These are the conservative legal groups behind the Masterpiece Cakeshop case

Publication Type: 
Other Writing
Publication Date: 
December 5, 2017

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in which baker Jack Phillips is arguing that his deeply held evangelical Christian beliefs should exempt him from having to bake a cake for the wedding of two men — even though his refusal to serve them violated Colorado’s anti-discrimination law. To better understand the issues and players involved, TMC editor Henry Farrell interviewed Daniel Bennett, an assistant professor of political science at John Brown University and author of “Defending Faith: The Politics of the Christian Conservative Legal Movement” (Kansas University Press, 2017.)

Henry Farrell: Your book describes the various Christian conservative legal organizations (CCLOs). Which are involved in the current case, and at what stage did they get involved?

Daniel Bennett: The key actor supporting the case is Alliance Defending Freedom. It has been involved with this case since 2012 and has been touting its defense of baker Jack Phillips since 2013. Since then, ADF has been active in the Colorado court system and now at the U.S. Supreme Court. If its media outreach is any indication, ADF considers Masterpiece Cakeshop to be one of the most important cases it has ever been involved with.

Taking this kind of case is not new territory for ADF, as it has a dedicated center focusing on “freedom of conscience” issues. In addition to Phillips, ADF has defended several individuals who have argued that they were forced to choose between violating their conscience and keeping their jobs or staying in business. Phillips’s case is simply the first of these cases to make it to the Supreme Court.

Several other actors in the Christian legal movement have filed amicus curiae briefs supporting Phillips. Christian conservative legal organizations First Liberty, the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, Liberty Counsel, National Legal Foundation and Thomas More Society all have their names on amicus briefs filed for Phillips. Former American Center for Law and Justice attorneys Thomas Monaghan and Walter Weber, former ADF attorney Nate Kellum, and ADF and ACLJ veteran attorney David French filed their own briefs, and Thomas Berg and Douglas Laycock — big names in this movement — filed a brief on behalf of the Christian Legal Society. Finally, Becket (formerly the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the powerhouse group sympathetic to many of the concerns of the Christian legal movement) filed a brief backing Phillips.

In short, this case has drawn a great deal of attention from the broader movement.

Read the full piece at The Washington Post