Update: Jan. 26, 2023 – Jack Phillips will appeal a state appeals court decision that would force him to express messages that violate his beliefs. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop had asked the Colorado Court of Appeals to uphold his First Amendment rights after a trial court issued a ruling that punished Phillips for declining to design a custom cake celebrating a gender transition. Read the press release.
For years, Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips has endured targeted attacks against him and his business, Masterpiece Cakeshop.
It all started in 2012 when the Colorado Civil Rights Commission pursued legal action against him after he respectfully declined a request to custom-design a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding.
On June 4, 2018, Jack finally received the victory he deserved in that case. In a 7-to-2 ruling in favor of Jack, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the state had acted with “clear and impermissible hostility” toward Jack’s religious beliefs, violating the First Amendment.
It should have ended there. But just when Jack thought he could breathe a sigh of relief, the same Colorado government agency decided to pursue Jack a second time—mere weeks after the high court’s decision. This time around, Colorado officials came after Jack because he declined to custom-design a cake celebrating a gender transition.
But Jack’s legal journey wasn't over. The individual who requested the gender-transition cake (and who also happens to be an attorney) wasn’t satisfied and decided to sue Jack in state court.
Read the details of Jack’s latest case below.
By now, you’ve probably heard a lot about Jack. He serves everyone who walks into his shop. But he cannot custom-design cakes that express messages that violate his deeply held religious beliefs. This includes Halloween cakes, cakes advocating drug use, and cakes disparaging people, including those who identify as LGBT.
On June 26, 2017, a local attorney named Autumn Scardina called Masterpiece Cakeshop and requested a custom cake: designed blue on the outside and pink on the inside to celebrate and reflect a transition from male to female. The shop declined the request because the message of the cake contradicts Jack’s religious belief that God creates us either male or female.
But the day that call came wasn’t just another summer day. It was the same day the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would hear Jack’s first case—Jack and Masterpiece Cakeshop were all over the news.
And a few months later, Scardina made another request of Masterpiece Cakeshop. This request was for a custom cake featuring Satan smoking marijuana.
Still, when Scardina filed a charge against Jack with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, it took the charge as an excuse to go after Jack again. It wasn’t until Jack sued the state for targeting him and ADF uncovered more evidence demonstrating the state’s anti-religious hostility that Colorado officials finally ended their crusade against him.
After Colorado abandoned the complaint against Jack, Scardina waited until long after the deadline to appeal that decision passed, and then decided to start over somewhere else. Scardina then sued Jack again about the same gender-transition cake request—only this time in a different court.
Autumn Scardina filed a lawsuit against Jack in state court. The claims are similar to those raised in the case against Jack that Colorado already dismissed. Scardina opted not to appeal the Commission’s dismissal, instead filing a lawsuit which could bring financial ruin on Jack and his business.
A trial court ruled against Jack, so ADF appealed his case to the state appeals court. That court also ruled against Jack in a decision that would force him to express messages that violate his beliefs. Jack will appeal that ruling.
“Free speech is for everyone. No one should be forced to express a message that violates their core beliefs,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jake Warner, who argued before the court on behalf of Phillips.
“The same law being used to punish Jack is also at issue now at the U.S. Supreme Court in 303 Creative v. Elenis, and the Court there should reject Colorado’s attempt to mandate orthodoxy and drive views it disfavors from the public square and affirm that graphic artist Lorie Smith and all artists—writers, painters, photographers, filmmakers, calligraphers, cake artists, and more—have the right to create freely without fear of government punishment.”
“Cultural winds may shift, but freedom of speech is foundational to our self-government and to the free and fearless pursuit of truth.”
What's at stake?
We live in a country where freedom of speech and religious freedom are protected. While we may disagree on certain issues, we should all be free to live and work according to our beliefs. Jack Phillips, just like every creative professional, has the right to decline to use his artistic abilities to express messages or celebrate events he disagrees with.
But over the course of Jack’s legal battle, one thing has become abundantly clear: For some, it will never be enough to politely agree to disagree about important issues like the meaning of marriage or whether to celebrate a gender transition.
It wasn’t enough for Jack to lose a big part of his business after Colorado pursued him the first time. It wasn’t enough for Jack to have to defend his freedoms all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And it wasn’t enough for Jack and his family to endure years of harassment and even death threats.
For some, it won’t be enough until Masterpiece Cakeshop closes its doors. They want Jack, an average American business owner, to pay a hefty price—all because he wants to live according to his faith.
- June 2019: Autumn Scardina filed a civil lawsuit against Jack.
- July 2019: Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a motion to dismiss this lawsuit and asked the court to bring an end to this harassment of Jack.
- April 2020: A district court heard arguments on that motion. A few weeks later, the court entered an order allowing part of the lawsuit to move forward.
- March 2021: The case went to trial.
- June 2021: The court ruled that Jack can be punished for declining to design cakes that violate his beliefs.
- August 2021: ADF attorneys representing Jack filed a notice of appeal to the Colorado Court of Appeals.
- January 2023: ADF attorneys announced that Jack will appeal a state appeals court decision that would force him to express messages that violate his beliefs.
The bottom line
Every American should have the freedom to live and work according to their beliefs without fear of government punishment.