In Colorado, a Case of Unjust Desserts


It’s a fable, but one that’s stuck, that on the eve of the French revolution, a French aristocrat, told that many of her countrymen were too poor to afford bread, helpfully suggested, “Let them eat cake.” It never seems to have occurred to her that a well-iced piece of angel food might cost more than a bite of pumpernickel.


A similar attitude is gaining ground these days with certain government officials in Colorado. Confronted with the fact that some of their citizens are being deprived of their most fundamental liberties, the officials’ solution is: let them bake cakes – at stiff cost to their souls – for the very people determined to rob them of their freedom.


No matter how you slice it, that’s the essential ruling issued by an administrative law judge last December in the case of Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado. Phillips was approached in his shop a while back by two men who wanted him to help celebrate their coming same-sex ceremony by making a special wedding cake. Phillips politely declined, saying he would gladly make them any other type of baked item they wanted, but that he could not make such a cake.


He did not discriminate against them because of their sexual orientation. He simply exercised his constitutional right not to exercise his personal creativity in violation of his religious beliefs.


The two men left the shop, enlisted the American Civil Liberties Union to defend them, and soon filed a complaint against Phillips with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. A judge with the Colorado Administrative Law Court ruled against Phillips, ordering him to use his artistic abilities to create cakes that celebrate same-sex unions.


ADF staff and allied attorneys are representing Phillips. In January, they appealed the administrative court’s decision, filing their opening brief on appeal in April. On May 30, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission upheld the lower court’s decision. The Commission issued an order requiring Phillips to begin creating cakes for same-sex ceremonies, to prove he has done so through mandatory reporting requirements, and to provide anti-discrimination “training” to his staff that directly contradicts his religious convictions. ADF attorneys are now considering an appeal to the state’s Court of Appeals.


“The Government and Complainants seek to impose a new belief system upon Jack,” wrote ADF attorneys in their summary judgment brief for the case, “one that is fundamentally at odds with his conscience and his liberty.” They want Phillips “to cease and desist from holding views about marriage that they disagree with, and conform his conscience to their definition of marriage.” Such actions are an unconstitutional attempt “to force Jack to violate his sincerely held religious beliefs and to compel him to speak a message that is contrary to his actual beliefs.”


“Forcing Americans to promote ideas against their will undermines our constitutionally protected freedom of expression and our right to live free,” says ADF Senior Vice President of Legal Services Kristen Waggoner. “If the government can take away our First Amendment freedoms, there is no other thing it can’t take away.”


This ADF case bears a strong resemblance to two others that have brought the national spotlight to bear on growing legal threats to the viability of religious freedom, independent creative expression, and rights of conscience. The U.S. Supreme Court recently refused to hear the case of a New Mexico photographer who declined to use her art to “celebrate” a same-sex ceremony; the case of a Washington florist who similarly demurred is still pending in federal court.


Please be in prayer for all of these clients, and for our staff and allied attorneys, as they work diligently to protect the religious freedom of all Americans – including you, your family, and someday your business or church – from those who want not only to have their same-sex wedding cake … but to make us eat it, too.

Author: Alan Sears