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.