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In Defense Of A Cake Artist and Our American Rights


December 6, 2017

Jack Phillips faces a moral dilemma right now. Phillips owns Masterpiece Cake Shop in my home state of Colorado and is known for his beautifully decorated cakes for special events. He is also known for his delicious cookies, brownies, and other treats that are ready-made for anyone to buy fresh from his bakery. Yet he will stand before the Supreme Court on Dec. 5 to fight for his basic freedoms of speech and exercise of religion.

As an artist who pours himself into his masterpieces, Phillips must determine which custom-made cake requests to accept with his time and talent. Those he cannot fulfill, he refers to another baker to ensure clients receive timely service and high quality baked goods for their special events. Any customer of any background can also walk in off the street and buy ready-made items in Phillips' shop.

This arrangement had worked well for both Phillips and potential clients. However, in 2012, Phillips told a same sex couple that he would not be able to fulfill their request for a cake for their wedding. He referred them to another baker with whom he had a good relationship. This couple cried foul and reported him to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The Commission charged Phillips with discrimination based on sexual orientation, subjected Phillips and his employees to be reeducated, and ordered him to design cakes for same sex weddings or to stop altogether.

This all took place before gay marriage was legal in the state of Colorado.

Five years later, Phillips is still fighting for his right to decide for himself what messages he creates through his masterpieces. On Dec. 5, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments for, and against, this right. The reality is Phillips' fight is a fight for us all. In one way or another, this decision will impact our lives for better or worse.

No government should ever mandate what messages artists must design. Artists should never be forced to create masterpieces that their own consciences cannot support. These are among the most sacred rights of all Americans.

That's why my colleagues and I submitted to the Supreme Court an amicus brief supporting Phillips.

The rights of all Americans, not just Jack Phillips, are at stake. This is about the right of an artist to choose what his art will express. For example, would the government force a Muslim singer to perform at a Christian religious event? Or a pro-choice web designer to create a pro-life website? Or a political liberal to write speeches for a conservative? No one should want to live in a world like that. This is especially true when personal religious convictions are under attack.

American history, values, and legal precedent have long protected the rights of its citizens to live out their differing beliefs and opinions. If the government can force a cake artist to create a message he doesn't believe in, then they can do that to anyone.


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