A Christian baker has received influential support in an ongoing legal battle which has big implications for religious liberty and free speech in the US.
In 2012, Jack Phillips refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. His case will be heard by the US Supreme Court next month.
Phillips – who has run Masterpiece Cakeshop for over 20 years – has now received formal backing from the US Justice Department.
Last week, the Justice Department stepped in to file a court brief on the side of Phillips.
Acting Solicitor General Jeff Wall wrote: “Forcing Phillips to create expression for and participate in a ceremony that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs invades his First Amendment rights.”
More than 80 politicians from the US Congress are also backing a separate court brief in support of Phillips.
Utah Senator Mike Lee said the case is a matter of free speech as well as religious freedom.
“The Supreme Court has said the First Amendment, in addition to doing all the other things that it does, prohibits the government from requiring individuals to make a particular statement with which they disagree.
“The government cannot force you to speak where you would choose to remain silent.”
‘Forced to choose’
Phillips is being represented in his case by religious liberty group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
Kristen Waggoner, a Senior Counsel for ADF, said: “Nobody should be forced to choose between their profession and their faith.
“Phillips gladly serves anyone who walks into his store, but, as is customary practice for many artists, he declines opportunities to design for a variety of events and messages that conflict with his deeply held beliefs.”