A California court ruled in favor of a Christian baker Friday following a years-long legal battle after she refused to bake a custom cake for a lesbian wedding in 2017, citing her religious beliefs.
“We applaud the court for this decision,” Thomas More Society Special Counsel Charles LiMandri said in a statement. “The freedom to practice one’s religion is enshrined in the First Amendment, and the United States Supreme Court has long upheld the freedom of artistic expression.”
Cathy Miller, a cake designer who owns the popular Tastries bakery in Bakersfield, California, won what her lawyers at the Thomas More Society called “a First Amendment victory” when Judge Eric Bradshaw of the Superior Court of California in Kern County ruled against California’s Department of Fair Housing and Employment, which had brought the lawsuit against her.
Miller was subject to multiple lawsuits after she referred a lesbian couple to another baker when they requested a cake for their wedding. Because of her Christian belief that marriage is between one man and one woman, Miller declined to design a custom cake for their ceremony, believing it would be tantamount to a tacit affirmation.
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In an interview with KERO in 2017, Miller said, “Here at Tastries, we love everyone. My husband and I are Christians, and we know that God created everyone, and He created everyone equal, so it’s not that we don’t like people of certain groups, there is just certain things that violate my conscience.”
California’s Department of Fair Housing and Employment subsequently filed legal action against Miller’s business under the Unruh Civil Rights Act, an expansive 1959 state law aimed at protecting consumers from discrimination by businesses on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion.
Paul Jonna, Thomas More Society special counsel who also served as one of Miller’s lawyers, noted in a statement that there was “a certain irony” in his client’s case, given “that a law intended to protect individuals from religious discrimination was used to discriminate against Cathy for her religious beliefs.”
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Noting that Miller’s beliefs regarding marriage are mainstream Christian teachings, Jonna alleged that attorneys for the state harassed his client.
The Thomas More Society claimed in a press release that during her deposition in February, lawyers for the state apparently questioned the sincerity of Miller’s faith by quizzing her regarding whether she adhered to the dietary laws of the Old Testament like she does the Bible’s teachings on sexual morality.
“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.”
During closing arguments before the judge in July, LiMandri said that Miller would have provided the couple with a pre-made cake but that she regarded one made with her personal artistry as an endorsement of gay marriage, which goes against her Christian beliefs.