The recent COVID-19 outbreak has forced many small business owners to close shop as we participate in social distancing and comply with stay-at-home orders.
Our clients are no exception.
Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, has had to send some of his employees home as we wait for the spread of the coronavirus to slow.
But a temporary scale-back is not enough for one local attorney, who would like to see the doors of Masterpiece Cakeshop permanently shuttered. In 2019, this attorney filed a lawsuit against Jack Phillips, which is moving forward even as the rest of the country is at a standstill.
Today, Alliance Defending Freedom represented Jack before a state district court.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time that Jack has found himself involved in a lawsuit.
But why? Because while Jack serves all people, he cannot create cakes that express messages or celebrate events in conflict with his religious beliefs. For Jack, that means he cannot create cakes that celebrate Halloween, advocate drug use, and disparage others, including those who identify as LGBT.
While the government has allowed other cake shop owners to operate consistently with their beliefs, it hasn’t afforded the same to Jack.
In 2012, Jack was forced into the first lawsuit when the Colorado Civil Rights Commission pursued legal action against him after he respectfully declined a request to design a custom cake celebrating a same-sex wedding.
Eventually, this case made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in Jack’s favor in 2018. In a 7-to-2 ruling, the Supreme Court held that the state officials had acted with “clear and impermissible hostility” toward Jack’s religious beliefs—a violation of the First Amendment.
But the government hostility didn’t stop there.
Just weeks after this Supreme Court decision, the same Colorado government agency went after Jack a second time—this time because Jack declined to design a cake celebrating a gender transition. Thankfully, after ADF filed a federal lawsuit against the state on Jack’s behalf, the government agency backed off.
But the individual who requested the gender-transition cake was not satisfied.
This individual, who also happens to be an attorney, sued Jack in state court. For those keeping count, that is three times in the past seven-plus years that Jack has been dragged into court simply for acting consistently with his religious beliefs.
The current lawsuit seeks more than $100,000 in damages, fines, and attorney’s fees, which could bring financial ruin on Jack and Masterpiece Cakeshop. And Jack has already lost 40 percent of his business and endured years of harassment and even death threats.
The message is loud and clear: Jack and his religious beliefs are not welcome, and the crusade against him will only stop when Jack and Masterpiece Cakeshop are driven from the marketplace entirely.
But no American should be punished and threatened with financial ruin simply for living and working consistently with their beliefs. The Constitution protects our freedom to do so.
If Jack does not have that freedom, then none of us do.
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