Jack Phillips

‘I don’t bake cakes for same-sex weddings, but I’d be happy to make you anything else you want,’ said Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips. When presented with a request to design a wedding cake to celebrate a same-sex marriage in the summer of 2012, this is how Jack responded.

He didn’t speak harshly to the couple. He didn’t throw them out of his store. He didn’t even try to argue his point of view.

Jack gave the two men the same answer that he would give someone asking him to create a custom cake for a Halloween party or any other event that violates his religious beliefs.

Soon, Jack found himself in a firestorm of controversy. His shop, Masterpiece Cakeshop, was picketed. The same-sex couple filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

Alliance Defending Freedom came to Jack’s defense. By defending Jack, we’re standing up for everyone’s artistic and religious freedom.

The Commission said that Jack’s decision to work according to his conscience was against the law. The government ordered Jack to do three things:

  1. Design wedding cakes that celebrate same-sex marriages if he continues to create any wedding cakes, which account for nearly 40 per cent of his business.
  2. Teach his staff, which includes several family members, that he was wrong to operate his business consistently with his religious beliefs.
  3. File quarterly reports with the government for two years telling state officials every time he declines an order and explaining the reasons why.

The commission also compared Jack’s attempt to protect his religious freedom to arguments made by Nazis to justify the Holocaust. Here is what one of the commissioners said:

Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the Holocaust…I mean, we can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use—to use their religion to hurt others.

That’s right—the commissioner compared Jack politely declining to design a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding to the despicable actions of Nazis and slaveholders.

What’s more, Jack’s father actually served in the military during World War II. He received a Purple Heart, and helped liberate the concentration camp at Buchenwald in Germany.

‘I don’t have the vocabulary for it. But for someone to compare trying to live out your faith to the person who brought on the Holocaust or to slave owners is insulting. It’s ridiculous. I don’t have the word for it. But it’s wrong,’ Jack told The Daily Signal.

Jack appealed the commission’s decision to the Colorado Court of Appeals, which also sided with the government.

But the United States Supreme Court eventually took up Jack’s case and heard oral arguments in December 2017. Thankfully, the Court ruled in Jack’s favour in June 2018.

Jack’s decision not to design custom cakes that communicate messages or celebrate events at odds with his faith is protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. That legal protection is consistent with other protections for human rights.

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, says:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

No one should be forced to create art that violates their conscience. Jack simply wants to be able to live and work in accordance with his most deeply-held beliefs. The UDHR says that everyone has that freedom. That includes Jack. He’s human, right?

Will you join us? 

On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ADF International reaffirms the fundamental understanding that human rights are based on the inherent dignity of each person. They’re based on the inherent dignity of cake designers, floral artists, and musicians—anyone who is called to create for the common good.

Join us in the promotion and protection of your fundamental freedoms today.

Add your voice by signing The Geneva Statement on Human Rights at www.ImHumanRight.org

ADF International builds alliances and engages in legal advocacy to protect and promote religious freedom throughout Europe, Asia, the Americas, Africa, and Oceania. We operate at institutions of strategic international importance.

We also work alongside Member States at these organizations to protect the fundamental values they were founded to uphold. ADF International’s influence at these key institutions means we are instrumental in shaping policy around the world.

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