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What Those Intent on Punishing Jack Phillips for His Faith Could Learn from Him

For eight years—and through three different court cases—Jack has been standing up to protect his freedom to live and work consistently with his beliefs.
Sarah Kramer
Written by
Is There a Double Standard for Cakeshops in Colorado?

Cake artist Jack Phillips opened Masterpiece Cakeshop nearly 30 years ago, in 1993. And he’s been a fixture in the community of Lakewood, Colorado ever since. He’s watched families grow from young couples requesting wedding cakes to parents ordering graduation cakes for their children.

Soft-spoken and genuine, Jack welcomes the down-and-out into Masterpiece Cakeshop and strikes up a conversation with them over coffee and cookies. He’s the kind of man that lends out his best car to those in need and drives around a clunker instead.

Over the years, Jack has fostered an atmosphere of warmth and refuge at Masterpiece Cakeshop.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for state officials in Colorado—who have instead created an atmosphere of hostility toward Jack and anyone else who shares his religious beliefs.

It all started in 2012 when Colorado officials came after Jack for declining to create a custom cake celebrating a same-sex wedding.

Jack serves all customers. But he declines to create custom cakes that express messages or celebrate events in violation of his deeply held beliefs. That includes cakes celebrating same-sex weddings and gender transitions, as well as cakes celebrating Halloween, advocating the use of marijuana or illegal drugs, or disparaging people—including those in the LGBT community. These aren’t cakes Jack can create for anyone—no matter who they are or how they identify.

But that’s not okay with some people in Colorado who want to see Jack suffer for staying true to his beliefs. They’ve spent the past eight years on a crusade to crush Jack because of their hostility toward his faith. And for those eight years—and through three different court cases—Jack has been standing up to protect his freedom to live and work consistently with his beliefs.

This week, Jack will continue to make that stand as ADF attorneys represent him before the Denver District Court in Colorado.

This should have ended in 2018 when the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in Jack’s favor, condemning the state for acting with “clear and impermissible hostility” toward him because of his beliefs.

And there’s no doubt that the state treated Jack unequally. Colorado officials permit other cake shops to decline to create cakes expressing messages that they consider offensive, including messages opposing same-sex marriage. But the state persisted in punishing Jack when he declined requests for cakes expressing messages in conflict with his religious beliefs.

Just a few months after Jack’s Supreme Court victory, the state decided to pursue another complaint against Jack. This time, local attorney Autumn Scardina had requested that Jack create a custom pink and blue cake to celebrate Scardina’s gender transition, and Jack had politely declined.

ADF filed a lawsuit against the Colorado officials who were targeting Jack. And it soon came to light that the commissioners who launched the second case against Jack harbored the same hostility toward Jack that the Supreme Court had rebuked. So the state dismissed the case.

Rather than appeal that ruling, Scardina decided to sue Jack in state court. ADF has been defending Jack in this case since June 2019.

Eight years is a long time to live under the weight of constant litigation that threatens the business you built and the people you love. During his first case, Jack lost a big part of his business and more than half of his employees. Over the years, he and his family have also endured hate mail, nasty phone calls, and even death threats.

This most recent lawsuit is a blatant attempt to punish Jack, banish him from the marketplace, and intimidate him out of business just for living according to his beliefs.

But that is the type of environment that Colorado has created for people of faith like Jack. The state’s hostility toward Jack’s religious beliefs has helped shape an atmosphere of intolerance.

Perhaps those who have been so intent on punishing Jack could learn a thing or two from stepping into Masterpiece Cakeshop, where Jack would welcome them in with open arms and serve them some coffee and cookies.

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