill.

“The baker was recently cited by the state of Colorado for wrongly denying a transgender customer’s birthday cake request — the same person that Phillips suspects requested the Satan cakes,” Newsweek reports.

One cake request included Satan licking a 9-inch mechanical sex toy. Another had Satan smoking a joint.

The Civil Rights Commission’s arbitrary prescription of morality in cake design — detailed by the Supreme Court — raises a question: Will the Civil Rights Commission force bakers to design cakes for “conversion therapy” celebrations?

Just as some individuals transition from one gender to another, others claim a transition from homosexual to heterosexual orientation through conversion therapy. Although society increasingly accepts gender transitions, legislators in Colorado and other states work to regulate and ban conversion therapy. One form of transition is popular, the other is not.

In this market of gotcha activism, the Civil Rights Commission should hawkishly enforce civil rights without regard for popular sentiment or politics. It cannot serve as a board that sanctions popular beliefs by punishing less fashionable views. Civil rights are not defined by contemporary mores.

As discovered by the U.S. Supreme Court, Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission violates the First Amendment by selectively punishing on a basis of ideology and content.

“The Department of Justice cannot continue to allow a biased arbiter, who holds a near monopoly on anti-discrimination cases within the state, to continue to wage a personal campaign against individuals they disagree with,” Lamborn said in a statement.

The commission has no intention of changing its ways, as seen in the latest ruling that favors a known antagonist openly hostile to Phillips. Lamborn’s request makes sense. The Department of Justice should investigate this rogue commission that mocks civil rights.

The Gazette Editorial Board

The Gazette Editorial Board