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Jack Phillips

Jack Is Back in Court, Again.
Jack Phillips

Jack Phillips doesn’t belong in a courtroom. He belongs at the counter of Masterpiece Cakeshop, creating beautiful, one-of-a-kind cakes for his customers.

But for more than eleven years, Jack has been pulled away from his work in order to defend his freedom to express what he believes without fear of government punishment.

Through it all, Jack has endured the spotlight of the national media, lost a big part of his business, and had to let several employees go. He’s received angry phone calls, letters, and even death threats.

After two wins—including one at the U.S. Supreme Court—you would think it would all be over.

But now, Jack is embroiled in yet a third lawsuit. And on June 18, 2024, the Colorado Supreme Court will hear Jack’s case.

Who is Jack Phillips?

Jack Phillips is the Colorado cake artist who was at the center of one of 2018’s most talked-about U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

In 2012, two men asked Jack to create a wedding cake celebrating a same-sex marriage. Jack politely declined. While he offered to sell the men anything in his store, he could not in good conscience create a custom wedding cake that expressed a message he does not believe.

Jack serves everyone. He decides whether to create a custom cake based on what the cake will express, not who requests it.

But this didn’t matter to the state government. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission prosecuted Jack, trying to punish him for exercising his faith this way. Along the way, the Commission compared Jack to Nazis and slaveholders and denied him the same expressive freedom it freely gives to secular artists.

In a 7-2 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court condemned Colorado’s “clear and impermissible hostility toward [Jack’s] sincere religious beliefs.”

Since then, Jack has had to endure two more lawsuits, the more recent of which is now at the Colorado Supreme Court.

While the media has covered the Masterpiece cases extensively, most people don’t know the real man at the center of this story.

Jack had an encounter with Jesus

Both Jack and his wife Debi were raised in churchgoing families, but neither put much stock in what they learned. They started their own family with zero interest in anything related to faith.

But that all changed one morning as Jack finished a late shift and started driving home.

“I just felt like God came into my car and convicted me of my sins,” he says, recalling the conversation in his heart. It just took a few seconds. “You’re a sinner. You need a Savior. It’s Jesus Christ.” I said, “You’re right. Let me clean up my life.” He said, “You can’t.” I said, “You’re right. I’m Yours.” So he gave his life to Christ, driving home from work.

Telling Debi wasn’t so simple. Weeks before, she’d torn into a relative who invited them to visit her church. Jack figured if she learned of his conversion, she’d leave him.

But he couldn’t sleep. The voice in his soul kept urging him to tell her. He walked out to the kitchen. “I need to tell you something,” he said. “I became a Christian today.” Tears come to his eyes, remembering what came next.

“Me, too,” she said. “Three days ago.”

Jack has always been an artist

When Jack opened Masterpiece Cakeshop, he wanted to use his artistic talents to design custom cakes that were both imaginative and personal.

From an early age, Jack had developed his expertise in painting, drawing, and cartooning. Now he had the opportunity to combine those gifts with his skills as a pastry chef to create beautiful works of art.

Cake artist Jack Phillips founded Masterpiece Cakeshop in 1993

​“I wanted customers to say, ‘Wow! This isn’t just a bakery … it’s a place where you go to get a cake that’s art,’” Jack says. “Masterpiece implies the artwork aspect, where we take the different artistic tools and colors and palettes to create the artwork.”

Jack wanted to honor God in his business

For Jack and Debi, becoming Christians changed everything. So when Jack started his cake shop in 1993, it was not only to provide for his family and his employees, but also to honor God through his work every day.

The very name of Jack’s shop—Masterpiece Cakeshop—not only reflects that Jack designs artistic cakes but also is a constant reminder that he operates his business in service to his ultimate Master—Jesus Christ.

As Jack says, “We don’t want God to be part of our lives on just Sundays. We want Him to be part of our lives every day.”

Why was Jack targeted?

In 2012, Jack declined a request to create a custom cake celebrating a same-sex wedding. Jack explained that he would be happy to design a cake for the customers for a different event, or sell them anything else in his shop. But he does not create cakes expressing messages that conflict with his deeply held religious beliefs.

Still, the two men filed a complaint, and the state of Colorado began to target Jack for living out his Christian faith. This was clear when it allowed other Colorado cake artists—but not Jack—to decline to create custom cakes that expressed messages that the artists considered objectionable. And it was even clearer when some members of the Commission made hostile statements about Jack. One called his religious-liberty defense “a despicable piece of rhetoric” and compared him to perpetrators of the Holocaust.

Jack Phillips at the Supreme Court of the United States

Thankfully, in June 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court finally gave Jack justice when it handed down its decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Jack won in a 7-2 ruling that upheld his religious freedom.

In its decision, the Supreme Court made clear that the government had been hostile to Jack’s freedom of religion. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion that “the Commission’s hostility was inconsistent with the First Amendment’s guarantee that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral towards religion.” The Supreme Court ruled that the government must respect and show tolerance for people of faith and their religious beliefs.

