A year ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips – finally bringing his case to a close after nearly six years.
Or so we thought.
Within weeks of the Supreme Court decision rebuking the state of Colorado for its treatment of Masterpiece Cakeshop, the state targeted Jack yet again.
This time around, the state decided to pursue a claim against Jack brought by a local attorney who requested a pink-and-blue cake to celebrate a gender transition. As was made clear in his previous case, Jack serves all people, but he cannot express every message or celebrate every event. And a cake celebrating a gender transition is a category of cake that Jack has never created for anyone.
Thankfully, in response to a lawsuit that Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed against Colorado on Jack’s behalf, and months of hard work in that case, the state eventually reversed course and agreed to stop targeting Jack because of his religious beliefs.
With two victories in a year, we hope and pray that is the end of the lawsuits for Jack.
But, unfortunately, it’s not the end of the lawsuits for many other creative professionals.
While Jack’s victory at the Supreme Court was significant and supports the right of all Americans to peacefully live and work consistently with their religious beliefs, threats to that right still exist. And we must remain vigilant in order to preserve this right. Two threats in particular are looming on the horizon.
1. State and local sexual orientation, gender identity (SOGI) laws
ADF is representing a number of creative professionals across the country in challenging state laws and local ordinances that prevent them from running their businesses consistently with their religious beliefs. Like Jack, these artists serve everyone, but they cannot use their artistic talents to express messages or celebrate events that violate their faith. Yet that is exactly what government officials are saying that these laws require.
We continue to represent Washington floral artist Barronelle Stutzman as a lawsuit against her threatens everything she owns simply because she declined to use her artistic talents to celebrate the same-sex marriage of a longtime customer. ADF is also representing a t-shirt printer in Kentucky, filmmakers in Minnesota, a custom art studio in Arizona, and a graphic designer in Colorado.
2. The federal “Equality Act” pending in Congress
In March, legislators in both houses of Congress introduced legislation called the “Equality Act” – and the House of Representatives passed it in May. This deceptively named legislation would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to many federal laws prohibiting discrimination. While this might sound nice to some, it actually poses an unprecedented threat to religious liberty. What happened to Jack would be replicated across the country, and anyone who holds the religious belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman – a belief that the Supreme Court has said is “decent and honorable” – would be threatened by such a law.
No one should have to endure what Jack went through for over six years. Our government should be the greatest protector of our constitutional rights, not our greatest threat.
If the government has the power to target and punish people who hold and live by reasonable viewpoints on marriage, where does it stop? And whose beliefs will be targeted next?
That’s why we should promote and defend the right of all people to live consistently with their beliefs – even if we disagree with them.
Chike’s case was an important victory for free speech on college campuses. But, unfortunately, college officials still have other ways to avoid accountability.