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Why Jack still won’t bake the cake

Now in his third lawsuit, Jack Phillips’ impact reaches far beyond the law

Jack Phillips greets a customer at Masterpiece Cakeshop on June 4, 2018. Associated Press/Photo by David Zalubowski

Why Jack still won’t bake the cake
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It’s been more than six years since I stood with Jack Phillips before the U.S. Supreme Court and argued what became widely known as “the cake case.” Today, Jack will appear in court again—this time, before the Colorado Supreme Court.

Jack, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, has become the most famous cake artist in America. It all started in 2012 when he declined to create a custom cake celebrating a same-sex wedding due to conscience—and Colorado was bent on punishing him because of it. In the ensuing litigation, he lost employees and part of his business. He faced harassment and death threats. And he was reviled across much of the media.

The truth is that Jack serves all customers. He just can’t express all messages. In this, he is just like any artist, since everyone draws boundaries as to what messages they can and can’t express. Free speech doesn’t disappear the moment you decide to earn a living making beautiful cakes.

In a decisive 7-2 victory for Jack, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor in 2018—noting that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had shown “clear and impermissible hostility” toward his beliefs. But in addressing that hostility, the court did not get to the free speech issue. This left Jack’s freedom as an artist open to new attacks—and those attacks were all too imminent.

On the same day the Supreme Court announced it would hear Jack’s case, an activist attorney called Masterpiece Cakeshop requesting that Jack create a custom cake with blue icing on the outside and pink on the inside to celebrate a gender “transition.” The attorney then called again to request another custom cake, one depicting Satan smoking marijuana, to “correct the errors of [Jack’s] thinking.” Jack politely declined both requests because the cakes expressed messages that violate his core beliefs.

Now, that same attorney is again suing Jack, threatening his ability to continue creating cake art consistent with his faith. This third case has now reached the Colorado Supreme Court, where ADF attorneys will represent Jack at oral arguments today.

Some people have looked at Jack’s example over the years with confusion. “Why not just bake the cake?” they ask. The answer is simple: The government can’t force artists to express messages they don’t believe. You don’t have to agree with Jack’s views to agree that no one should be compelled to express ideas and messages they don’t believe. Free speech is for everyone. The First Amendment protects everyone’s right to express their beliefs without fear of government punishment.

Jack’s example has spurred countless Christians to bear joyful witness to Christ in the place God has called them, no matter the headwinds they face.

Jack’s example has spurred countless Christians to bear joyful witness to Christ in the place God has called them, no matter the headwinds they face.

In Alaska, for instance, when Sherrie Laurie was forced to make a split-second decision over whether to protect the privacy of women in her homeless shelter from a male who wanted to gain entry, three words went through her mind as she walked down the stairs to what she knew was a moment she needed courage: “Remember the baker.” Jack’s example inspired her to stand—and then propelled her to a legal victory that would protect women in the shelter.

Or take Lorie Smith, another Colorado artist. Jack’s story inspired her to challenge state officials for misusing the same law to threaten her creative expression. Her case went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, where free speech prevailed last year.

But Jack’s influence extends even beyond the law.

Recently, Ayaan Hirsi Ali spoke at a public event in which she shared about her journey toward faith in Christ. Hirsi Ali is a Somali-born human rights activist, author, and podcast host, as well as a former leader of the New Atheists. Having fled fundamentalist Islam as a young woman, she found refuge in the West and its promise of freedom, equality, and human dignity. She considered these to be the fruits of Enlightenment secularism.

But then something curious happened. The rising tide of intolerance in the West struck her as strangely reminiscent of fundamentalist Islam. She began to reconsider her worldview, ultimately professing faith in Christ last November.

But what exactly woke her up to the rising wave of intolerance? In her own words: “It was the cake-baking story.” Jack Phillips. A man she described as an “obscure baker” in an “obscure place.”

“There are millions and billions and trillions of cakes,” she said. “They didn’t have to get it from Jack. And I woke up to that.” She then added, “What Jack has done is make an example of them. Because people like me would not have woken up to the reality that it is these activists who are intolerant.”

As Jack heads into court for the third time, may his example shine brightly. May it encourage us all to bear witness to the truth and expect God to deliver astonishing results. And, after 12 years of litigation, don’t count Jack out.

Kristen Waggoner

Kristen Waggoner is CEO, president, and general counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom.


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