Six years, one U.S. Supreme Court ruling, and a second lawsuit later, the state of Colorado has finally stopped its hostility toward cake artist Jack Phillips and his faith.
Today, the state officially agreed to dismiss its case against Jack.
This is a big win for Jack – and for religious freedom! Praise God! It has been a long, difficult journey for Jack. He has endured not only multiple drawn-out legal processes, but also hate mail, nasty phone calls, and even death threats. Yet through it all, God has proven faithful. And now, we hope that Jack can finally move on.
Colorado’s Crusade against Jack
More than six years ago, two men walked into Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado and requested a wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex marriage. Because Jack is a Christian and believes that God designed marriage as the union of one man and one woman, he did not feel he could use his artistic talents to celebrate an event that contradicts his beliefs. So, Jack politely declined. But he offered to sell the couple anything else in his store, or to design a cake for a different occasion.
Jack serves all people, but he cannot celebrate every event or express every message. That’s why Jack has turned down requests for Halloween cakes, anti-American cakes, cakes celebrating divorce, and cakes disparaging those in the LGBT community.
Still, the couple filed a complaint against Jack, and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled against him. The Commission ordered Jack to start designing cakes for same-sex weddings or get out of the wedding industry altogether – which cost him nearly 40 percent of his business. The commission also ordered Jack to “reeducate his staff” and file quarterly compliance reports with the government.
Members of the commission even went so far as to call Jack’s religious-liberty defense a “despicable piece of rhetoric” and compare him to perpetrators of the Holocaust – a deeply personal attack since Jack’s father was a Purple Heart recipient in World War II and helped liberate Buchenwald concentration camp.
It gets worse.
Around the same time, the Commission also considered complaints against three separate cake shops. Each of these shops turned down orders for cakes expressing religious opposition to same-sex marriage. Yet, the Commission ruled that these shops had the freedom to decline to express messages that they considered offensive. Nice double standard there, Colorado.
ADF represented Jack all the way up to the Supreme Court. And finally, in June 2018, Jack got the justice he deserved. The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in Jack’s favor – rebuking Colorado for its “clear and impermissible” hostility toward Jack’s religious beliefs.
That Should Have Been the End of It
Soon after the Supreme Court ruled in Jack’s favor, Colorado announced that it would be pursuing another complaint against Jack.
This complaint came from a local attorney in Colorado. On the same day that the Supreme Court announced it would be hearing Jack’s first case, that attorney called Jack’s shop to request a cake that was designed blue on the outside and pink on the inside to reflect and celebrate a gender transition. Jack’s shop declined due to his religious belief that God creates us male or female – and that we don’t get to choose or change that.
It was not a message Jack felt he could communicate in good conscience. Not to mention that a cake celebrating a gender transition is a category of cakes he has never created for anyone.
Instead of acknowledging this and dismissing the complaint against Jack, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission decided to use it as another opportunity to target him. This is not surprising because evidence of the Commission’s hostility toward religious freedom – Jack’s in particular – is overwhelming.
One of the commissioners called Jack a “hater” on social media. And two other commissioners voiced their support for comments that a previous commissioner, Diann Rice, made in 2015. Those comments, which the U.S. Supreme Court sternly condemned in its ruling in favor of Jack, called religious freedom “a despicable piece of rhetoric.” The evidence of anti-religious hostility is so strong that in a discussion with a Colorado state legislator just a few months ago, one of the Commission’s own members expressed the belief that “there is anti-religious bias on the Commission.”
It’s clear that the anti-religious hostility is still alive and well in the Colorado government… which is why ADF filed a lawsuit against the state in the first place.
A Final Victory?
The state’s decision to dismiss its most recent prosecution of Jack is HUGE! And it’s certainly been a long time coming.
But we shouldn’t let this victory lead us to complacency.
Jack has been targeted multiple times by customers seeking to harass him, including people requesting cakes celebrating Satan. And it wouldn’t surprise us if Jack is harassed again because of his faith.
In the meantime, ADF continues to represent a number of creative professionals across the country who are experiencing similar hostility toward their religious beliefs. These clients are being denied their constitutional right to live and work according to their deeply held beliefs.
But every American should be free to peacefully live and work consistently with their faith – even if we disagree with the beliefs they hold.
Any threat to that freedom is a threat to us all. And any victory securing that freedom – like Jack’s most recent one – is a victory for us all.