Today, Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado, asked the United State Supreme Court to hear his case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and preserve his freedom to live and work in accordance with his beliefs.
The only other baker, photographer, and florist case to reach the Supreme Court thus far was Elane Photography v. Willock in 2014, involving Alliance Defending Freedom clients Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin. You'll remember it as the case where a New Mexico Supreme Court Justice remarked that Elaine’s participation in events that violate her conscience is "the price of citizenship."
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court declined to hear the Huguenins’ case, but as time has shown, the legal battles to protect the right of Christians to freely live out their faith in their chosen professions are just beginning.
Will the Supreme Court agree to hear Jack's case? Here are five reasons why they should.
1. The Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges did not address what the ruling means for bakers, florists, and photographers.
Ever since the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling in June of 2015, people have wondered what will become of those in the wedding industry who believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman.
In the opinion for the Court, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, "The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths." This (theoretically) protects pastors, churches (although we are seeing mounting threats to these institutions as well), religious schools, but what about the everyday American who just wants to live and work peacefully in accordance with their sincerely held beliefs without being dragged into court? The Supreme Court should clarify that the First Amendment also protects people like Jack.
2. Jack didn't discriminate.
This point cannot be made enough. The media noise swirling around Christian cake artists like Jack is that they turn customers away based on their sexual orientation. That’s just plain wrong. Jack has served people regardless of their sexual orientation for years. Jack even offered to make any other type of cake or goodie for the couple who requested the cake for their same-sex wedding , but made it clear that he could not in good conscience design and create a cake promoting something that did not align with his beliefs.
It wasn't the couple—it was the event. A cake artist choosing which events he will and will not participate in (and there are plenty of other events that Jack won't promote with his talents) is not discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
3. The committee investigating Jack displayed anti-religious bigotry.
The Colorado Civil Rights Commission has had a difficult time showing impartiality in Jack’s case. Not only did they exonerate other Colorado cake artists who declined to create cakes that violated their consciences (a good ruling to be sure, and one that should apply to Jack as well), but one commissioner also went so far as to state in a hearing in Jack's case that religious freedom is a “despicable piece of rhetoric” that Nazis, slaveholders, and Jack used to “hurt others.”
Anti-religious bigotry by the government has no place in American society, and the Commission's selective enforcement of the law and underlying bias deserve a second look from the Supreme Court.
4. Jack's bakery is not a government-run confectionary serving sugar to the masses—it's a private business—and Jack has the right to operate his business according to his beliefs.
Instead of acknowledging that the First Amendment protects Jack’s right to live out and express his faith, the state of Colorado decided to force Jack to violate his beliefs about marriage in operating his business. The Commission ordered Jack to design cakes celebrating same-sex marriages if he continued to design them for one-man, one-woman marriages, “reeducate his staff,” and file quarterly compliance reports with the government.
Just because you own a business doesn't mean you lose your religious freedom. Jack Phillips is an upstanding small business owner who has run his business for over 20 years in accordance with his faith. The state cannot take away his right to do that.
5. The government cannot force speech—that's unconstitutional.
Freedom of expression–including artistic expression—is a protected right. A government that forces Americans to express certain messages against their conscience acts outside of the U.S. Constitution. Even LGBT bakers and advocates have condemned rulings against Christian cake artists in the U.S. and around the world because of the clear violation of their freedoms.
The Supreme Court should address this troublesome constitutional violation.
Your Support Helps Us Stand with People like Jack
Activists have argued over and over that same-sex marriage does not affect anyone except the two people getting married. I think Jack Phillips would disagree—don't you? Help us support people like Jack with a donation today and continue our work defending the freedom to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.