Recently The Daily Citizen had the opportunity to sit down with Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to discuss his new book, The Cost of My Faith: How a Decision in My Cake Shop Took Me to the Supreme Court. Many of our readers are aware of Jack’s fight against the Colorado Civil Rights Commission that started in 2012 over the right to say “no” to creating cakes with themes that violate his religious conscience.
But most may not be aware of Jack’s story: his background, his family, his faith. If you want to know how a soft-spoken, artistic family man goes from designing wedding cakes in a quiet Denver suburb to the hushed and dignified halls of the U.S. Supreme Court and helped shape the contours of First Amendment law in this country for years to come, The Cost of My Faith is well worth a read.
We met at Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado on one of those perfect Colorado days, and sat down with coffee to discuss Jack’s life and what caused him to write a book about his famous stand for religious conscience.
DC: Jack, thanks for talking with me today. Most of our readers are intimately familiar with your recent life story, going back to 2012. And I have to ask you on their behalf, right off the bat. How are you doing?
JP: We’re doing well. You know God has taught us a lot through all this. My family’s much closer. My faith is stronger than it was 10 years ago by far. So, we’re doing good.
DC: Back in 2012 – and your book sets out the story – you had a 20-second conversation that changed your life. The book goes into great detail about that, but maybe you can summarize how that conversation has impacted your life in Christ since then.
JP: Just like my salvation experience – which I write about in chapter seven – it impacted every aspect of my life. This conversation with these two men and the trip to the United States Supreme Court has affected every aspect of it as well—my marriage, my family, my finances, my relationships with my kids, my customers, my business, everything,
DC: In the book you were very honest and vulnerable about the details of your life. I really enjoyed the biographical aspect of your book, getting to know you and what made you who you are. And I suspect that there was a reason why you included all those details. So maybe you could tell our readers why you wanted to share your life in such detail with everyone.
JP: Well, first of all, some in the media misunderstand or misconstrue my views toward people who identify as LGBT. So, I want to set clear that I serve everybody and there are just cakes that I can’t create because of the messages that they have. I just can’t express every message.
I tried to make that clear, in multiple places through The Cost of My Faith, but also to show that I’m just a regular guy with a regular job. And if these things can happen to me, they can happen to anybody. So I think part of it is to inspire people to be prepared to defend their faith if they need to. In our case, when we opened the bakery – even before we opened it – we knew that there were cakes that we couldn’t create. We decided we wouldn’t create cakes celebrating Halloween or accept un-American or racist cakes or that degrade or insult other people, including people who identify as LGBT.
But we needed those lines. Those were lines that we couldn’t cross because of the messages of the cakes involved. I also want to encourage people to draw those lines and know what they are and be prepared to stand.
DC: Another thing that impressed me in the book was your salvation story, and your wife’s. I thought that was especially powerful about your drive in the car—where you met Jesus. I mean, I get a little emotional when I read those kinds of stories.
JP: I usually can’t say them out loud without choking up. I just left work that day and I had no agenda, I was not searching for Christ in any way. I was living my life. I wasn’t a drug dealer. I wasn’t a wife beater. I wasn’t an alcoholic who woke up in, you know rain-filled gutters. I was just living life and doing what I thought was right, and God pointed out to me that I needed a Savior. And I realized all the Sunday school stuff that I put away, way back when, suddenly made sense. It was Jesus Christ. There is only one way for salvation—and that was to ask him to be my Savior. And then, like I say in The Cost of My Faith, I tried to negotiate with him. You know like, “I’m just not good enough for this. Let me clean up my life and you’ll get a better deal.”
“You can’t,” God said.
“You’re right,” I replied. “I’m Yours.”
From that moment to this, it’s impacted everything that I do. I may not always follow it as closely as I could but it’s always, always on the forefront of my mind.
DC: But the story gets more amazing, because God wouldn’t let you go to sleep that night. Tell us that story.
JP: Normally, I would go home and I would go to bed, lay down, pull the covers up and I’m asleep instantly. My wife can attest to that. I fall asleep just like that. And that day I couldn’t do it and the Holy Spirit was telling me, “Go tell Debi what you’ve just done.”
I said, “It’s just not a good idea. This is not her favorite subject.”
“No go tell her,” the Holy Spirit said.
“Let me get a good night’s sleep,” I said. I’m trying to negotiate again. “Maybe I should get a good night’s sleep and then I’ll be more prepared and she’ll take it better.”
“Go tell her now. I’ll be with you.”
So, I get up out of bed and I go into the kitchen and my wife is as surprised to see me up as I am to be up.
She looks at me, like, “What’s wrong, what’s going on?”
I don’t know how to tell her. So, I blurt it out, “I became a Christian this morning.” I waited for her to blow up because just weeks before she’d exploded with my sister-in-law who just merely invited her to church, about Christians being hypocrites and all those things. And so, I’m waiting for the worst. And she says, when I told her I just become a Christian, “Me too, three days ago.” I was floored, I was stunned by that.
Now we had something in common and that just changed everything for me.
DC: Tell me a little bit about how a marriage that was grounded in Christ helped you to survive what you have gone through for the last nine years.
