Faithful Christian Asks Court to Protect Her Bakery

California officials in state court for targeting bakery owner’s faith

By Published on January 19, 2024

WASHINGTON — A Christian baker in California asked a state court late yesterday to protect her ability to operate her bakery in accordance with her faith. In California Department of Civil Rights v. Tastries, Cathy Miller wants to continue serving her local Bakersfield community at her bakery, Tastries, a vision she brought to life over a decade ago.

However, California opened an investigation into Miller after she explained to a same-sex couple that her faith did not allow her to design their wedding cake. For over six years, California has repeatedly compared Miller’s religious beliefs about marriage to racism and argued that Miller’s beliefs harm “the dignity of all Californians.” Because of the lawsuit, Miller and her staff have lost contracts, received death threats, and faced repeated sexual harassment.

As a faithful Christian and owner of Tastries Bakery in Bakersfield, California, Cathy Miller has custom-designed baked goods for over a decade. Miller believes that her bakery is “God’s business,” her bakery’s mission statement is to “honor God in all that we do,” and her Baptist faith influences everything from the Bible verses she puts on her business cards to the music she plays in the shop.

Early on, Miller realized that sometimes customers would ask her to bake things that her faith forbids, so she developed written design standards to ensure that all of Tastries’ custom bakery items reflect her religious beliefs. For example, Tastries will not design custom bakery items that depict gory or pornographic images, celebrate drug use, or demean others. Because of her religious beliefs about the nature of marriage and the symbolism of the wedding cake, Miller will also not design wedding cakes to celebrate same-sex weddings. Tastries serves all people, but when same-sex couples ask her for a custom-designed wedding cake, she refers them to a nearby bakery.

“My faith calls me to serve others with joy and compassion, and Tastries has been my way of answering that call since I opened its doors over a decade ago,” said Cathy Miller, owner of Tastries Bakery in Bakersfield, California. “All I want is to continue serving my local community without being forced into court or threatened for following my faith.”

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In 2017, the California Civil Rights Department sued Miller after she told a same-sex couple that she could not design their wedding cake. In the days and weeks that followed, Tastries was flooded with angry social media posts, death threats, and harassing emails and phone calls by men describing how they intended to sexually assault Miller and her employees. Many of Tastries’ employees quit because they were afraid for their safety. The state’s Civil Rights Department has since compared Miller’s beliefs about marriage to racism and claimed that Miller’s beliefs are harmful to Californians.

Meanwhile, Miller and her staff have lost contracts, received death threats, faced harassment, and suffered theft and assault. In 2023, a judge on the Superior Court of California ruled that Miller cannot be forced to design a wedding cake that violates her sincere religious beliefs. California then appealed the court’s decision to a state appeals court. With the help of Becket, Miller filed her response yesterday at the appeals court to protect her freedom to operate her business consistent with her faith.

“Targeting a family-run bakery because of the owner’s religious beliefs is meanspirited, illegal, and deserves no place in our society,” said Adèle Keim, senior counsel at Becket. “California officials should have never started this campaign against Cathy and her bakery. California should let Cathy bake in peace.”

Oral argument is expected in the summer.

 

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions and has a 100% win-rate before the United States Supreme Court. For over 25 years, it has successfully defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians (read more here).

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