Civil Rights Department of California v. Tastries
As a faithful Christian and owner of Tastries Bakery in Bakersfield, California, Cathy Miller has custom-designed wedding cakes for over a decade. In 2017, 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 asserted that Miller’s beliefs harm “the dignity of all Californians.” Meanwhile, Miller and her staff have lost contracts, received death threats, and been the victims of criminal harassment because of Miller’s faith.
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Meet Cathy Miller, an expert baker and faithful Christian
Cathy Miller is a faithful Christian and a baker living in Bakersfield, California. For 40 years, she worked as a schoolteacher while raising a family and pursuing her interests in floral arranging, event planning, and baking. In 2013, she felt called to open her own bakery, Tastries, where she sells pastries, cookies, cakes, and other baked goods. Tastries also creates custom-designed items ordered in advance for important life events such as birthdays, graduations, and weddings.
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 Christian faith influences everything from the Bible verses she puts on her business cards to the music she plays in the shop. Early on, she 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, witchcraft, or violence. Miller will also not design wedding cakes that violate the Christian sacrament of marriage—including cakes celebrating divorce and same-sex unions. When customers ask for custom items that conflict with these design standards, Tastries refers them to a nearby bakery.
A baker’s livelihood targeted by California
In 2017, a same-sex couple visited Tastries to buy a custom-designed cake to celebrate their wedding ceremony. During their visit to the store, Miller realized that she was being asked to design a custom wedding cake for a same-sex wedding, which she could not do. After a moment of prayer and reflection, she kindly told the couple that she could not design their cake but would be happy to refer them to a nearby bakery. In the days and weeks that followed, Tastries was flooded with angry social media posts and harassing emails and phone calls. The California Department of Civil Rights soon filed a lawsuit in state court to punish Miller for upholding her religious beliefs.
Miller seeks to serve her community in accordance with her beliefs
Six years after California started its prosecution of Miller, and after a five-day trial, 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. On October 23, 2023, the state appealed the court’s decision to the California Fifth District Court of Appeal.
With the help of Becket, Miller filed her appeal brief on January 18, 2024. Miller should not be forced to make the choice between upholding her faith and operating her business. Americans have the freedom to bring their beliefs into the public square without being prosecuted by government officials.
Importance to religious liberty:
- Individual freedom: Religious freedom protects the rights of individuals to observe their faith at all times, including in the workplace.