Cake Artist to Colorado Supreme Court: Honor First Amendment

Cake Artist to Colorado Supreme Court: Honor First Amendment

In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to protect free speech in 303 Creative v. Elenis, cake artist Jack Phillips is hoping he will be granted the same First Amendment rights.

On July 18, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys representing Phillips filed a supplemental notice to the Colorado Supreme Court, asking officials to reconsider his rights and apply the landmark decision to his case.

“Free speech is for everyone. As the Supreme Court recently affirmed in 303 Creative, the government can’t force Americans to say things they don’t believe,” ADF Senior Counsel Jake Warner said.

In 2012, Phillips respectfully declined to create a customized cake for a same-sex wedding due to his religious beliefs. Since then, Phillips and his business, Masterpiece Cakeshop, have been repeatedly sued and targeted by the state of Colorado. While Phillips is willing to serve all customers, he won’t create a custom cake design that contradicts his religious beliefs.

Only weeks following a U.S. Supreme Court victory for Phillips in 2018, an activist attorney from a Colorado government agency asked the artist to design a custom cake for a gender transition celebration. To add to the drama, the attorney again called Phillips to request a cake showing Satan smoking marijuana. Resolute in his faith, Phillips refused the orders, but another lawsuit was filed.

When a lower appeals court ruled that the state of Colorado can require Phillips to express messages against his core values, ADF attorneys filed an appeal in Scardina v. Masterpiece Cakeshop. The attorneys stated in the petition that “Phillips has been in court over a decade defending his right—and the right of all Americans—to create freely. And he’s faced hostility at nearly every turn. People of faith—like anyone else—should be ‘fully welcome in Colorado’s business community.’ They should not be forced to choose between their faith and their art. Protecting Phillips here will keep Colorado diverse and free for all.”

In a 6-3 decision in June, the U.S. Supreme Court stated that the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA), which prohibits businesses from denying public services to individuals based on their identity, cannot “compel an individual to create speech [he] does not believe.” The high court said that this ruling applies to other businesses engaged in “nearly identical conduct,” and declared CADA unconstitutional.

Because the new ruling in 303 Creative v. Elenis allows a Christian graphic designer to deny creating custom websites for same-sex weddings, there may finally be an end in sight for other Colorado creatives facing First Amendment battles, like Phillips. 

“That ruling makes clear that public accommodation laws like Colorado’s can remain firmly in place, but the government can’t misuse those laws to compel Jack to create custom art expressing messages he does not believe,” Warner said. “One need not agree with Jack’s views to agree that Americans shouldn’t be compelled to express what they don’t believe.”

In a Facebook post, Franklin Graham recently asked people to pray and comment to show their support for Phillips.

“Can you believe that Jack Phillips has been tied up with these court cases for 11 years? He was most recently sued for refusing to make a ‘gender-transition’ cake. Jack is not going to design a cake that says a male can become a female—and he shouldn’t have to,” Graham said.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that Colorado can’t force citizens to express messages they disagree with. Pray that the state of Colorado will follow the U.S. Supreme Court’s protection of speech—and leave Jack alone!”

Photo: Courtesy of Alliance Defending Freedom

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