Masterpiece Cake Shop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission
In July 2012, a same-sex couple asked Jack Phillips, a Christian baker who runs Masterpiece Cake Shop in Denver, Colorado, to bake a cake for their wedding. After Phillips explained that he could not participate in their wedding ceremony because of his faith, the couple filed a complaint against Masterpiece with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The Commission ruled against Phillips in June 2014, and he lost his appeal at the Colorado Court of Appeals in August 2015. In September 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Phillips' case, and Becket filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Phillips and defending his right to decline to participate in wedding ceremonies if doing so would violate his sincere religious beliefs. On June 4, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution protects Jack Phillips from unfair treatment based on his religious beliefs.
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An artist’s livelihood at stake
Jack Phillips is a Christian and a baker. For almost 25 years he has run Masterpiece Cake Shop in Denver, creating artistic, custom-designed cakes for his customers. As a Christian and an artist, he believes his work should only promote messages that align with his religious beliefs.
In July 2012, a same-sex couple asked Phillips to bake a cake for their wedding. Phillips explained that he could not, in good conscience, participate in a wedding ceremony he disagreed with. Although the couple quickly received a cake from another bakery, they filed a complaint against Masterpiece with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. In June 2014, the Commission ruled against Masterpiece.
Forced to violate his beliefs—or forfeit his business
The Commission’s ruling would have required Phillips to create whatever cakes customers requested, regardless of his religious views. Phillips appealed to the Colorado Court of Appeals, which again ruled against him in August 2015. Phillips appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, and in September 2017, the Court agreed to hear his case. Phillips was represented by Alliance Defending Freedom.
In September 2017, Becket filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Phillips and defending his right to decline to participate in wedding ceremonies that he religiously objects to. Becket separately asked the Court to hear his case in tandem with another religious wedding vendor case, Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers.
Victory for free speech and religious liberty
In a diverse and pluralistic society, individuals of different faiths and backgrounds will disagree on many issues, and we must allow for these differences to flourish without the threat of government forcing a religious individual to violate his or her conscience. Weddings are important and sacred events to many Americans. Religious dissenters shouldn’t be forced to participate in a wedding ceremony they do not agree with.
On June 4, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Masterpiece Cake Shop. The Justices ruled 7-2 that the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution protects Jack Phillips from unfair treatment based on his religious beliefs.
Importance to religious liberty
- Individual freedom: Religious freedom protects the rights of individuals to observe their faith at all times, including in the workplace.
- Free speech: The First Amendment protects our right to speak freely on issues without fear of government censorship or punishment, even when, and especially when, that view is unpopular. In this case, Jack Phillips’ artistic expressions were a form of speech, and the government should not force him into expression that violates his religious beliefs.