Sunday, March 3, 2024

Christian Baker Asks Court to Protect Her Rights as CA Wages 6-Year Legal Battle Against Her

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A Christian baker in Bakersfield, California once again asked a state court last week to protect her ability to operate her bakery in accordance with her faith. 

In California Department of Civil Rights v. Tastries, Cathy Miller said she wants to continue serving her local Bakersfield community at her bakery, Tastries, a vision she brought to life over a decade ago. 

However, California opened an investigation into Miller after she explained to a same-sex couple that her faith did not allow her to design their wedding cake. For over six years, California has repeatedly compared Miller’s religious beliefs about marriage to racism and argued that Miller’s beliefs harm “the dignity of all Californians,” according to her attorneys at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. 

Because of the lawsuit, Miller and her staff have lost contracts, received death threats, and faced repeated sexual harassment, Becket said. 

“Targeting a family-run bakery because of the owner’s religious beliefs is meanspirited, illegal, and deserves no place in our society,” said Adèle Keim, senior counsel at Becket. “California officials should have never started this campaign against Cathy and her bakery. California should let Cathy bake in peace.”

Miller’s bakery’s mission statement is to “honor God in all that we do,” and her Baptist faith influences everything from the Bible verses she puts on her business cards to the music she plays in the shop, the nonprofit religious rights law firm said. 

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According to her court filing, after she started her business, Miller realized that sometimes customers would ask her to bake things that her Christian faith forbids, so she developed written design standards to ensure that Tastries’ custom bakery items don’t violate her religious beliefs. 

For example, Tastries will not design custom bakery items that depict gory or pornographic images, celebrate drug use, or demean others. Because of her religious beliefs about the nature of marriage and the symbolism of the wedding cake, Miller will also not design wedding cakes to celebrate same-sex weddings. Tastries serves all people, but when same-sex couples ask her for a custom-designed wedding cake, she refers them to a nearby bakery.  

“My faith calls me to serve others with joy and compassion, and Tastries has been my way of answering that call since I opened its doors over a decade ago,” Miller said in a statement. “All I want is to continue serving my local community without being forced into court or threatened for following my faith.”

Sued in 2017 Because Bakery Would Not Design Homosexual Wedding Cake

In 2017, the California Civil Rights Department sued Miller after she told a same-sex couple that she could not design their wedding cake. In the days and weeks that followed, Tastries was flooded with angry social media posts, death threats, and harassing emails and phone calls by men describing how they intended to sexually assault Miller and her employees.  As a result, many of Miller’s employees quit because they were afraid for their safety. 

As CBN News reported in February 2018, Miller thought her legal nightmare had ended when a county judge ruled that she had the right to not make a wedding cake for a homosexual couple. 

Kern County Superior Court Judge David Lampe ruled at the time that cakes celebrating events are a form of speech. The state cannot force her to act against her sincerely held beliefs, Lampe wrote in his ruling.

But the state’s 5th District Court of Appeal later vacated Lampe’s ruling and sent the lawsuit back to the county. 

Then, as CBN’s Faithwire reported in October 2022, a second judge ruled in Miller’s favor after the state’s Department of Fair Housing and Employment sued her, arguing she intentionally discriminated against the same-sex couple in violation of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act. Kern County Superior Court Judge Eric Bradshaw ruled Miller acted lawfully while upholding her beliefs about what the Bible teaches regarding marriage.

California then appealed Bradshaw’s decision back to the 5th District Court of Appeal. With the help of Becket, Miller filed her 75-page response at the appeals court to protect her freedom to operate her business consistent with her faith.

The state revived the case last fall, believing it could overturn the latest ruling in her favor. In their brief, state officials said that “because the predesigned, unadorned cake was not inherently expressive, it was not entitled to First Amendment protection traditionally given to speech or other expressive conduct,” according to Bakersfield.com. 

The state’s attorneys have since compared Miller’s beliefs about marriage to racism and claimed that Miller’s beliefs are harmful to Californians. Meanwhile, Miller and her staff have lost contracts, received death threats, faced harassment, and suffered theft and assault.

“During the Department’s six-year-long prosecution, it has engaged in repeated mischaracterizations of Miller’s beliefs and publicly compared her to vile racists, while turning a blind eye to the hate crimes that she and her staff have suffered. The Department’s bias is another reason its appeal should fail,” Miller’s responding brief said. 

Keim told Bakersfield.com that the state has unfairly compared Miller’s case to the racist policies of the post-Civil War South. 

“They’ve spent a lot of time comparing her to racists and accusing her of trying to ‘turn back the clock’ for other people,” the Becket attorney said. “The evidence in this case shows that is not what she has done, that is not her beliefs.”

The outlet reported a representative for the state’s Civil Rights Department said it would “review the filing and respond as appropriate in court.”

Oral arguments in the case are expected this summer.



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