Tomorrow, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. It is a high profile case involving Jack Phillips and posing the question whether a government can force a creative professional to use his or her abilities to create expression conflicting with his or her faith or conscience.
For Jack, creating cakes is all about art. From a young age, Jack would seek out art classes from pottery to watercolors. After his graduation, Jack realized that he could combine his creativity and passion for art by designing cakes. He worked in various bakeries and then decided to open his own cake shop. Even the name for his new business, Masterpeice Cakeshop, was chosen with great care and precision. Jack chose this name to emphasize that the cakes he designs are each works of art, and to remind himself that making money isn’t his ultimate “master.” The logo for the cake shop is an artist’s palette and brushes.
For years, Jack has served anyone who walks through his doors, no matter who they are, where they come from, or how they identify. However, like many other artists, Jack will at times turn down customers because he does not wish to create art that celebrates ideas or occasions in conflict with his religious beliefs. As an example, Jack has turned down opportunities to create cakes for Halloween parties, anti-American cakes, adult-themed cakes for bachelor and bachelorette parties, or cakes celebrating divorce.
Jack has also declined to create cakes for same-sex weddings. When a same-sex couple approached Jack about creating a cake in celebration of their wedding, Jack politely explained his Christian beliefs to them and respectfully declined to create a custom-designed cake. Instead, he offered to sell them any of the pre-made cakes he had on display in his shop, and offered to design cakes for them in the future if they were of a different theme. The couple was easily able to obtain their custom, rainbow-themed wedding cake from a nearby cake artist, yet still sued Jack under Colorado law.
The Colorado Supreme Court declined to take the case after the state’s Court of Appeals affirmed a Colorado Civil Rights Commission decision against Jack from May 2014. That decision ordered Phillips and his employees to create cakes that celebrate same-sex ceremonies and required Phillips to comply with Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act by re-educating his staff (which includes members of his own family) and filing quarterly “compliance” reports for two years. Egregiously, the same Colorado Civil Rights Commission that ruled against Jack found that three other Denver cake artists were not guilty of discrimination when they declined a Christian customer’s request for a cake that reflected his religious opposition to same-sex marriage.
On June 26th, 2017, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear Jack’s case.
Tomorrow, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys will be arguing that creative professionals everywhere should be free to create expression consistent with their faith and conscience without fear of government punishment. People who support same-sex marriage are free to live and work consistent with their beliefs about marriage. That’s all that Jack wants. Jack shouldn’t be banished from the marketplace of ideas and art simply because of his religious beliefs. As Alliance Defending Freedom has pointed out, the belief that marriage is a man-woman union cuts across race, culture, time, and religions. Both President Obama and the Supreme Court have both recognized “there are people of goodwill on both sides” of the debate about same-sex marriage. The government shouldn’t disqualify many Muslim, Jewish, and Christian artists from the wedding industry simply because they believe that marriage is a man-woman union.
Everyone’s freedom is at risk when the government is able to punish citizens like Jack just because the
government doesn’t like how he exercises his artistic freedom. True tolerance is a two-way street, not a zero-sum game where the government can destroy a person of faith simply for living and working consistent with their deeply held convictions and beliefs.
Join the #JusticeforJack conversation on social media tomorrow with these sample tweets and Facebook messages from Alliance Defending Freedom!