Friday, August 31, 2018

Lamborn targeting Civil Rights Commission over Masterpiece cake cases

Posted By on Fri, Aug 31, 2018 at 1:18 PM

click to enlarge Lamborn: going to bat for a baker. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Lamborn: going to bat for a baker.
Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, wants business people to be able to refuse service to anyone who don't conform to their religious beliefs.

Lamborn says he's sticking up for Christianity, which he and others erroneously have labeled as the founding religion of this country. In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Lamborn calls for the Justice Department to investigate the "anti-religious bias" of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

The commission is under fire for its ruling against the Masterpiece Cakeshop for refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the baker, drawing this comment from the commission. However, it was a narrow ruling. Basically, the court did not like how the commission handled the case, noting:
• two members spoke in inappropriately hostile tones about Phillips' religious exemption claim;
• the commission had allowed other cake shops to refuse to make cakes for people with messages that opposed same-sex marriage showing inconsistency;
• same-sex marriage was not yet legal in Colorado at the time of the refusal which could have led to some confusion.

However, the court did strongly suggest that a state has a right to compel business owners like Phillips to provide goods and services regardless of a customer's status as part of a protected class, such as being gay.

More recently, the Civil Rights Commission again ruled against the cake shop owner in a case in which baker Jack Phillips refused to make a cake for a transgender woman who wanted to celebrate her transition and birthday. Phillips then sued the commission.

Now, Lamborn is stepping into the fray, saying Phillips was justified in rejecting the customer's request because, as Lamborn puts it, "the cake's artistic message conflicted with his deeply held Christian beliefs."

Specifically, Lamborn wants the Justice Department to investigate "the actions of Ms. Aubrey Elenis, Director of the Colorado Civil Rights Division, as well as the Civil Rights Commission for their continued anti-religious bias."

Lamborn said in a release, "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." Clarification: Lamborn was referring to the Civil Rights Commission with the term "biased arbiter," not himself or Phillips.
Phillips has ended up in hot water with the Commission because of public accommodation laws — you may recognize the term from the Civil Rights Movement. The laws protect classes of citizens that are often discriminated against, such as LGBTQ people or, say, African-Americans, by requiring that businesses not discriminate against them based on their protected status. In other words, no one is forcing Phillips to make wedding cakes or birthday cakes. But the law says that if he will make a wedding cake for, say a white heterosexual couple, he must also be willing to make one for a black, gay couple.

In case you're wondering, these are the same laws that African-Americans fought for at lunch counters decades ago.

We asked the Civil Rights Commission for a comment on Lamborn's move and a spokesperson declined.

In a statement, Lamborn said those with religious convictions like Phillips "are under assault," adding, "Mr. Phillips' shop serves any and every customer, but he reserves the right to use his artistic talents how he chooses... I am calling on the Department of Justice to protect the rights of religious Coloradans by ensuring that the Civil Rights Commission cannot continue its harassment of people of faith in my home state and its attempts to violate their first amendment freedoms."

Given Sessions' proclivity to side with evangelical Christians, and given who he works for, it might be a fair bet that Sessions will take Lamborn up on his request.

Lamborn is seeking his seventh term in office after a bruising primary election in which his petitions were challenged all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court.

His Democratic opponent is Stephany Rose Spaulding, a professor of women's studies.

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