US, 20 states, 479 creative professionals join others to support artistic, religious freedom at Supreme Court
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court has received at least 45 friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the freedom of a Colorado cake artist to decline to create custom artistic expression that celebrates events in conflict with his faith. The briefs filed in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission include support from the U.S. Department of Justice, 479 creative professionals, 20 states, 86 members of Congress, and a variety of legal experts, civil rights advocates, and religious groups.
Last month, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing Jack Phillips and his family business, Masterpiece Cakeshop, filed their opening brief in the case, which the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear after the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that a state law could force him to create custom artistic expression contrary to his faith.
“As the numerous briefs filed in this case affirm, artists and other expressive professionals should be able to peacefully live and work according to their beliefs without fear of punishment by the government,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner, who will argue before the high court on behalf of Phillips and his shop. “We hope the U.S. Supreme Court will consider the arguments in these briefs and declare that the government cannot force Jack to surrender his freedom in order to run his family business. Regardless of one’s view on marriage, all Americans should support Jack: To have First Amendment freedoms for ourselves, we must respect those same freedoms for people with whom we disagree on important issues.” (#JusticeForJack)
The Colorado Supreme Court declined to take the case after the state’s Court of Appeals affirmed a Colorado Civil Rights Commission decision from May 2014. That decision ordered Phillips and his employees to design custom wedding cakes that celebrate same-sex marriages if the shop designs wedding cakes for opposite-sex marriages. It also required Phillips to re-educate his staff, most of whom are his family members—essentially telling them that he was wrong to operate his business according to his faith. He must also report to the government for two years, describing all cakes that he declines to create and the reasons why. As a result of the ruling, Phillips has lost an estimated 40 percent of his business.
The United States, in a brief that the U.S. Department of Justice filed, recognized that “a custom wedding cake is a form of expression…. It is an artistic creation that is both subjectively intended and objectively perceived as a celebratory symbol of a marriage.”
The states, in their brief, argue that governments “may not use their police power to truncate the First Amendment by compelling a person to create a piece of artwork—particularly one that violates the artist’s conscience.” They add that “this case happens to arise in the context of expression regarding same-sex marriage. But the First Amendment principles that control here transcend, and will long outlast, the Nation’s current dialogue about same-sex marriage.”
The nearly 500 creative professionals similarly assert, “Artistic speech, whether expressed through painting a picture, taking a photograph, or designing a cake, is constitutionally protected and should be treated as such. The expression should neither be silenced nor coerced. Though the concern is currently most pressing in the same-sex wedding context, it is not so limited. Creative professionals of all stripes stand to suffer from undue compulsion, depending on how this Court rules here.”
In addition to the briefs filed in support of Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop, several briefs filed in support of neither party make important arguments that advance Phillips’s position, including one in which respected cake artists explain the intricate artistry involved in designing custom cakes.
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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