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Jack Phillips: 'Colorado Officials and Activists Have Tried to Punish Me for My Religious Beliefs'

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For the second time in a decade, Christian baker Jack Phillips appeared before the Colorado Supreme Court Tuesday.  The small business owner who refuses to make cakes with messages that violate his religious beliefs says he's been targeted by the state, and he is not the only one making that claim.  

Phillips' current case is over his refusal to make a "gender transition cake," which his Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jake Warner argues is protected by freedom of speech and religion.  Phillips has said he believes the Bible teaches God created people either male and female, and it's wrong when people try to change that. 

"Phillips serves all people," Warner said in court Tuesday, "He just can't express every message."

However, attorney John McHugh argues there was no message.  He represents Autumn Scardina, who asked Phillips for a custom pink cake with blue icing, but no writing or image, to celebrate a transition from male to female. Lower courts ruled Phillips refused to serve Scardina based on his customer's identity, constituting discrimination.

"Mr. Phillips is being asked nothing more than to do what he has repeatedly said he will do for other customers, which is specifically make a pink cake with blue icing," McHugh said in court Tuesday. "The testimony was he would gladly make that cake for other customers."

Outside the courthouse, Phillips said even without writing or a design, a gender transition cake sends a message.

"Whether we create a custom cake always depends on what message the cake will express is, never on who requests it," Phillips said. "This means that I will not create a cake expressing any message that violates my religious beliefs regardless of who asks for it."

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It may be months before the Colorado Supreme Court issues its opinion. If it's in Phillips' favor, the case will likely be over.  If it's against him, Phillips and his Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys intend to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, where they've been before, arguing a similar case.

In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Phillips' favor by saying the state of Colorado acted with "clear and impermissible hostility" toward Phillips' religious beliefs when years earlier he refused to create a custom cake for a same-sex wedding.

"Over the last ten years Colorado officials and activists have tried to punish me for my religious beliefs," Phillips said Tuesday. "They have even tried to change my beliefs."

In 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court also ruled in favor of another Colorado Christian artist who was charged by the state. Lorie Smith, a graphic designer, refused to create wedding websites for same-sex couples based on her religious beliefs.  Like Phillips, Smith was represented by Alliance Defending Freedom. Smith joined ADF representatives at the Colorado Supreme Court oral arguments to offer support.

"Like Jack, I have received several death threats, continued harassment, the cost has been both professional and personal," Smith said. 

Both Smith and Phillips say they routinely serve people who identify as LGBT, but draw the line when asked to create something that violates their conscience.   


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