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.
Colorado Supreme Court takes Jack Phillips' free speech case
DENVER – The Colorado Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to take the case of cake artist Jack Phillips and his Masterpiece Cakeshop, the third such lawsuit to target them.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing Phillips and his cake shop appealed a Colorado Court of Appeals decision that would force him to express messages that violate his beliefs. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in 303 Creative v. Elenis that upheld free speech for all, ADF attorneys filed a supplemental notice with the Colorado Supreme Court asking it to apply that ruling and similarly affirm Phillips’ free speech rights in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Scardina. 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 U.S. Supreme Court held in 303 Creative, the government can’t force artists to express messages they don’t believe,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jake Warner. “Because the attorney asked Jack to create a custom cake that would celebrate and symbolize a transition from male to female, the requested cake is speech under the First Amendment. The Colorado Supreme Court should apply 303 Creative to reverse the appeals court’s decision punishing Jack. You don’t need to agree with Jack’s views to agree that Americans shouldn’t be compelled to express what they don’t believe.”
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 politely declined both requests because the cakes expressed messages that violate his core beliefs. The attorney then filed the current lawsuit, threatening to continue harassing Phillips until he is punished.
“Jack works with all people and always decides whether to create a custom cake based on what message it will express, not who requests it,” Warner continued.
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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- 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)
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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.