For over six years now, Colorado has been on a crusade to crush Jack Phillips because state officials despise what he believes and how he practices his faith.
After Phillips defended himself all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won, he thought Colorado’s hostility toward his faith was over. He was wrong.
Colorado has renewed its war against him by embarking on another attempt to prosecute him, in direct conflict with the Supreme Court’s ruling in his favor. Alliance Defending Freedom and Phillips filed a lawsuit Tuesday to stop Colorado’s continuing persecution of him.
Phillips is a Christian and expert cake artist who owns and operates a small family business, Masterpiece Cakeshop, in Lakewood, Colorado.
Both Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop serve everyone. All people—no matter who they are, what they believe, or what protected characteristics they have—are welcome in Phillips’ shop and may purchase anything available for sale.
But as a devout man of faith, Phillips cannot create custom cakes that express messages or celebrate events in conflict with his religious beliefs. When a customer asks him to create such a cake, he cannot do it, no matter who requests it.
Conversely, when someone asks Phillips to design a cake expressing a message or celebrating an event that is not contrary to his faith, he will create it, no matter who requests it. For exercising his faith this way, Colorado has doggedly pursued Phillips, turning his life upside down.
It started when Phillips declined to create a custom wedding cake celebrating a view of marriage that conflicts with his faith’s teachings. Colorado punished Phillips for that, while allowing other cake artists—those whose views the state likes—to refuse to create cakes with messages they deem objectionable.
Making matters worse, state officials publicly compared Phillips’ religious exercise to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust, a deeply offensive accusation against a man whose father helped liberate a concentration camp during World War II.
To punish Phillips, Colorado mandated that he implement comprehensive staff re-education to teach him and his employees—most of whom are his family members—that it is wrong for him to operate his business according to his faith. The state also ordered him to either violate his religious beliefs or shut down his wedding cake business.
Because Phillips could not turn his back on his faith, he was forced to give up that part of his work, which cost him and his family 40 percent of their income and caused more than half of his employees to lose their jobs.
Phillips also endured death threats and countless hateful phone calls and emails—venomous treatment that escalated with each new wave of media attention. It got so bad that Phillips’ wife was afraid to set foot in their family’s own shop.
After six grueling years, the Supreme Court vindicated Phillips in a 7-to-2 decision. It declared that Colorado acted with “clear and impermissible hostility toward [his] sincere religious beliefs.”
The Supreme Court held that the state manifested its anti-religious hostility by “disparag[ing]” Phillips’ religion, “describing it as despicable,” and enforcing a double standard that harshly punishes Phillips while exonerating other cake artists who similarly decline requests for cakes with messages they deem objectionable.
In the meantime, some Colorado citizens, emboldened by the state’s prosecution of Phillips, have targeted him. On the same day that the Supreme Court announced it would hear his case, a Colorado lawyer called his shop and requested a cake designed with a blue exterior and pink interior, which the caller said would visually depict and celebrate a gender transition.
Throughout the next year, Phillips received other requests for cakes celebrating Satan, featuring satanic symbols, depicting sexually explicit materials, and promoting marijuana use. Phillips believes that some of those requests came from the same Colorado lawyer.
Phillips declined to create the cake with the blue and pink design because it would have celebrated messages contrary to his religious belief that sex—the status of being male or female—is given by God, is biologically determined, is not determined by perceptions or feelings, and cannot be chosen or changed.
A mere 24 days after Phillips prevailed in the Supreme Court, Colorado told him that he violated Colorado law by declining to create that cake. In so doing, the state went back on what it told the Supreme Court in its Masterpiece Cakeshop brief—that its public accommodation law allows Phillips to decline to create cakes with pro-LGBT designs or themes.
And by citing the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision as support for the state’s renewed efforts to harass Phillips, Colorado ignored the Supreme Court’s numerous references to the state’s anti-religious bias and hostility.
It is now clear that Colorado will not rest until Phillips either closes Masterpiece Cakeshop or agrees to violate his religious beliefs. The state’s continuing efforts to target Phillips do not just violate the Constitution; they cross the line into bad faith.
The federal courts should put a stop to Colorado’s unconstitutional bullying.
Editor’s note: This commentary is based on the legal complaint that Alliance Defending Freedom filed Aug. 14 for Jack Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop in federal district court.