Christian Cake Baker Turns the Tables, Sues Colorado for Anti-Religious Bias

Jack Phillips stands for a portrait near a display of wedding cakes in his Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016.

By Published on August 29, 2018

Jack Phillips owns Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, and is himself a master baker. He’s in trouble with the state of Colorado for declining to create a custom cake for an event because doing so would violate his religious beliefs.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because Phillips has already taken a similar case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor on June 4.

Here’s the background.

In 2012, Phillips declined the request by a same-sex couple marrying in Massachusetts that he create a custom cake for their reception in Colorado.

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in a ruling affirmed by the state courts, concluded that Phillips violated a state law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in businesses and other places of public accommodation.

The case, as the Supreme Court would describe it, presented a conflict between the government’s authority to protect individuals against discrimination and “the right of all persons to exercise fundamental freedoms under the First Amendment.”

This conflict is recurring, in different settings, more and more often.

To understand this conflict properly requires focusing on the reason that Phillips declined to make this particular cake. He has no desire to discriminate against LGBTQ people; in fact, his shop welcomes everyone as customers, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Instead, he claimed only that being required to use his personal skills to create a custom cake for a same-sex wedding forced him to have a role in that event in violation of his religious beliefs.

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Advocates wanted the Supreme Court to announce a rule that would tip the scales in these cases. One side wanted the court to say that the Constitution guarantees a win for religious business owners. The other side wanted the justices to say that state anti-discrimination laws always prevail, even in these narrow circumstances.

Courts in general, and the Supreme Court in particular, often prefer not to push the legal envelope very far, especially when volatile issues are involved. Here, the Supreme Court decided in Phillips’ favor without establishing an across-the-board rule.

Instead of focusing on the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s actual decision against Phillips, the high court focused on how the commission reached that decision.

There was clear — even shocking — evidence that commission members exhibited “clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs that motivated [Phillips’] objection,” the court said.

Overt statements by commissioners, as well as treating Phillips’ objection differently than similar objections in other cases, were “inconsistent with the First Amendment’s guarantee that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion.”

This was a significant decision for several reasons. First, it recognized that conflicts like this involve a person’s “sincere religious beliefs.” Second, it reaffirmed that the right of each individual to exercise religion is a fundamental constitutional right. Third, it exposed ugly, anti-religious bias by a government agency and held that the First Amendment guarantees freedom from such bias.

Since the Supreme Court did not settle this conflict once and for all with an all-encompassing rule, additional cases will help fill in the blanks and, hopefully, pave the way to more robust protection for the exercise of religion.

That includes Phillips’ new case.

When Phillips declined to participate in an event that would violate his personal religious beliefs, he was not discriminating against the couple.

In June 2017, a lawyer named Autumn Scardina asked Phillips to create a custom cake celebrating his transition from male to female. When Phillips declined, on the same grounds as he had before, Scardina filed a discrimination complaint.

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission found probable cause that Phillips had again violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

Rather than wait for the entire process to play out, however, Phillips took the initiative and filed a federal lawsuit.

Assisted by the Alliance Defending Freedom, Phillips’ lawsuit makes four legal claims. First, he alleges that the government violated his First Amendment right to exercise his religion by targeting, showing hostility toward, and discriminating against him based on his religious beliefs and practices.

That’s the most important issue, and it picks up where Phillips’ first case left off. While his first case involved specific acts of anti-religious hostility by individual persons, Phillips is alleging that the government is hostile to religion in a more general way.

Second, he alleges that the government violated his First Amendment right to free speech by forcing him to “create and disseminate expression that violates [his] religious beliefs.”

Third, he contends that the government violated his 14th Amendment right to due process by the “unfair and biased” way that it enforced the law against him.

And fourth, he argues that the government violated his 14th Amendment right to equal protection by treating his religiously motivated decision differently than those of others.

When Phillips declined to participate in an event that would violate his personal religious beliefs, he was not discriminating against the couple.

There is no reason that the Constitution’s protection for individuals who wish to live their faith and laws prohibiting discrimination against groups of people in the marketplace cannot co-exist.

Those who regularly defend religious freedom know that this is a marathon, not a sprint. Each case that exposes government hostility toward religious belief and practice challenges us to take our individual rights more seriously.


Copyright 2018 The Daily Signal

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  • ricenz

    nice, i hope he wins

    • I’m sure if he doesn’t, someone else will do the same enough times that one goes through.

  • #neverdemocrats

    pray for the guy the stress must be horrible.

    • Willam Nat


  • m-nj

    Someone with time and money needs to start going into LGBT and lib/prog owned businesses and requesting items that would be antithetical to their ideology, then file multiple cases with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to flood the system and expose their hypocrisy once and for all.

    • Rclifton


  • Rclifton

    I can only hope that Jack Phillips soon owns the “state” of Colorado.

  • Trilemma

    Phillips can still be re-convicted of discriminating against Charles Craig and David Mullins. He’ll probably win against the state of Colorado to some extent. I think he should have made the cake and saved himself a lot of trouble. I don’t see that he gained anything by declining to make the cake nor do I see that he had anything to lose if he had made the cake. In Jesus’s day, paying taxes to Rome was against the firmly held religious beliefs of some Jews. When asked, Jesus told them to pay the taxes anyway. Jesus would have told Phillips to make the cake anyway.

