Update: A federal district court issued an order on January 4, 2019 that allows Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips to proceed with a lawsuit against the state for its hostility toward him and his religious beliefs.
December 18, 2018, marks an important day for Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado.
But, to understand how we got here, we have to think about another day—June 26, 2017. That was the day that the United States Supreme Court announced that it would hear Jack's case.
At the time, he was in the thick of a five-year, very public, legal battle against the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. At the center of this battle was a decision he had made back in 2012. Jack declined a request to design a custom wedding cake celebrating a same-sex marriage because expressing such a message would violate his religious beliefs—a simple act that would change the course of his life.
After the state of Colorado came after Jack for living in accordance with his faith, he had to stop designing custom wedding cakes (which represented around 40 percent of his business). And one of the commissioners belittled Jack’s religious freedom defense, calling it a “despicable piece of rhetoric.”
With the nation’s highest court taking up his case, there was hope that this ordeal was all coming to an end. But, unfortunately, another legal battle was looming.
On the day that the Supreme Court decided to hear Jack’s case, his wife, Debi, answered a call from a local attorney and LGBT activist. The attorney requested a cake—blue on the outside and pink on the inside—to celebrate that attorney’s gender transition from male to female. Since Jack believes that we are created either male or female, he simply could not use his artistic talents to design and create a cake expressing a message in conflict with his faith.
Over the years, Jack has declined many requests to create cakes that express messages he disagrees with—including Halloween cakes (even though Halloween cakes are a significant source of revenue for many cake shops) and cakes that disparage certain groups of people, including people who identify as LGBT.
And in the years since Jack’s first case became public, Masterpiece Cakeshop had received numerous requests from people seeking to harass Jack—requests for cakes depicting drug use, cakes displaying sexually explicit materials, even cakes celebrating Satan or depicting satanic symbols. At least one of these requests (for a cake celebrating Satan) was from the very same attorney who requested the pink and blue gender-transition cake.
Jack respectfully declined all these requests for the same reason: They express messages contrary to his beliefs. Jack serves everyone—he always has and he always will. But what he cannot do is express certain messages that violate his conscience.
Fast forward a year later: This past summer, Jack won his case at the Supreme Court. In a seven-to-two decision, the Supreme Court held that the state of Colorado had been hostile toward Jack’s religious beliefs.
Because of this momentous win, Jack thought that Colorado’s hostility toward him because of his faith would be over. But he was wrong.
Within weeks of the Supreme Court decision, the state of Colorado began to prosecute Jack a second time—this time for declining the requested gender-transition cake.
That’s right: The very same state agencies decided to go after him a second time. If that isn’t government hostility towards people of faith, what is?
After spending six years on his first legal battle, Jack faces the discouraging reality that his business is once again on the line. All because some state officials disagree with his desire to live out his faith.
Jack had no choice but to file a federal lawsuit to defend himself from this targeting. He should not have to fear government punishment for his faith when he opens his cake shop for business every day. But it appears that Colorado will not stop harassing him until he closes down or agrees to violate his faith.
On December 18, 2018, there will be a hearing in Jack’s lawsuit against the Colorado officials targeting him.
Hopefully this lawsuit will mark the end of Colorado’s bullying of Jack. He deserves to see a day when he can freely live out his faith without fear of government punishment. After all, that is the God-given right of every person, no matter who they are or what they believe.
Chike’s case was an important victory for free speech on college campuses. But, unfortunately, college officials still have other ways to avoid accountability.