Although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that Colorado cannot treat cake artist Jack Phillips differently than others, state officials have continued to do just that in response to a more recent complaint filed against him. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing Phillips and his cake shop filed a federal lawsuit late Tuesday against those officials for doubling down on their anti-religious hostility.
On June 26, 2017, the same day that the Supreme Court agreed to take up Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, an attorney asked Phillips to create a cake designed pink on the inside and blue on the outside, which the attorney said was to celebrate a gender transition from male to female. Phillips declined the request because the custom cake would have expressed messages about sex and gender identity that conflict with his religious beliefs. Less than a month after the Supreme Court ruled for Phillips in his first case, the state surprised him by finding probable cause to believe that Colorado law requires him to create the requested gender-transition cake.
“The state of Colorado is ignoring the message of the U.S. Supreme Court by continuing to single out Jack for punishment and to exhibit hostility toward his religious beliefs,” said ADF Senior Vice President of U.S. Legal Division Kristen Waggoner. “Even though Jack serves all customers and simply declines to create custom cakes that express messages or celebrate events in violation of his deeply held beliefs, the government is intent on destroying him—something the Supreme Court has already told it not to do. Neither Jack nor any other creative professional should be targeted by the government for living consistently with their religious beliefs.”
As the new lawsuit explains, “The Constitution stands as a bulwark against state officials who target people—and seek to ruin their lives—because of the government’s anti-religious animus. For over six years now, Colorado has been on a crusade to crush Plaintiff Jack Phillips…because its officials despise what he believes and how he practices his faith. After Phillips defended himself all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won, he thought Colorado’s hostility toward his faith was over. He was wrong. Colorado has renewed its war against him by embarking on another attempt to prosecute him, in direct conflict with the Supreme Court’s ruling in his favor. This lawsuit is necessary to stop Colorado’s continuing persecution of Phillips.”
In the case that Jack won before the Supreme Court, the state admitted that cake artists—including Jack—are free to decline to create custom cakes with a “specific design” that they will not make for anyone. That includes orders for wedding cakes that “featur[e] a symbol of gay pride,” cakes that contain “pro-gay designs or inscriptions,” or cakes with images opposing same-sex marriage. Although the state has repeatedly found no probable cause in other cases where cake artists refused to create custom cakes, the state treated Jack differently when he declined a request for an expressive cake celebrating the idea that sex—the status of being male or female—can be chosen and changed and that it is determined by perceptions and feelings.
“The arbitrary basis on which the state is applying its law makes clear that its officials are targeting Jack because they despise his religious beliefs and practices,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jim Campbell. “Jack shouldn’t have to fear government hostility when he opens his shop for business each day. We’re asking the court to put a stop to that.”
ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Elenis, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.