Press Release

ADL to Supreme Court: Reject Discrimination in Colorado Bakery Case

New York, NY, October 30, 2017 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today joined a friend-of-the court brief to the U.S. Supreme Court urging rejection of a bakery’s claim that the Free Exercise Clause to the First Amendment empowered it to refuse the sale of a wedding cake to a same-sex couple based on the owner’s religious beliefs.

The brief filed by a coalition of civil rights and religious organizations asserts the Court should uphold a lower court ruling that the bakery’s denial of service violated Colorado prohibitions on sexual-orientation discrimination in the sale of goods or services by public accommodations. ADL’s brief also stresses that anti-discrimination laws like Colorado’s embody First Amendment principles by prohibiting religious discrimination and protecting our nation’s vibrant diversity. The bakery, however, is claiming that the Free Exercise Clause exempts violations of anti-discrimination laws which are motivated by religious beliefs.

“Our nation’s constitutional religious liberty protections are a shield for exercise of faith, not a sword to impose religious beliefs on others in the marketplace,” said David Barkey, ADL National Religious Freedom Counsel. “Acceptance of the argument that discriminatory conduct is exempt from the law because of religious beliefs would undermine the rule of law in our pluralistic democracy.

“The harmful impact of such a ruling would be without limit,” Mr. Barkey said. “While this case may involve a gay couple, the next one could involve a bakery refusing to sell a Bar Mitzvah cake, a restaurant refusing to serve a Muslim, or a Jewish landlord evicting a Catholic or Evangelical Christian. The Court cannot condone Americans being forced to choose between openly being gay, practicing their faith or otherwise being true to their personal identity and being served in the marketplace.”

The brief further explains that particularly for generally applicable laws such as Colorado’s anti-discrimination statute, the First Amendment’s religion clauses do not grant businesses religious exemptions that harm others.

ADL had previously filed an amicus brief in this case entitled - Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission - with the Colorado Court of Appeals. The Appeals Court upheld a Colorado Civil Rights Division’s determination that the Cakeshop violated the State’s Anti-Discrimination Act when based on the owner’s religious opposition to same-sex marriage it refused to design and sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple.

The amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court was primarily authored by Americans United for Separation of Church and State and joined by the following organizations: Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice; Fairness West Virginia; Interfaith Alliance Foundation; National Council of Jewish Women, Inc.; and People For the American Way Foundation.