Jack Phillips owns Masterpiece Cakes. One day, two men walked into his shop asking for a wedding cake. Phillips let them know he’d be happy to make them a cake for any other occasion, but his faith is such that he needed to decline to provide them a wedding cake. Phillips has gone to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to appeal a Colorado administrative-court order that he must make cakes for same-sex wedding ceremonies. Phillips tells National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez more about religious liberty and why it’s his business that it be protected.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: When Charlie Craig and David Mullins were in your store, did you have any idea you’d wind up in court?
Jack Phillips: That day, just as any other day, I was doing my best to serve my customers and to serve God. I strive to honor God in everything that I do, including how I use my expressive talents in my cake shop. I told the gentlemen that I would sell them any other baked products. My faith prevents me from designing a rainbow cake to celebrate a same-sex wedding, which is ultimately what the gentlemen purchased from another baker. I did not realize that, in a country that supposedly honors and protects free speech and freedom of religion, I would face civil and even potential criminal penalties for exercising those rights.
Lopez: What does baking cakes have to do with the marriage debate in politics and law?
Phillips: For me, designing and creating wedding cakes (or any other baked goods) is not about politics or a legal debate. My main goal in life is to glorify God. This includes how I conduct myself and how I use my artistic skills in my bakery. As an American, I am not obligated to choose between my convictions and my profession. It is wrong to compel me to use my artistic talents in a manner that violates my faith under threat of losing my bakery altogether.
Lopez: What was your reaction to having a civil-rights complaint filed against you? Did you see yourself as a civil-rights violator?
Phillips: It is shocking that the government has attempted to take away my freedom, and really the freedom of all Coloradoans, simply for declining to design and create a wedding cake for a marriage that is not even recognized in the state of Colorado. I am being punished for living and working according to my faith and the marriage laws of the state of Colorado.
Lopez: Do they have a point, though? Should a cake-maker even have a public opinion on same-sex marriage law? Why shouldn’t you just bake cakes for whoever wants to pay you money?
Phillips: This is not about opinion. It’s not like I’ve chosen this or that team. The issue here is that the government should not force me, or anyone else, to promote ideas or messages against my will and my faith. The government exists to protect and respect our freedoms, not attack them. Designing a wedding cake takes inspiration and hard work. A cake artist becomes invested in the final creation. Anyone who’s seen Cake Boss or Ace of Cakes can tell you that. I doubt the ACLU or the government would take the same position if an African American was being asked to design a burning-cross cake for the KKK or a Jewish baker was asked to design a cake for an anti-Semitic group.
As a follower of Jesus, and as a man who desires to be obedient to the Bible, I think that creating a wedding cake for an event that celebrates something in direct violation of Biblical teaching would have been a personal endorsement and participation in the ceremony. I can’t do that. I will not intentionally violate my conscience and dishonor God for any amount of money, no matter what the government demands.
Lopez: What does Christianity mean in your life? Why can’t you leave it out of your cake-making?
Phillips: As I have said before, I am a follower of Jesus Christ and I am called to obey Him and His teachings in all aspects of my life. I cannot leave my faith out of my cake art, nor should I have to in a free country. I love doing what God has designed me to do. A marriage between a man and a woman represents the relationship of Christ to His Church. There are few things more sacred. This is one of the reasons I love making wedding cakes and why I have such passion and skill when I create wedding cakes. My religious convictions motivate me to make great wedding cakes.
Lopez: What makes you so sure you’re doing God’s will here? Wouldn’t he want you to love your neighbor who’s looking for a cake?
Phillips: The Bible is the inspired word of God. Its teachings and commands are authoritative. God commands that we love one another, and that means it’s wrong for me to embrace or promote conduct that the Bible says is harmful and contrary to God’s ways. I always have and always will gladly serve people of all faiths, all sexual preferences, and all walks of life. But I cannot use the skills God has given me to promote events or communicate all messages when those messages violate my deeply held religious convictions.
Lopez: Has this changed the way you look at the First Amendment and freedom?
Phillips: The coercion favored by the government and the ACLU in the name of “tolerance” is a chilling and unprecedented attack on freedom. If anything, this has actually strengthened my commitment to the First Amendment and the principles upon which this country was founded.
Lopez: What’s the future for freedom look like from where you’re standing?
Phillips: I am optimistic that the courts will uphold the law and the constitutions of the United States and the state of Colorado. This country was founded on religious liberty and freedom for all, and I do not see the government’s efforts to take our God-given rights away succeeding in the long run.
Lopez: What got you into cake-making? Has this incident discouraged you? Does it have you looking for something else to do?
Phillips: I have worked in bakeries for 40 years and have been designing and creating cakes for most of that time. This is what I believe God has created and called me to do. I love what I do, and I will continue using my time and talents to honor God.
— Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a director of Catholic Voices USA.