The Poor Forgotten Baker

Earlier this year, Colorado baker Jack Phillips got in trouble again for exercising what he thought was his right in a free country to discriminate. Some libertarians have been strangely quiet about his plight.

In 2013, Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Denver, was accused by Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission (CCRD) of discriminating against a homosexual couple because he refused to bake them a cake for their “wedding.” An administrative law judge found in favor of the couple, and this was affirmed by the Commission. The decision was appealed to the Colorado Court of Appeals, which again affirmed the Commission’s decision in 2015. A petition for a writ of certiorari was filed with the Supreme Court in 2016, and was granted in 2017. The Court, in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (2018), in a 7-2 vote, ruled in favor of Phillips because “the Commission’s actions here violated the Free Exercise Clause.”

But the radical left wasn’t done with Phillips.

Soon after the Supreme Court decision, Autumn Scardina—who was born and remains a man no matter how many left-libertarians call him a woman—requested that Phillips bake him a cake pink on the inside and blue on the outside to celebrate his birthday and seventh anniversary of his “gender transition” from male to female.

Phillips refused, so Scardina filed a complaint with the CCRD.

CCRD director Aubrey Elenis concluded that there was probable cause that Phillips had unlawfully denied Scardina “equal enjoyment of a place of public accommodation,” and ordered the two to enter mediation. Phillips, represented again by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), sued the state of Colorado in U.S. District Court in Denver for renewing its “crusade” again him because he again refused to bake a cake that would have violated his religious beliefs.

In March 2019, the state Attorney General’s office announced that it and Phillips’ attorneys had “mutually agreed to end their ongoing state and federal court litigation,” including the CCRD action against Phillips.

So Scardina filed a civil suit of his own in state court.

In June of this year, Denver District Court Judge A. Bruce Jones ruled that Phillips violated Colorado anti-discrimination law by refusing to bake the special cake and fined him $500. (I wonder if the judge would have likewise ruled that a Jewish baker who refused to bake a cake for Nazis in honor of Hitler’s birthday and a seamstress who refused to monogram robes for Klan members violated Colorado anti-discrimination law? Of course he wouldn’t.)

For months now I have been watching carefully the libertarian reaction to Phillips’ recent plight. It is almost non-existent from some quarters. And when the right of Phillips to discriminate is mentioned, it is usually tempered by some statement implying that his beliefs are wrong. As one prominent libertarian said back in June: “You may not agree with Phillips’ beliefs—I don’t—but a liberal, pluralistic society requires tolerance for people of different moral beliefs coexisting without using the state to crush dissent out of one another.”

CDC libertarians are so enamored with the Covid-19 vaccine that they have forgotten about the poor baker. They have been so busy telling us that private businesses have the right to require that their customers wear masks, social distance, and get the Covid-19 vaccine that they have ignored Jack Phillips. Never in their life have they talked as much about the right of businesses to discriminate as they have during the past year. But it is usually always in reference to the right of businesses to discriminate against the unmasked and the unvaccinated.

Since CDC libertarians rarely make an unequivocal case for the absolute freedom of discrimination, let me state the libertarian position on discrimination as clearly and succinctly as I can: Since discrimination—against anyone, on any basis, and for any reason—is not aggression, force, coercion, threat, or violence, the government should never prohibit it, seek to prevent it, or punish anyone for doing it.

The libertarian position on discrimination has nothing to do with racism, sexism, prejudice, bigotry, hate, intolerance, homophobia, or xenophobia and everything to do with freedom.

Anti-discrimination laws are an attack on property rights, freedom of association, the free market, and freedom of thought.

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