Bakersfield Christian baker, Tastries Bakery wins discrimination lawsuit filed by California state on behalf of same sex lesbian couple Eileen and Mireya Rodriguez-Del Rio who sought wedding cake but were denied on account of religious expressions of principles.
Right decision? Disconcert has come to the fore after a California judge sided with a Bakersfield baker who had resisted being ‘compelled’ to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple on account of her religious beliefs against same sex marriage.
On Saturday, Cathy Miller, owner of Tastries Bakery in Bakersfield, California, announced that a Kern County judge had sided with her after a years-long battle.
‘Thank you Tastries friends and family,’ the bakery stated in a post on Facebook, referencing a long drawn out lawsuit filed against her after refusing in 2017 to bake a lesbian couple a wedding cake.
‘Yesterday, after much consideration and analysis of details regarding the Cathy’s Creations and Tastries Bakery discrimination case, Judge Eric Bradshaw ruled in favor of Cathy Miller,’ the post continued.
‘We appreciate your prayers and support as we joyfully continue to do business with you in the future. I’m hoping that in our community we can grow together,’ Miller said, ‘and we should understand that we shouldn’t push any agenda against anyone else.’
First Amendment victory?
In 2017, Miller refused to make a cake for a lesbian couple, Eileen and Mireya Rodriguez-Del Rio, citing her religious beliefs.
At the time, the baker allegedly politely refused to make the cake and gave the couple the name of an alternative bakery.
The Thomas More Society, whose lawyers represented the baker, called the win in a California courtroom a ‘First Amendment victory.’
The organization is a ‘conservative Roman Catholic public-interest law firm based in Chicago,’ according to their website.
‘We applaud the court for this decision,’ Thomas More Society Special Counsel Charles LiMandri said.
‘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.’
The discrimination lawsuit, one of many, had been brought forth by the California Department of Fair Housing and Employment under the Unruh Civil Rights Act.
Bakersfield Christian baker: ‘I believe in the Bible’
Another lawyer with the Thomas More Society said that it’s the correct ruling for the woman and the freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment.
‘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.’
‘Cathy believes in the Bible,’ said Jonna, citing Miller’s belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.
In their press release, the Thomas More society also shared deposition from February where prosecutors appeared to question Miller’s religious beliefs, which they found ‘disturbing’.
‘Do you try to follow everything that the Bible says?’ asked attorney for the California Department of Fair Housing and Employment, Anthony Mann at the time.
‘I do my best, but I’m a sinner, but I do my best,’ Miller responded while testifying.
Do Christian beliefs constitute artistic freedom?
‘Do you follow some of the eating practices from the Old Testament in terms of not eating pigs, not eating shellfish, et cetera,’ Mann continued.
The lawyers for the Thomas More Society said they saw this as a clear violation of her rights.
‘The state was actually questioning the sincerity of Cathy’s faith,’ said Jonna.
‘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,’ the lawyer continued.
‘Miller’s only motivation, at all times, was to act consistent with her sincere Christian beliefs about what the Bible teaches regarding marriage,’ Judge Bradshaw wrote in his decision.
‘That motivation was not unreasonable, or arbitrary, nor did it emphasize irrelevant differences or perpetuate stereotypes,’ the judge said.
Bradshaw also said that baking cakes is still an expression of ‘pure speech’ and rooted in artistic expression.
‘Defendants’ pure and expressive speech is entitled to protection under the First Amendment,’ Bradshaw wrote.
‘Of course we’re disappointed, but not surprised,’ Eileen Rodriguez-Del Rio said Friday after the judge issued the ruling.
‘Certain things that violate my conscience’
‘We anticipate that our appeal will have a different result,’ the woman said.
In 2017, Miller told one local news outlet that she didn’t mean to discriminate, but that the request for her to make a new cake would go against what she believed.
‘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.’
Additionally, the woman claimed that she would have been willing to sell the same sex couple a pre-made cake.
The act of baking and designing a cake, however, is where the line was drawn.
Tastries, which has nearly 10,000 followers on Facebook, received dozens of comments on their post Saturday.
Most commenters seemed to be in support of Miller and Bradshaw’s ruling.
‘Praise God! May He continue to protect over you,’ said one follower.
‘Fervent prayers answered,’ wrote another.
A religious freedom victory in Bakersfield! A good judge who used to work at a pro-business law firm has rejected the Democrat Attorney General of California, who wanted to force a Christian baker to betray Jesus Christ and participate in “gay weddings”: https://t.co/l0Av1pQk8O pic.twitter.com/CNINJoGhOf
— SaveCalifornia.com (@savecalifornia) February 8, 2018
Mused another, ‘Whether you agree or disagree the point here is it’s HER business. It’s a free country for now that is. There are so many bakeries to choose from….move on!’
Not all were were so approving of the way that Bradshaw sided, however.
Wrote one commentator: ‘I hope this bakery is asking couples if they’re divorced and if so what is the reason, and proof of that reason, because there are only 2 reasons acceptable for divorce per the Bible. I also hope they’re asking couples if they’ve had premarital sex, as that’s also prohibited per the Bible. I’m guessing not.’
Added another, ‘I wonder if you makes cakes for children born out of wedlock? Or for couples who live together without being married? For people previously convicted of felonies? You may have made cakes for murderers without knowing it. Slippery slope.’
‘What a bunch of crap if you run a business you can not discriminate that’s like saying can’t make a cake because you are black or Jewish or male bigoted businesses need shut down! Shame!!,’ responded another commentator.
This wasn’t the first legal woe for the Christian baker.
In 2018, Superior Court Judge David Lampe ruled in favor of Miller, saying the act of making cakes was ‘artistic expression’ and did not violate California anti-discrimination laws.
‘A wedding cake is not just a cake in a free speech analysis,’ the judge wrote in his eight-page ruling.
‘It is an artistic expression by the person making it that is to be used traditionally as a centerpiece in the celebration of a marriage. There could not be a greater form of expressive conduct.’
The case was initiated when same-sex couple Eileen and Mireya Rodriquez-Del Rio complained to the California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing after they tried to buy a cake from Miller’s bakery for their wedding in October 2017.
The state ruled in the couple’s favor arguing that the First Amendment did not apply because the couple had not asked for any words or messages on the cake. They issued an order to force Miller to make the cake.
But Judge Lampe rejected the ruling and said his decision was based on the fact that Miller had not yet prepared the cake.
“A California judge has handed down his final judgment in the case of a Bakersfield Christian baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a homosexual couple, ruling that cakes celebrating events are a form of speech.”
— eap (@eaparkstweet) May 30, 2018
Is baking a wedding cake akin to artistic expression?
He said it would have been discrimination if the cake was already on display at the shop and Miller refused to let the couple buy it.
‘A retail tire shop may not refuse to sell a tire because the owner does not want to sell tires to same sex couples,’ Judge Lampe wrote in 2018.
‘No baker may place their wares in a public display case, open their shop, and then refuse to sell because of race, religion, gender, or gender identification.’
At the time, Eileen Rodriquez-Del Rio said the Bakersfield Christian baker had told them that they would take their order, but give it to another bakery to make because she doesn’t ‘condone same sex marriages and will have no part in this process’.