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Supreme Court of the United States

Ordinary Heroes: Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop

By Charles Snow posted on:
May 7, 2020

Columbia University physician and ethicist L.S. Dugdale writes, “The truth is that there is an ordinary sort of heroism—that of doing one’s work well and resisting fear.”

In this pandemic, we see glimpses of this ordinary heroism all around us—from doctors and nurses, to grocery store cashiers and restaurant workers, to homeschooling moms and dads.

When I think of ordinary heroism in normal times—the sort that is rarely celebrated—I think of Alliance Defending Freedom clients.

They open their lives to scrutiny, and endure years of pressure and insults, to follow their beliefs. It would often be easier to give up the fight—to compromise their beliefs—than take legal action.

Jack Phillips is an ordinary hero.

The cake artist from Lakewood, Colorado, made a choice to not compromise his beliefs while designing cakes. When a same-sex couple requested a custom cake celebrating their same-sex wedding in 2012, Jack politely declined. He would sell them anything in his store. He would create for them a cake celebrating many other occasions or expressing other messages. But he could not create a cake celebrating a vision of marriage that the Bible does not embrace.

Jack serves all people. He just can’t celebrate all events or express all messages through his cake art.

That simple principle launched Jack into nearly eight years of lawsuits that targeted him for his religious beliefs. Walking through the trials that have come along with that—the hate mail, the death threats, the looming possibility of losing his business—has helped him keep perspective in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, even as it puts new challenges on his plate.

During COVID-19, business owners like Jack have seen their shops move from bustling to empty. Masterpiece Cakeshop has not been immune. So far, Jack has had to send four part-time employees home.

Customers have continued to trickle in, but in far fewer numbers. On a normal Saturday, around 70 people would visit Masterpiece. In the past few weeks, that figure has been closer to 20. For those who come in, Jack lends an ear to their concerns as he serves up his delicious treats. These “counseling” sessions are so common that Jack and his family often joke, “We should really open a cake shop. We have all the stuff.”

He and his wife have adjusted to listening to sermons on Sunday morning, rather than gathering with their small church family. But they ache to be back with the Body of Christ. “I am looking forward to the day when we can get back to church, shake hands, and give hugs,” Jack says.

Jack also has a court lawsuit to worry about. The thrice-sued cake artist is still being harassed for following his beliefs. In his latest case, an attorney has sued Jack in state court because he declined to create a blue-and-pink cake celebrating a gender transition. In virtual oral arguments last month, ADF asked the judge to dismiss this latest attempt to punish Jack.

“It was different—not being able to go,” Jack says. He sometimes attends the arguments. Instead, he found a quiet spot in the back of his shop to pray throughout the day for ADF attorney Jake Warner, who argued on his behalf.

Amidst yet another legal storm, coupled with a global pandemic, his perspective remains unchanged. “We must keep focused on who He is, and why we are here doing what we are doing.

“His Word is true, He is faithful, and he will do what he says he is going to do.”

Charles Snow

Charles Snow

Contributing Writer

Charles is a Tennessee native and lover of books and basketball.

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