BLOGDo You Know What’s at Stake in Jack Phillips’ Supreme Court Case?

By Kristen K. Waggoner Posted on: | October 26, 2017

Jack Phillips is at the center of a landmark religious freedom case at the U.S. Supreme Court.

That’s something he never could have imagined five years ago. Jack is a regular guy. He lives in Colorado with his wife. He’s a grandpa and an artist. And he owns his own business, Masterpiece Cakeshop. But, first and foremost, he is a Christian who strives to live his life in a way that glorifies God. And that’s what landed him at the Supreme Court.

When two men walked into his shop and requested a custom cake for their same-sex wedding, Jack knew he would have to decline the opportunity. But he offered to sell them anything else in the store – cookies, brownies, birthday cakes – or to create a cake for them for another occasion. The couple later returned to picket him. Then came the lawsuit.

Alliance Defending Freedom has had the privilege of standing beside Jack throughout the past five years. On December 5, we will have the opportunity to present arguments on Jack’s behalf at the Supreme Court. It’s an incredible and an important opportunity.

At stake is the right of all Americans to create art and express ideas only when it is consistent with their convictions.

The issues in Jack’s case transcend the current marriage debate. A ruling against Jack would substantially diminish the artistic, expressive, and religious freedom of all Americans. If he loses, it means that the government has the power to force people – whether they’re an atheist, a Catholic, a Muslim, or a Protestant – to create art, express ideas, and speak messages that violate their beliefs. 

We all lose if Jack loses.

But a win for Jack should protect the right to live and work consistent with our convictions. And that freedom extends to both sides of the marriage debate.  The government should never be able to force artists out of the marketplace – and financially devastate them – just because it disagrees with them.  Your right to earn a living and to create art shouldn’t depend on whether your view is popular or in line with government orthodoxy.

Creating space for Jack to live out his convictions shows what a pluralistic society should look like. It would demonstrate what it means to have the freedom to disagree yet to be tolerant amidst those disagreements. That is why so many supporters of same-sex marriage filed briefs supporting Jack before the Supreme Court. It’s also why Jack has had so many customers tell him that even though they disagree with him on marriage, they support his right to live out who he is. They understand that if we want freedom for ourselves, we must extend it to others.

As the Court has already held, the Constitution protects the freedom to disagree on things that matter deeply. Views about sex, marriage, and religion are core principles that matter to a lot of people. We need to stop treating freedom as a zero-sum game, winner take all.  If we take away Jack’s freedom, we threaten our own and that of future generations.


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Kristen K. Waggoner

Senior Vice President of U.S. Legal Division, General Counsel – Arizona

Kristen K. Waggoner serves as senior vice president of US legal advocacy, general counsel – Arizona, with Alliance Defending Freedom.

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