JP: Our marriage is grounded in Christ and always has been, but we’ve taken it for granted at many points. In many respects, this incident with the wedding cake was a wakeup call: for our marriage and our business and all kinds of things. And I’m becoming more and more cognizant that God didn’t just look down and say, “Okay I got Jack and Debi to work with – I can work with that.” God, from before time began, created me and created her knowing that we’d be together and that I’d need her strengths and she needs mine. I build her weaknesses and she builds mine, and I’m just so grateful that God chose the two of us to be together. And this incident – whatever you want to call it – has helped to solidify that we make those decisions easier because there are two of us and we support each other.
DC: How do you deal with the hate and the phone calls you talk about in the book? The emails, the threats against your life? Most people, even Christians would look at something like that and say, “I can’t deal with that, I’m just going to make the cake. I’m going to bake the cake.” But how did you deal with that as a Christian, and how would you tell other Christians to prepare for that and to deal with it at the time it happens to them?
JP: I use this illustration a lot, Jesus tells the story of the parable of the 10 virgins, and they’re getting ready for the wedding party. The bridegroom calls them, it’s time for the wedding. It’s the middle of the night, and the 10 virgins, they are ready to go to the wedding party. The trumpet sounds and they all get up to go to the party. Five of them are prepared and five of them are not prepared with their oil – it’s a longer explanation to fill it in than that. But I liken that to Debi and I and my daughter and my family. We’re like five virgins that were prepared, but all 10 virgins were asleep.
We’re asleep and we were sleepwalking through our faith until this wake-up call. And the oil that the Holy Spirit gave us was these things like the Halloween cake and the cakes that would denigrate other people. So it’s about the message in the cake, it’s never about the person asking for it, but God prepared us through these years. These are cakes that we can’t create. So we were practiced at saying, “I’m sorry that’s a cake that we can’t create.” Then when this big one comes, we’re prepared: “I’m sorry, we’re going to stand by or our faith and we can’t prepare this cake because this cake, the wedding cake, conveys a message that I can’t express. I’ll be glad to serve you.” So, God gave us the preparation that we needed. And beyond that, I don’t know how to explain it.
DC: Have you been able to minister to people who don’t agree with you?
JK: Yes, quite often. This book, hopefully will be able to do that as well because not everybody who reads it is going to say, “Oh great, I love Jack Phillips and I want to read the story.” There are people who, I hope, pick it up and say, “Now, let’s see what this man has to say,” and they’re going to read it and they’re going see my faith, and going to see my story. I hope they understand that it’s not the people involved, it’s just the message of the cake. I can only express the messages that I agree with.
DC: Your book, to me, is very evangelistic. And I assume that was your intent. What are you hoping that readers will find in the pages of your book about Christ?
JP: I’m hoping that they’ll find what I believe salvation is, who Jesus Christ is, not just in my life but through the pages of Scripture as well. And I’ve already gotten many replies from people who love the book. They read it in like 24 hours, in a single sitting, and that’s really cool. But I’ve also gotten replies from people who I know are Christians who have come to support me and have differing views on the theology of salvation. We can open up those discussions because those are people who I know come in to the shop, and we can talk about these important issues, face to face with people who are on my side and people who are not.
DC: I know what the lows in your life have been, at least publicly, because of the very public nature of this dispute. I’m wondering, though, what have been the good things to come out of this experience, as you look back on everything that has happened?
JP: First of all, David and Charlie (the two gay men who requested a wedding cake) left at about 4:30 on a Thursday afternoon. I got the first phone call 20 minutes later, and then a series of phone calls right after that till we closed the shop at six. I was just stunned, like, “What in the world was going on?” And I write a little bit about this in the book, but I went to the grocery store on the way home and thinking everybody hates me, they’re all going to call me and they’re all going to say hateful things. And God showed me in Paul’s letter to Timothy, that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love and power and a sound mind and suddenly I realized I have nothing to be afraid of. He knows what’s going on and I can trust Him. In that moment to now, that was the only low, and it wasn’t a low it’s just, “I don’t know what’s going on.”
“Trust me,” I felt he was saying.
“I do.” Okay, so the highs have been incredible experiences, meeting people, getting to share my faith.
DC: I want to wrap up with your advice – and I know we covered part of this earlier – but if you want fellow Christians who are going to be reading this book to take one thing away, a message you’d like to convey to them, what would it be?
JP: I include a verse on a sticker that I put inside the cover of the book, and it’s 2 Chronicles 16:9, “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the whole earth, to strengthen the man whose heart is fully committed to Him.” And that’s a promise that He’s looking through the whole earth. This isn’t a promise that was just to Isaiah or to Jacob. This is through the whole earth looking to strengthen or show his strength through the man whose heart is fully to Him and He will fulfill that.
And I know, going forward, we’re still in court. We’re in our third lawsuit, we just had the trial for that in late March, and we’re waiting for the judge to announce that decision. If we lose, we’ll have to appeal but I know that God’s provided all the resources that we need and that He’s in absolute control of all this.
And so, I would like to leave people with this: God is looking to show his strength through us, show his strength to us, and He will do it for anybody. If this can happen to me, it can happen to anybody. And every American should be free to live and work according to their conscience without fear of being punished by the government for that.
Even in the short time I was in Jack’s shop, well-wishers stopped by to thank Jack and his wife, Debi, for taking a stand for Christ that continues to reverberate to this day. The Cost of My Faith is well worth the read. You may think you know who Jack Phillips is, but his story is really yours and mine as well, and we can all learn a thing or two by Jack’s example of faith.
You can read an excerpt from The Cost of My Faith here.
Photo from Alliance Defending Freedom