It’s almost unbelievable to have to watch injustices occur over and over again, and see good people systematically persecuted because of unjust laws.
But that is what’s happening to baker Jack Phillips. Jack, as everyone knows, is the quiet, humble owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado. Jack has been the Left’s punching bag since 2012, when he kindly turned down a request to create a custom wedding cake for a same-sex wedding.
Jack has been abused by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission ever since, which ruled against him, sullied his very character and disparaged his Christian beliefs by likening them to Nazism or the racist beliefs of slaveowners. The Commission not only said he had committed discrimination under Colorado law but ordered him and his staff to undergo “re-education” to correct their erroneous beliefs.
He then lost two appeals in the Colorado courts.
The U.S. Supreme Court, however, came to come to Jack’s aid in 2018 when it ruled the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was guilty of religious hostility toward Jack’s religious beliefs, giving Jack a long overdue First Amendment victory.
If you thought a Supreme Court victory would end the harassment of Jack Phillips, however, you’d be wrong.
In fact, while that case was still underway, a male attorney in Denver, Colorado, going by the name of Autumn Scardina made sure that the harassment of Jack Phillips would continue. He called Jack’s shop to order several types of cakes, including one with Satan smoking a joint, which Jack refused to create. He then ordered a pink cake with blue frosting for the specific purpose of celebrating Scardina’s “gender transition.”.
Phillips declined, based on his Christian belief that God’s created order includes male and female (Genesis 1:27), and that gender ideology that asserts males can become females violates both Scripture and reason.
Jack did not feel he could use his creative talents to express a message he believes to be false.
And the First Amendment ought to guarantee that right.
The Colorado legislature, however, doesn’t agree with that assessment, according to Scardina and the same-sex couple that filed a complaint against Jack back in 2012.
In 2017, Scardina filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and later sued Jack in 2019 after the Commission declined to prosecute Jack. Amazingly, a trial court agreed with Scardina and found that Jack had violated the Colorado nondiscrimination law that includes sexual orientation and gender identity, while categorically rejecting Jack’s First Amendment defenses.
Jack appealed to the Colorado Court of Appeals, which on January 26, 2023, ruled 3-0 against Jack, rejecting Jack’s argument that he has a First Amendment right not be forced to create a message that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs.
The appeals court refers to Scardina with female pronouns throughout its opinion even though he is a man. The court has accepted a false gender ideology and is forcing citizens to as well. In its ruling, the court seems to rely on one particular fact in the case as the most important:
“It was only after Scardina disclosed that she was transgender and intended to use the cake to celebrate both her birthday and her transition that Masterpiece and Phillips refused to provide the cake,” Judge Timothy J. Schutz wrote for the court. “Thus, it was Scardina’s transgender status, and her desire to use the cake in celebration of that status, that caused Masterpiece and Phillips to refuse to provide the cake.”
Here the court is wrong. Phillips declined to make the cake not because Scardina is “transgender,” but because making the cake would express an affirmative approval of transgenderism that he cannot in good conscience approve. Phillips objects to the message, not the person’s “transgender status,” as the appeals court ruled.
Colorado’s antidiscrimination law expresses a viewpoint concerning homosexuality and sexual identity confusion at odds with biblical orthodoxy and common sense. It forces Christians to comply with that viewpoint in the public square on pain of punishment or being forced out of business.
But doesn’t Jack’s 2018 Supreme Court victory prevent Scardina from suing him?
No, said the appeals court, because the 2018 case only addressed the religious hostility of the members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and never examined the First Amendment free speech rights that Jack asserted in that case. Thus, Scardina was free to go after Jack in the manner that he did.
Will Jack face the same negative result at the Colorado Supreme Court, which will be the next stop in his ongoing legal battle?
Perhaps not, depending on what the U.S. Supreme Court decides in 303 Creative v. Elenis, where a ruling is expected by the end of June. In 303 Creative, a Denver graphic artist and website developer named Lorie Smith is challenging the very Colorado nondiscrimination statute that has been used to abuse Jack for years.
But Lorie Smith’s case is founded on the free speech violations inherent in the Colorado statute, an argument that the Supreme Court sidestepped in handing Jack a victory in 2018. If the high court rules in Lorie’s favor on free speech grounds, the Colorado Supreme Court may have to look at Scardina’s case against Jack in a new light.
After 10 years of standing strong for his religious freedom and free speech rights, Jack is ready to continue the legal battle.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys represent both Jack and Lorie in their respective lawsuits. In a press release, ADF promised to appeal Jack’s case to the Colorado Supreme Court.
“This cruelty must stop,” ADF Senior Counsel Jake Warner said. “One need not agree with Jack’s views to agree that all Americans should be free to say what they believe, even if the government disagrees with those beliefs.
“The same law being used to punish Jack is also at issue now at the U.S. Supreme Court in 303 Creative v. Elenis and the Court there should reject Colorado’s attempt to mandate orthodoxy and drive views it disfavors from the public square and affirm that graphic artist Lorie Smith and all artists—writers, painters, photographers, filmmakers, calligraphers, cake artists, and more—have the right to create freely without fear of government punishment.
“Cultural winds may shift, but freedom of speech is foundational to our self-government and to the free and fearless pursuit of truth.”
The Daily Citizen will keep you apprised of any new developments in Jack’s situation.
The case is Scardina v. Masterpiece.
Photo from ADF.