Scardina v. Masterpiece Cakeshop
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.
CO cake artist to appeal decision that violates his right to create freely
DENVER – Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips will appeal Thursday’s state appeals court decision that would force him to express messages that violate his beliefs. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop had asked the Colorado Court of Appeals to uphold his First Amendment rights after a trial court issued a ruling that punished Phillips for declining to design a custom cake celebrating a gender transition.
“Free speech is for everyone. No one should be forced to express a message that violates their core beliefs,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jake Warner, who argued before the court on behalf of Phillips in Scardina v. Masterpiece Cakeshop. “Over a decade ago, Colorado officials began targeting Jack, misusing state law to force him to say things he does not believe. Then an activist attorney continued that crusade. This cruelty must stop. 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. 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.”
On the same day the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would hear Phillips’ prior case where Colorado tried to force him to create a custom cake celebrating a same-sex wedding—a case in which Phillips prevailed in 2018—an activist attorney called Masterpiece Cakeshop requesting that Phillips create a custom-designed cake, pink on the inside and blue on the outside, that would symbolize and celebrate a gender transition. The attorney then called back—requesting another custom cake depicting Satan smoking marijuana to “correct the errors of [Phillips’] thinking.” Phillips declined to create both custom cakes because they expressed messages that violate his core beliefs. The activist then filed this lawsuit. Phillips works with all people and always decides whether to take a project based on what message a cake will express, not who is requesting it.
ADF attorneys are litigating both Phillips’ case and Smith’s case, 303 Creative v. Elenis. Both cases involve the same state law, which Colorado officials are misusing to force artists to express messages that contradict their core beliefs and faith.
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)
Previous News Releases
Photos: Jack Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop
Resource page: Freedom of conscience
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.