Creating artwork has long been Jack Phillips’ passion.
So, it only makes sense that he opened a business called Masterpiece Cakeshop. To the outside observer, Jack’s shop may look like an ordinary bakery. But if you were to step inside, you would see the artwork that shows why this place lives up to its name.
“Discovering that he could blend his skills as a pastry chef, sculptor, and painter, [Jack] spent nearly two decades in bakeries owned by others before opening Masterpiece Cakeshop twenty-four years ago,” explains the opening brief in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission – the case Jack has been at the center of for more than five years. “Long before television shows like Cake Boss and Ace of Cakes, Phillips carefully chose Masterpiece’s name: it would not be just a bakery, but an art gallery of cakes. With this in mind, Phillips created a Masterpiece logo depicting an artist’s paint palate with a paintbrush and whisk. And for over a decade, a large picture has hung in the shop depicting Phillips painting at an easel. Since long before this case arose, Phillips has been an artist using cake as his canvas with Masterpiece as his studio.”
Jack loves the artistic process. Which is why he also loves designing custom wedding cakes.
“There’s just something special about doing the wedding cake, because it’s just one of the most important days . . . . And so I really want to get that right,” said Jack. “I want to make sure I do my best and get everything just right.”
Jack sits down with the couple who is getting married to learn more about them, how they met, what their wedding theme will be, and what they want the cake to look like. He makes sketches of the cake first. Then Jack gets to bring that vision to life.
Once it’s constructed, Jack paints and sculpts the cake – making it into a masterpiece. He pours his heart, imagination, and talent into the finished product.
That’s not something someone would do if they’re just making a cake.
“He loves to be able to invest his creative artistic talents in creating something that really is the beginning of what he believes is an inherently religious relationship,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner, Jack’s attorney. “And he puts a piece of himself in it. Which is, I think, why he is so great at designing wedding cakes.”
But Jack has had to stop designing custom wedding cakes, resulting in a loss of 40 percent of his business.
Why? Because in 2012, Jack politely declined to design a custom cake for a same-sex wedding. Instead, he offered to sell the couple anything else in his store or design a cake for a different event. This polite response shows that while Jack serves all people, he cannot celebrate every event – including an event that contradicts how the Bible defines marriage.
But the offer to serve this couple in another way or for a different event was not enough. The couple picketed his store and then filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
The Commission ruled against Jack and ordered him to start designing cakes for same-sex weddings or to step out of the wedding industry altogether. It also ordered that Jack re-educate his staff, explaining that it is discriminatory for him to act on his religious beliefs about marriage. He is also required to report to the government quarterly what cakes he has declined to make and the reasons for doing so.
That doesn’t sounds like artistic or religious freedom – both of which are guaranteed to us by the First Amendment.
In December, Alliance Defending Freedom argued on behalf of Jack before the U.S. Supreme Court. We asked the High Court to protect Jack’s freedom.
When Jack designs a wedding cake, he puts his heart into it. In that act of designing, he is celebrating with the couple. Allowing the government to force him to violate his conscience by celebrating an event that contradicts his beliefs should not be something we tolerate.
After all, if the government can tell Jack which messages and events he must celebrate through his art – regardless of whether those messages and events conflict with his faith – that threatens freedom for us all.
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