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Supreme Court of the United States

“These Cakes Are Fine Art” Declares BuzzFeed, and We Couldn’t Agree More

By Sarah Kramer posted on:
October 17, 2017

We don’t have a lot in common with Buzzfeed. In fact, it’s rare that we find ourselves nodding along with something it says.

But on this we can agree: Custom-designed cakes are artistic works. It’s obvious in the cake art that Buzzfeed highlighted in this video last year. And it’s obvious in a recent spotlight that Buzzfeed did of Madison Lee’s Cakes in New York City.

You don’t need to look much further than the video description to see what I mean:

Madison Lee is a master of her craft. At 31, she has established herself as one of the world’s foremost cake artists and sugar flower experts.

Cake artists? So cakes can be art? Watch the video below to see if Madison Lee’s work reminds you of another cake artist you may have heard of…




As Madison points out, the cake “is a piece of art at the wedding.”



And like any piece of art, there is a creative process that produces an expressive work. Madison’s process begins with the consultation where she gets to know the couple and their wedding style. From there, she draws, sketches, and creates a mockup of the cake in Styrofoam. Then, the week of the wedding, that vision comes to life. She bakes and ices the cake, painting and sculpting the unique design elements that make it an edible work of art.

It’s similar to the process of another cake artist, our client Jack Phillips, whose cakeshop was once called an “art gallery of cakes” by a local journalist. Jack sculpts and paints cakes to create custom designs for his clients. And the results are similarly stunning – just look at the detail in Jack’s custom works.  


It’s hard to deny that these cakes are art. Like an artist painting on canvas or sculpting from marble, Jack custom designs these beautiful creations. And when he crafts a custom wedding cake, he produces artistic expression protected by the First Amendment.



That’s why we are defending Jack’s right to create art that is consistent with his beliefs and decline to do so if it requires him to celebrate events or express ideas that violates those beliefs. Jack was sued by the State of Colorado for politely declining to design a custom cake for a same-sex wedding because of his religious beliefs about marriage. Although Jack will gladly create cakes for all people, including people who identify as LGBT, he cannot create a cake to celebrate something that goes against his religious convictions.

As the U.S. Supreme Court has said: “At the heart of the First Amendment lies the principle that each person should decide for himself or herself the ideas and beliefs deserving of expression, consideration, and adherence.”

And this past June, the high court ruled 7-2 in Jack’s favor because the state of Colorado had shown “impermissible hostility” toward Jack’s religious beliefs.

But that didn’t stop Colorado from targeting Jack again. State officials have decided to pursue a second claim against him. This time, Jack’s shop politely declined to design a custom cake with a blue exterior and pink interior to visually reflect and celebrate a gender transition.

When does it stop? You would think that Colorado would have learned its lesson the first time around, but I guess not.

When Jack designs a custom cake, he puts his heart into it, just like any artist does. And he cannot put his heart into expressing a message that violates his conscience. The First Amendment gives him that freedom.

Here’s the bottom line. If the government can tell Jack which messages and events he must celebrate through his art, that should concern us all. After all, it threatens not only Jack’s freedom but freedom for us all.

Sarah Kramer

Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.

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