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Supreme Court of the United States

Masterpiece Cakeshop Oral Arguments: A View from Inside the Supreme Court

December 8, 2017

On Tuesday, December 5, 2017, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. I had the privilege of attending the arguments with the Alliance Defending Freedom team representing Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips.

It all began five years ago when Jack politely declined to design a custom cake for a same-sex wedding. He offered to sell the couple anything else in his store, or to design a cake for a different occasion. Jack serves all people, but he cannot use his artistic talents to celebrate every event, particularly not those that conflict with his religious beliefs. The couple responded by picketing his cakeshop and then suing him.

At issue in the case is this question: Can the government force a custom cake designer to use his creative talents to design a wedding cake for a same-sex couple? This case is about coerced artistic expression and religious hostility by the Colorado Commission against those whose faith teaches that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

It was a vigorous clash. The justices grilled all four lawyers – ADF Senior Vice President Kristen Waggoner, U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco, the Colorado solicitor general, and the ACLU attorney representing the same-sex couple.

The Solicitor General of the United States argued in favor of Jack’s artistic freedom. We are very grateful for his support. And Kristen did an excellent job. Her rebuttal was particularly outstanding.

I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet (even though I have been running non-profit organizations for decades), so I don’t claim to predict the future. But I am encouraged by how oral arguments went.

The ACLU attorney said that the government could require a cake designer to write the words “God bless this marriage” on a wedding cake for a same-sex union if they would do so for a cake celebrating a wedding between a man and a woman. The air was sucked out of the courtroom at that moment.

Also worth noting is that Justice Anthony Kennedy, after posing several difficult and probing questions to Kristen and General Francisco, expressed concerned with how the state had brushed aside Jack’s religious beliefs. He said: “[T]olerance is essential in a free society. And tolerance is most meaningful when it's mutual. It seems to me that the state in its position here has been neither tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips' religious beliefs.”

Freedom has a fighting chance. It was an honor to be there with the ADF team representing Jack Phillips.

 

As we await the Court’s decision, please be in prayer for our freedom and for the Supreme Court.

 

There is a lot at stake in this case, and the Court’s ruling could dramatically impact freedom for us all. To get updates about this case and to hear when the Supreme Court issues its ruling, I encourage you to sign up for our newsletter.

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Michael P. Farris

Michael P. Farris, President and CEO

President and CEO

Michael P. Farris, CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom, brings to the role a diverse background as an effective litigator, educator, and public advocate.


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