Jack Phillips is a Christian cake artist who owns Masterpiece Cakeshop outside Denver, Colorado. In 2012, a same-sex couple asked Jack to bake a cake for their wedding celebration. Phillips regularly serves LGBT customers but could not help celebrate a wedding that violated his religious beliefs. In the past, Jack had refused to create cakes for other events that violated his religious conscience, including celebrations of divorce.
Although the couple obtained a free cake from another bakery, they filed a complaint against Jack with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The Colorado Human Rights Commission ordered Jack to create cakes for same-sex wedding celebrations or stop making any wedding cakes. Wedding cakes were approximately 40% of Jack’s business. Around the same time, the Commission refused to order three bakeries to create a cake that expressed religious viewpoints against same-sex weddings for a religious customer. The Commission also ordered Jack to re-educate his employees, some of whom are his family members.
After the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld the Commission’s ruling against Jack, he asked the United States Supreme Court to hear his case, which the Court agreed to do.
In September 2017, CLS filed its amicus brief in support of Jack Phillips. The brief defends his right to live according to his deepest religious beliefs, including declining to participate in celebrations of weddings that violate his religious conscience. The brief shows that compelling a person to create a cake to celebrate a wedding he understands is an inherently religious event violates the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses.
The Court heard oral arguments on December 5, 2017.
On June 4, 2018, in a 7-2 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the First Amendment rights of religious individuals by protecting Phillips, while striking down the apparent hostility that had been voiced against people of faith. The Court “concluded that the State’s interest could have been weighed against Phillips’ sincere religious objections in a way consistent with the requisite religious neutrality that must be strictly observed.”
The Court’s decision discussed many issues, including the Free Exercise rights of Phillips. The Center’s brief, which was mentioned at oral argument, provided the legal analysis of the Free Exercise claims that the Court majority seemed to follow in ruling for Jack Phillips. The Center is pleased with the decision and that its brief seemed to have such a good influence on the outcome.
CLS issued a press release applauding the Court’s respect for religious freedom.
Center Director Kim Colby spoke on the Federalist Society Religious Liberties Practice Group Teleforum after the Masterpiece ruling was announced. You can hear the hour long discussion here.
Kim Colby also spent an afternoon with Mike Schutt on CLS’ Cross & Gavel podcast discussing the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision. Click here to listen to the podcast. The podcast transcript is available here.
Read how Jack Phillips and other conscientious objectors are modern Martin Luthers on this 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Listen to Jack Phillips and other conscientious objectors tell their stories at https://www.heritage.org/religious-liberty/event/justice-jack-free-speech-and-religious-liberty-the-supreme-court.