But although the highest court in the land ruled to protect Jack’s freedom, he then faced a new threat from the state.

Jack was tested again

In June 2017, on the very day that the Supreme Court announced its decision to hear Jack’s first case, a local attorney named Autumn Scardina called Jack’s shop asking for a custom cake. The attorney demanded a cake that would be blue on the outside and pink on the inside to symbolize and celebrate that attorney’s so-called “transition” from male to female. (Scardina later requested another custom cake featuring Satan smoking marijuana.)

Jack’s shop treated the lawyer the same way that it would have treated any other customer in that situation. The shop politely declined to create a custom cake expressing a message that conflicted with Jack’s faith.

Jack has never before created a cake like the one this attorney requested. He believes that God creates each of us either male or female. This means our sex is a God-given, biological reality, not something we choose or change.

Once again, Jack acted based on his conscience. He did not turn his back on his beliefs. And he did not give in to those who would punish him for living out his faith.

When Jack declined this request, the attorney filed a complaint with the same Colorado agency that had prosecuted Jack before. The agency did not take a position on this complaint while the first Masterpiece case was pending in the U.S. Supreme Court. But less than one month after the Supreme Court condemned the state’s anti-religious hostility toward Jack, the state agency made its first finding against Jack in this new case. The state decided to target Jack again.

“The Supreme Court made it clear that Colorado can’t treat me worse than other cake artists because of my religious beliefs,” said Jack. “But I faced a new complaint for declining to create a custom cake that expresses a message I would not communicate for anyone—something Colorado has repeatedly said other cake artists have the freedom to do. Colorado just seemed to be looking for opportunities to punish me for my faith.”

Alliance Defending Freedom defended Jack once again. But this time, we didn’t sit back and watch the state sue Jack. We filed a lawsuit against the relevant state officials.

In March 2019, Colorado dismissed its case against Jack. With the end of that lawsuit, Jack thought he could finally go back to focusing on his work.

But that was too good to be true.

Jack is being targeted a third time!

A few months after the second lawsuit ended, the same attorney filed another lawsuit against Jack about the same “gender-transition” cake request—only this time in state court.

This attorney had targeted Jack for years, calling him a bigot and a hypocrite when learning about Jack’s first case in 2012. And concerning the Satan cake, the attorney admitted the request was to “correct the errors of [Jack’s] thinking.”

"This latest lawsuit looks like yet another desperate attempt to harass cake artist Jack Phillips," said ADF Chief Legal Counsel Jim Campbell. "And it stumbles over the one detail that matters most: Jack serves everyone; he just cannot express all messages or celebrate all events through his custom cakes."

And he shouldn’t be forced to.

No American should be forced to express something they don’t believe. But this most recent lawsuit threatens to do just that in the state of Colorado.

Another big win for free speech at the Supreme Court

In June 2023, ADF secured its 15th win at the Supreme Court representing graphic artist Lorie Smith in 303 Creative v. Elenis.

Lorie is an artist who runs her own design studio, 303 Creative. She specializes in graphic and website design and loves to visually convey messages in every site she creates.

But when she wanted to expand her portfolio to create custom websites that celebrate marriage between a man and a woman, Colorado made clear she wasn’t welcome in that space. Lorie decided to file a lawsuit because she knew that the same Colorado law used to target Jack was also threatening her. It would censor what she wanted to say and require her to create designs that violate her beliefs about marriage.

Like Jack, Lorie works with people from all walks of life, including those who identify as LGBT. Lorie’s decisions about which projects to design are always based on what message she’s being asked to express, never who requests it.

Graphic artist Lorie Smith working on a beautiful design

Thankfully, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of free speech for all Americans, holding that Colorado cannot punish Lorie for creating art consistent with her beliefs.

In light of this landmark decision, ADF attorneys have asked the Colorado Supreme Court to apply the 303 Creative ruling to Jack’s case, affirming Jack’s First Amendment freedom from government-coerced expression.

Still trusting in God

Jack was shocked when his business, his faith, and even his family became the subject of repeated threats and punishment. But through it all, Jack has continued to trust in God’s plan for his life and for the future of his business.

Praise God that Jack has refused to give up his freedom and hasn’t backed down. He knows it’s not just his own religious freedom on the line—it’s yours too.

Jack Phillips and his granddaughters

Will you join with other friends of freedom to help defend Jack and others like him in court? Court cases like Jack’s can drag on for years and years. Every gift matters!

Thankfully, God has rewarded Jack’s courage and your generosity with two important victories. And now, as he faces yet another challenge, it is our prayer that God will use your gift today to protect free speech and religious freedom for Jack and other people of faith who are facing threats.

God is the source of our hope. And when we stand together to defend religious freedom today, we can be victorious.

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