    • Willam Nat

      Using your reasoning anything can be rationalized. Martin Luther King would never have served time in jail. Each time arrested, he would have sworn he was in favor of segregation and begged to be released. But he didn’t do that. Why do you suppose he didn’t? Maybe because of his PRINCIPLES.

      • Trilemma

        Not a fair comparison. MLK wanted to get arrested. It was part of his strategy for his civil rights campaign.

        • Chip Crawford

          Reference please

          • Trilemma

            Getting arrested is an essential part of civil disobedience. If you don’t get arrested, nobody notices the injustice. MLK said, “Any man who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail in order to arouse the conscience of the community on the injustice of the law is at that moment expressing the very highest respect for law.”

          • Jim

            Look it up yourself

    • Willam Nat

      I read a comment of yours today: “If God is omniscient, then from God’s perspective we have no free will and from our perspective free will is just an illusion.”

      So, who are you to proclaim what Jesus would have told Phillips. You aren’t even a believer.

      • Trilemma

        Anyone can read the Bible and understand what Jesus would do.

        • Chip Crawford

          Wrong again. Anyone can read the bible and ASSUME what Jesus would do. You have scales over your eyes and work in the dark. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. With and without him are NOT the same. John 11:9 … If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. 10 But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him. John 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
          You can change that by receiving him, not deceiving concerning him.

        • Clearly not you, but you have ulterior motives in everything.

    • Shawn Blinke

      Jesus would not tell Phillips to bake the cake anyway. Paying taxes is NOT a sin, whereas homosexuality and celebrating homosexual behavior IS a sin. You really should learn what is and isn’t a sin in The Lord’s eyes.

      • Trilemma

        I agree that paying taxes is not a sin. But the Jews believed it was a sin to pay taxes to Rome because they believed doing so made them endorse something they considered sinful. Baking a cake is not a sin. But Phillips believes it’s a sin to bake a cake for two men because he believes doing so makes him endorse something he considers sinful. Same arrangement. If Jesus wanted the Jews to pay taxes then he would want Phillips to make a cake.

        • It is a grave sin to partake in satanic rituals. your spiritual brethren (aka devil worshipers) have an anti-Sacrament for every real Sacrament of the Church. The satanic anti-Sacrament opposed to the Sacrament of Marriage is a man pretending to marry another man.

          In fact, the institution of men pretending to “marry” other men is what caused the deluge that destroyed everything but Noah’s family.

          • Trilemma

            How do you know The Flood was caused by same sex marriage?

          • That is official dogma of the Church. No way for men to marry men, as marriage is the protection of motherhood.

          • Jim

            Nice that gay marriage is now legal. No church needed

          • No such thing. Nor is hat a valid marriage.

          • Trilemma

            Where did this official church dogma come from? It obviously didn’t come from the Bible.

          • The Church wrote the Bible. Specifically the Prophets of the Old Covenent wrote the OT, and the Apostles (first Bishops of the Church) wrote the NT.

            There are 4 senses of scripture (historical, moral, anagogical, allegorical) and I doubt you knew that.

            All of the Church is scriptural, and there is some prophecy and thinking past that.

          • Jim

            Riiight. No evidence of a great flood. No evidence of demons. So full of it you are.

          • yet you worship demons and give a perfect example of the people who prompted the deluge

      • Jim

        Baking a cake for fee isn’t celebrating anything.

        • It is partaking in a satanic ritual in this case.

          • Jim

            No such thing

          • No such thing as what? Why are you under the impression that denial is an argument?

    • Andy6M

      Apples and oranges.

    • So he should have just partook in a satanic ritual just to make things easier? Or should have done it because you are a subversive and want to destroy mankind by any means necessary?

      Would have lost his soul and damned himself by doing it. Had everything to gain for refusing. Just because you made the opposite choice does not mean it was the right one.

      Now let me explain to you what the phrase “render unto ceasar” means. A pharisee tried to trick Christ by offering him a roman coin and saying that he wanted to donate to his God. Christ looked at the coin and it had the phrase “ceasar is the son of god” on it. Christ then told the pharisee to give the coin to ceasar, as it was clear the pharisee worshiped ceasar and not God.

      Now you know.

      • Jim

        Nobody asked him to participate in anything. He was asked to bake a cake, that’s what he does for a living.

        • The thing they asked him to bake a cake in honor of was a satanic ritual.

      • Trilemma

        Phillips never said the wedding reception was a satanic ritual and that’s why he didn’t make the cake.

        Is it a sin to buy and eat meat that was offered to an idol?

        Please quote the Bible verse where a Pharisee offered a coin to Jesus and said, “I want to donate this coin to my God.”

        • There is no “wedding” between two men. The demoniacs do pretend to “marry” men as an affront to the Sacrament of Marriage.

          That is a satanic ritual, in fact it is one of the worst.

    • Lisa

      You’re not the first to avoid a fight in order to avoid trouble.

      Thank God for brave men like Jack Phillips who stand up for their principles and don’t just follow the crowd.

      • Trilemma

        I commend him for standing up for his principles. But I think his principles are not Biblical.

        • you mean the “satanic bible” you seem to be inspired by?

  • realvegasdawn

    Let the transgender try this at a muslim bakery. Jack Phillips is right; he is being targeted because he is Christian.

    • Jim

      I can’t seem to find a single Muslim bakery in my area. Ridiculous

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