A Christian cake designer from Bakersfield, California was awarded a major First Amendment victory when a Superior Court decided she had the right to refuse to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding because it violated her sincerely held religious beliefs.
According to the Thomas More Society, cake designer Cathy Miller was vindicated in the California courts for practicing her Christian principles on the job. Her cake shop, Tastries, was targeted by gay activists who contacted the Department of Fair Housing and Employment (DFHE) when Miller refused to bake a cake for their 2017 wedding ceremony. At the time, Miller told them, “I can’t be a part of a same-sex wedding because of my deeply held religious convictions, and I can’t hurt my Lord and Savior.” She then referred the lesbian couple to another bakery.
“Within hours of Eileen and Mireya leaving Tastries that day, social media posts appeared, expressing various viewpoints, not all of them friendly,” the ruling stated. “In the hours and days that followed, media appeared. Pornographic emails and messages were sent to Tastries, necessitating a shut-down of the computer. An article was written about Eileen and Mireya that was not true. Property was damaged. Hurtful things were said about Eileen and Mireya, and Miller and Tastries.”
The couple eventually found another baker to bake their cake. Shortly after their October 7 ceremony, an enforcement action against Tastries was filed by the DFHE under California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which provides protection from discrimination by business establishments on the basis of race, ethnicity, or religion.
“There’s a certain irony there,” said Paul Jonna, Thomas More Society Special Counsel, “that a law intended to protect individuals from religious discrimination was used to discriminate against Cathy for her religious beliefs.”
The state also blatantly questioned the sincerity of Miller’s beliefs. During a February 24, 2022 deposition, Gregory Mann, an attorney for the state, asked Miller, “Do you try to follow everything that the Bible says?” Miller answered, “I do my best, but I’m a sinner, but I do my best.” Mann then asked, “Do you follow some of the eating practices from the Old Testament in terms of not eating pigs, not eating shellfish, et cetera?”
“The state was actually questioning the sincerity of Cathy’s faith,” Jonna said. “The fact that they called Miller’s open and sincerely held beliefs into question is almost as disturbing as quibbling over her status as an artist.”
Judge Eric Bradshaw of the Superior Court of California in Kern County wasn’t buying the state’s arguments.
“Defendants pure and expressive speech is entitled to protection under the First Amendment,” the ruling stated. “DFHE’s enforcement action seeks to compel Miller and Tastries to express support for same-sex marriage, or be silent. No compelling state interest justifies such a result under strict scrutiny.”
“It’s been a long five years,” Miller told the Bakersfield Californian after the ruling. “I’m hoping that in our community we can grow together…and we should understand that we shouldn’t push any agenda against anyone else.”
The couple plans to appeal the ruling.
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