Metro Weekly

Jeff Sessions: Christian baker has “fundamental right” to refuse service to gays

AG argues that Colorado's nondiscrimination law infringes on a baker's right to practice his religion

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions – Photo: Gage Skidmore.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions believes people have a “fundamental right” to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network’s Faith Nation, Sessions explained why the Department of Justice is backing Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, who is asking the Supreme Court to allow him to refuse to bake cakes for same-sex couples.

“[T]he cake baker has more than just a personal view here,” Sessions said. “He has a religious view and he feels that he is not being able to freely exercise his religion by being required to participate in a ceremony in some fashion that he does not believe in.

“So we think that right is a fundamental right and ought to be respected as we work through this process.”

Phillips is asking for an exemption to Colorado’s nondiscrimination law, arguing that his right to free speech and freedom of expression is being violated if he is forced to design and bake cakes for gay and lesbian weddings.

He also argues the law violates his religious beliefs, which oppose homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

Sessions declined to comment on the specifics of the case when asked by host David Brody, but did cite the general principle behind the First Amendment, that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a religion nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

By forcing Phillips to bake cakes for same-sex weddings, Sessions contends, Colorado is restricting his right to espouse his beliefs and practice his religion as he sees fit.

“[I]n the 1990s, we passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act that said the government should not constrict a person’s religious belief without a compelling reason to do so,” the attorney general said. “So we think that statute has been ignored too often and not respected sufficiently.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com