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Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Scardina

Description:  The same attorney who filed an unsuccessful complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission in 2017 commenced a lawsuit in state court over the same custom cake request the attorney made at that time. The request was for a custom-designed cake, pink on the inside and blue on the outside, to reflect and celebrate a gender transition. Masterpiece Cakeshop declined that request because the customer specifically requested that the cake express messages and celebrate an event in conflict with owner Jack Phillips’ religious beliefs. The decision was not because of the person who requested it, as Phillips would not create a cake expressing the requested message no matter who asked for it.

Wednesday, Jul 19, 2023

DENVER – Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in 303 Creative v. Elenis that upheld free speech for all, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a supplemental notice Tuesday with the Colorado Supreme Court asking it to apply that ruling and similarly affirm the First Amend­ment rights of cake artist Jack Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop. An activist attorney and Colorado officials have misused the same state law that was at issue in 303 Creative to punish Phillips for more than a decade.

“Free speech is for everyone. As the Supreme Court recently reaffirmed in 303 Creative, the government can’t force Americans to say things they don’t believe,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jake Warner. “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. One need not agree with Jack’s views to agree that Americans shouldn’t be compelled to express what they don’t believe.”

In April, ADF attorneys representing Phillips and his shop filed an appeal with the Colorado Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Scardina after a lower appeals court held that the state can force Phillips to express messages that violate his beliefs.

On the same day the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would hear Phillips’ first case — in which he prevailed in 2018 after Colorado tried to force him to create a custom cake celebrating a same-sex wedding—an activist attorney called Masterpiece Cakeshop, requesting that Phillips create a custom cake that would symbolize and celebrate a gender transition. The attorney then called again to request another custom cake, one depicting Satan smoking marijuana, to “correct the errors of [Phillips’] thinking.” Phillips declined both requests because the cakes expressed messages that violate his core beliefs. The activist then filed the current lawsuit, threatening to continue harassing Phillips until he is punished. Phillips works with all people and always decides whether to create a custom cake based on what message it will express, not who requests it.

ADF attorneys explain in the brief that “the U.S. Supreme Court held that government may not apply [the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act] to ‘compel an individual to create speech [he] does not believe.’ This rule protects [Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop] here, who the Court said are engaged in ‘nearly identical conduct’ to petitioners in 303 Creative.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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Featured Coverage

  • Adam Liptak: Cake is his ‘art.’ So can he deny one to a gay couple? (New York Times, 2017-09-16)
  • William McGurn: The Christian baker who said ‘no’ (Wall Street Journal, 2021-03-22)
  • Fox & Friends: Interview with Jack Phillips and Kristen Waggoner (Fox News, 2021-03-25)
  • Night Court with Shannon Bream: Interview with Jack Phillips and Kristen Waggoner (Fox News, 2021-03-27)


Previous News Releases

Legal Documents

Related Resources

Photos: Jack Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop

Resource page: Freedom of conscience

ABOUT Jake Warner

Jake Warner serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where he is a key member of the Center for Conscience Initiatives. Since joining ADF in 2017, Warner has focused on protecting the conscience rights of individuals being unjustly forced to compromise their beliefs under threat of heavy fines and punishment. His practice also includes defending the freedom of Christians to exercise their faith in the marketplace without government interference. Prior to joining ADF, Warner served as a judicial law clerk to Senior United States District Judge Malcolm J. Howard in the Eastern District of North Carolina. Before his clerkship, Warner also engaged in private practice with the firm of Perry, Perry & Perry, in Kinston, North Carolina, where he primarily represented criminal defendants in both federal and state courts. Warner earned his J.D. at the Regent University School of Law, graduating magna cum laude in 2011. He obtained his B.A. in history and political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2006. Warner is admitted to practice in Arizona, North Carolina, and the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as several federal district and appellate courts.