Jack Phillips: Still Persecuted for his Religious Beliefs

Jack Phillips - behind counter, smiling

(Photo courtesy of Premier Christian Radio)

by Diane Rufino, June 13, 2019

This article goes to a question that I have posed for many years now: Is a society so predicated on Individual Liberty doomed to destroy itself? We are seeing individuals use the courts to assert that THEIR individual rights are more important than other’s rights. Most of all, we are seeing cases where members of the LGBT community, transgenders, and gender neutrals are suing actively to destroy religious institutions and traditions, thus in effect trying to legislatively and constitutionally assure that the right not to be viewed as “different” (as compared to nature’s “norms”) is MORE IMPORTANT and has SUPREMACY over the First Amendment’s Right to Believe as one chooses and to exercise such a belief set. In other words, they are suing to demand that their right to be different and their right to be absolutely treated as if they are not different OUTWEIGNS one’s religious rights and one’s right to conscience.

I had hoped, as our Founders had hoped, that in America we would try to live our lives as best as possible without doing any actual harm to one another. According to the Bill or Rights, the essential liberty rights that would always matter most would be those articulated in those first ten amendments. There is no such natural liberty right that guarantees that one person will not be viewed differently from another person. Human nature is human nature. What matters is whether we recognize each fellow human being with dignity and respect.

Respect and tolerance are two-way streets.

Sadly, beloved Colorado Christian cake artist Jack Phillips continues to be persecuted for his religious beliefs. He is currently facing a third – yes, a THIRD – lawsuit over his refusal, on deeply-held religious grounds to create (ie, “design”) certain cakes.

Remember that he and the business he owned, Masterpiece Cakeshop, were sued several years ago when he declined to design a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. Note that same-sex marriage was forbidden in Colorado by a provision in their state constitution (“Marriage is between a man and a woman; no other types of marriage will be recognized in the state”). The couple, from the Denver area, married in Boston but returned to Colorado to have a reception for family and friends. The couple requested that Jack create a cake for them to celebrate their gay pride; specifically, they asked for a 7-lawyer cake (the colors of the rainbow) with two man on top, in wedding tuxedos. Jack told them that due to his deeply-held religious beliefs, he could not design such a cake, but would be happy to provide them with any other beautiful and suitable wedding cake. [The point was that he couldn’t design, and therefore convey a message, that celebrated the marriage of 2 men when his religious conscience did not so believe]. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission sued under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) and in doing so, destroyed Jack’s livelihood, denied him of his life’s passion, and harmed his business so badly that he had to terminate some employees.

The case, Phillips (and Masterpiece Cakeshop) v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (2018) was decided in Jack’s favor. It was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy. The Court found in Jack’s favor.

Apparently, Colorado isn’t done punishing Jack Phillips for his religious beliefs.

Transgender woman Autumn Scardina filed a second lawsuit against Phillips last Wednesday in District Court for the city and county of Denver, Colorado, claiming that Phillips violated Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act and Consumer Protection Act by refusing to design what she referred to as a “birthday cake.”

The “birthday cake” as described in the lawsuit, just as in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case (2018), was more than a cake to celebrate one of life’s memorable events. It was meant to celebrate more than just a birthday. It was meant to celebrate her trangendering from a male to a female. The cake she asked Jack Phillips to design was one which was to be blue on the outside and pink on the inside. He, in line with his core beliefs, decline to design such a cake. Again, he offered to bake her any other type of cake.

She had filed a first lawsuit with the same claim but the Colorado Civil Rights Commission decided to drop it. It was argued by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) that Scardina’s lawsuit was an intentional act of harassment. She could have easily gone to any other cake artist (yes, there are plenty of them in the Denver area), but he made the intentional choice to go to the Masterpiece Cakeshop, knowing full well that his religious beliefs would have motivated him to decline to design the cake.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, which has represented Phillips in his past litigation and will represent him in the current case (if it goes forward), continues to believe that the case is one of harassment and has been addressed by Justice Kennedy’s opinion in the Masterpiece Cakeshop opinion.