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Justice Department Right to Support Artist’s First Amendment Freedoms

Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission

Won U.S. Supreme Court
Last Updated

What's at stake

The freedom to operate a business according to your religious beliefs

The freedom to express yourself artistically without endorsing a view with which you disagree

Summary

In 2012, two men asked Jack Phillips to create a wedding cake celebrating a same-sex marriage. Jack politely declined, offering to sell them anything in his store, but designing a custom wedding cake for a same-sex marriage was not something he could do, because of his religious beliefs about marriage. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission acted on the couple's complaint, finding Jack violated anti-discrimination law—despite the Commission giving a free pass to three different bakers who refused orders from customers opposing same-sex marriage.

ADF represented Jack at the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the government cannot force artists to use their expressive talents to celebrate events or express ideas that they do not support. In a 7-2 ruling, the Court found that the government was wrong to punish Jack for peacefully living out his beliefs in the marketplace. The Court called out the Commission’s double standard of  punishing Jack, but not the three artists who refused messages against same-sex marriage. Holding that the free exercise clause forbids hostility toward religion, it rejected one Commissioner’s claim that believing marriage is between a man and woman is akin to being racist.

Masterpiece expanded on what the Court said before: religious persons merit protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths. And the decision dovetails with NIFLA v. Becerra, where the Court firmly rejected government-compelled speech—an issue argued, but not decided in Masterpiece. Together, Masterpiece and NIFLA are foundational to restoring religious freedom in America.

Our role in this case

Alliance Defending Freedom and its allies defended Jack Phillips and his business, Masterpiece Cakeshop, free of charge.

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Legal Documents

Court
Title
Date
U.S. Supreme Court
6/4/2018
U.S. Supreme Court
11/22/2017
U.S. Supreme Court
9/7/2017
U.S. Supreme Court
9/7/2017
U.S. Supreme Court
9/7/2017
U.S. Supreme Court
9/7/2017
U.S. Supreme Court
9/7/2017
U.S. Supreme Court
9/7/2017
U.S. Supreme Court
9/7/2017
U.S. Supreme Court
9/7/2017
U.S. Supreme Court
9/7/2017
U.S. Supreme Court
9/7/2017
U.S. Supreme Court
9/7/2017
U.S. Supreme Court
9/6/2017
U.S. Supreme Court
7/22/2016
State Supreme Court
4/25/2016
Appellate Court
8/13/2015
Administrative Agency
5/30/2014
Administrative Agency
12/6/2013
Administrative Agency
10/30/2013

Frequently Asked Questions

Who won the Masterpiece Cakeshop case?

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of cake artist Jack Phillips and his business Masterpiece Cakeshop in a 7-2 decision.

When was the Masterpiece Cakeshop case decided?

The Supreme Court issued its decision on June 4, 2018.

Who represented Jack Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop at the Supreme Court?

Jack Phillips was represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, the world's largest legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, the sanctity of life, parental rights, and God's design for marriage and family. Now CEO, President, & ADF General Counsel Kristen Waggoner defended Jack during oral arguments at the Supreme Court on December 5, 2017.

What did the Supreme Court decide in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission?

The Supreme Court ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had violated the Free Exercise Clause and Jack Phillips’s First Amendment rights. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that “the Commission’s treatment of Phillips’ case violated the State’s duty under the First Amendment not to base laws or regulations on hostility to a religion or religious viewpoint … the record here demonstrates that the Commission’s consideration of Phillips’ case was neither tolerant nor respectful of his religious beliefs.”

However, because the free exercise violation was so clear in Masterpiece, the Court did not address whether Colorado violates the First Amendment when it forces people to say something they don’t believe or to create art that violates their deeply held beliefs.

Thankfully, this December, ADF is representing another Colorado resident at the Supreme Court—graphic artist and web designer Lorie Smith. Like Jack, Lorie serves everyone, including those who identify as LGBT; she simply doesn’t speak all messages. And like other artists, Lorie cannot design custom websites and art that violate her deeply held religious beliefs. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear her case, 303 Creative v. Elenis, to answer the question of “whether applying a public-accommodation law to compel an artist to speak or stay silent violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.” We are hopeful the Supreme Court will affirm once again that free speech is for everyone and that the government can’t force anyone to say something they don’t believe.


Additional Resources

One-page summary

The Federalist Society: Compelled Speech in Masterpiece Cakeshop: What the Supreme Court’s June 2018 Decisions Tell Us About the Unresolved Questions
 

 

Biographies

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Kristen K. Waggoner
Kristen K. Waggoner
CEO, President, and General Counsel
As the CEO, president, and general counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom, Kristen Waggoner leads the faith-based legal organization in protecting fundamental freedoms and promoting the inherent dignity of all people throughout the U.S. and around the world.