Denis Chicola, communications director for the Haas Jr. Fund, told CNA that the fund both believes in religious freedom and believes that the actions of the cakeshop were discriminatory.
“Religious freedom — the right to practice one’s religion and to know that society will make reasonable accommodations for people to do so — is a bedrock American value. It’s something each and every one of us should defend,” Chicola said. “We became involved in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case because we and our partners believe that allowing a private business to discriminate against a gay couple is discriminatory. Nobody should be turned away from a business simply because of who they are.”
When the Supreme Court announced it would hear the Masterpiece Cakeshop Case, Chicola said, the fund’s grantees reported “many LGBT people did not understand the case, let alone the potential harmful ramifications it could have for marriage equality and for the ongoing work of securing broader nondiscrimination protections.”
“For this reason, we supported long-time grantees to conduct a public education campaign targeting the LGBT community,” he said. “This campaign was focused on the facts about the case, and we were heartened by how our grantees were able to broaden people’s knowledge and understanding on this vitally important issue.”
According to Hunt, Phillips’ opponents missed the point.
“Not a single Christian wants to treat a member of the LGBT community as a second-class citizen. We are called to love and serve all people,” he said. “In Jack’s case, he would have served any person who sought to purchase a product from his shop. He simply did not want to use his artistic talent to celebrate a ceremony that violated his deeply held religious beliefs.”
“Jack’s case has nothing to do with failing to serve a member of the LGBT community,” Hunt added. “In fact, if I as a Bible-believing conservative asked Jack to bake a cake that violated his religious beliefs, he would have said no. It is not about the people, it is about the message.”
“We are losing our sense of civic friendship in our communities. Too often, activists seek to use the law to punish those they disagree with in an effort to create uniformity,” he continued. “I believe we can live in society where members of the LGBT community are respected and religious freedom is protected.”
Phillips, the baker, has since faced another complaint from a prospective customer, an attorney who asked for a cake to mark a gender transition anniversary. The request was for a cake that was pink on the inside and blue on the outside, representing a transition from male to female. Phillips declined to make the cake based on his religious beliefs, and the prospective customer filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The commission ruled that there was sufficient evidence of a discrimination claim based on transgender status and ordered both sides to “compulsory mediation.”
Phillips’ attorneys filed a federal lawsuit challenging the action.
“The state of Colorado is ignoring the message of the U.S. Supreme Court by continuing to single out Jack for punishment and to exhibit hostility toward his religious beliefs,” Kristen Waggoner, senior vice president of the U.S. legal division of Alliance Defending Freedom, said in August.
(Story continues below)
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Waggoner’s legal group is representing Phillips, but it declined comment for this story. Phillips has said he has also declined to make a number of other types of cakes, including cakes for Halloween, bachelor parties, divorce, cakes with alcohol in the ingredients, and cakes with atheist messages.
Grant listings and tax forms provide some insight into the strategy, tactics and resources of the large network of advocacy groups, academic projects and other organizations that aim to limit religious freedom protections in the U.S.
Many donors have combined to fund the Rights, Faith & Democracy Collaborative, run out of the Massachusetts-based Proteus Fund. The collaborative’s website says its grantmaking “centers around building a sustainable, cross movement infrastructure capable of developing a unified voice for LGBTQ, RJ(reproductive justice), and faith allies; investing in learning that advances the field; and supporting long-term culture change efforts to move hearts and minds on these issues.”
Since September 2017 the Haas, Jr. Fund has given $200,000 to this project. The Overbrook Foundation has given $125,000, citing the collaborative’s work to curtail “the inappropriate use of religious exemptions to curtail reproductive health, rights and justice, discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community, and otherwise undermine fundamental rights and liberties.” The Moriah Fund gave $35,000, citing its focus on “defeating harmful religious refusal policies.”
Perhaps the largest donor to the anti-religious freedom campaign, the New York-based Arcus Foundation, included $300,000 to the collaborative in its recent grantmaking.
Arcus has given $900,000 in anti-religious freedom grants since September 2017. These include $150,000 for the ACLU’s Religious Exemptions Communications Hub Project, which “spurs communications efforts in driving and shaping the public narrative around religious exemptions that harm or would harm LGBTQ people, women, and religious minorities”; and $200,000 to the Center for American Progress’ Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative “to challenge discriminatory religious exemptions policies, by advancing moral and ethical arguments for faith-centered resistance against conservative policies within the United States,” according to a June 20 news release from the foundation.