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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.

Monday, Jun 17, 2024

WHO:  Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Jake Warner, Colorado cake artist and owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop Jack Phillips

WHAT:  Press conference following oral arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Scardina

WHEN:  Immediately following oral arguments, which begin at 9 a.m. MDT, Tuesday, June 18

WHERE:  Steps of the Colorado Supreme Court, 2 E. 14 Ave., Denver. To schedule an interview, contact ADF Media Relations Specialist Hattie Troutman at (771) 200-7630.

DENVER – Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, and Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Jake Warner, who will argue before the Colorado Supreme Court on Phillips’ behalf in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Scardina on Tuesday, will speak at a press conference outside the court immediately following oral arguments.

ADF attorneys representing Phillips and his cake shop are asking the state high court to protect Phillips from being forced 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 this case. Activists and Colorado officials have misused the same state law that was at issue in 303 Creative to punish Phillips for more than a decade. The court agreed in October to hear Phillips’ appeal.

“Free speech is for everyone. As the U.S. Supreme Court held in 303 Creative, the government cannot force artists to express messages they don’t believe,” Warner said. “In this case, an attorney demanded that Jack create a custom cake that would celebrate and symbolize a transition from male to female. Because that cake admittedly expresses a message, and because Jack cannot express that message for anyone, the government cannot punish Jack for declining to express it. The First Amendment protects that decision. We are urging the court to apply 303 Creative to reverse the appeals court’s decision punishing Jack. As the 23 states and free-speech advocates who filed briefs for Jack affirm, you don’t have to agree with Jack’s views to agree that no one should be compelled to express messages 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 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 express messages that violate his core beliefs. The attorney then filed the current lawsuit, threatening to continue harassing Phillips until he is punished. Phillips serves people from all backgrounds. Like many artists, he decides to create custom cakes based on what they will express, not who requests them.

Twenty-three states, six Colorado legislators, and several free-speech advocates filed friend-of-the-court briefs with the court in support of Phillips.

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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Photos: Jack Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop

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.