A recent article at TODAY.com would have you believe that one LGBT cake artist in Michigan reacted correctly to an order she found objectionable, while Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips reacted incorrectly.
The headline declares: “A lesbian baker in Detroit got an anti-gay cake order. She baked it anyway.”
But if there’s one thing I know in today’s culture, it’s that you must read past the headlines.
You see, if you read the full article, you’ll find that the stories of these two cake artists are more similar than the headline would have you believe.
April Anderson, who identifies as a lesbian, co-owns Good Cakes and Bakes, a cake shop in Detroit. In July, she received a request for a custom cake that, according to the customer, would celebrate marriage as the Catholic Church understands it: the lifelong union between one man and one woman.
April could not—and did not—create the requested cake because it would have expressed a message that conflicts with her core beliefs. Instead, she created a different cake with a message she liked.
"We were not being discriminatory. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs," she told TODAY.com. "We aren't here to judge, but we do promote our bakery as a place of inclusion, acceptance and peace and love, so I wouldn’t write any type of message that would cause hurt to people."
The Parallels to Jack’s Story
This story sounds eerily similar to that of Alliance Defending Freedom client Jack Phillips, who owns Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado.
Jack serves everyone at Masterpiece Cakeshop, but he cannot express every message or celebrate every event that is asked of him. That’s why he has declined to create cakes celebrating things such as Halloween, drug use, and bachelor parties.
Most recently, he declined to create a custom blue-and-pink cake celebrating a gender transition. The individual that requested this cake, a local Denver attorney named Autumn Scardina, had contacted Masterpiece Cakeshop multiple times before requesting cakes celebrating things such as marijuana use and Satanism. And while Jack would gladly serve Scardina by selling anything off his shelves or designing a cake for a different event, he cannot use his artistic talents to express a message that violates his beliefs. That’s why Jack politely declined to create these particular cakes.
All in all, April and Jack’s stories are remarkably similar.
Both April and Jack were targeted by activists and asked to design cakes expressing messages to which they objected. Both serve everyone but cannot express every message. Both have the freedom not to be forced to express messages with which they disagree…
Or do they?
The Key Difference
There is one major difference between April and Jack’s experiences.
April largely has been celebrated in the media—as highlighted by the TODAY.com article. Jack, on the other hand, has been the target of hate mail, death threats, and three separate legal actions.
April’s story is not the only example of this double standard in the cake artist industry, however. During Jack’s first case, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled that other cake artists in the Denver area were free to decline to express messages opposing same-sex marriage. But state officials did not extend that same freedom to Jack, instead targeting him with a lawsuit.
Ultimately, that case made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 2018 that the State of Colorado acted with “impermissible hostility” toward Jack’s religious beliefs. But even after that ruling, Jack has been targeted by two different legal actions.
For the past eight years, Jack has been fighting in court for his right to decline to express messages or celebrate events that violate his faith.
The bottom line is that a victory in Jack’s case is a victory for everyone. After all, if Jack does not have the freedom to live and work according to his beliefs, then none of us do—including April Anderson.