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ADF and cake artist ask highest US court to affirm right to freedom of speech and religion; Forcing citizens to promote messages against their will concerns human rights groups

WASHINGTON D.C. – On 31 August, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) lawyers representing Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips and his company, Masterpiece Cakeshop, filed their opening brief with the U.S. Supreme Court. In June, the high court agreed to weigh in on whether the government can force Phillips to use his artistic talents to design and create a wedding cake celebrating a same-sex ceremony. The brief argues that the government cannot coerce Phillips to create artistic expression that communicates a message with which he fundamentally disagrees, and that the justices should affirm this longstanding constitutional principle.

“Nobody should be forced to choose between their profession and their faith,” said Kristen Waggoner, Senior Counsel for ADF, a global partner of ADF International. Phillips gladly serves anyone who walks into his store, but, as is customary practice for many artists, he declines opportunities to design for a variety of events and messages that conflict with his deeply held beliefs. In this case, Jack told the couple suing him he’d sell them anything in the store but just couldn’t design a custom cake celebrating their wedding because of his Christian faith.”

“Individuals can support same-sex marriage and Jack,” Waggoner added. Tolerance is a two-way street, and people should have the freedom to disagree on critical matters of conscience. The same government that can force Jack to violate his faith and conscience can force any one of us to do the same.”

Forced re-education and close government monitoring

In May 2014, The Colorado Civil Rights Commission ordered Phillips to design cakes that celebrate same-sex ceremonies if he designs cakes for opposite-sex ceremonies. It also required Phillips to re-educate his staff, most of whom are his family members—telling them that he was wrong to operate his business according to his faith. He must also report to the government for two years, describing the orders he declines and the reasons why.

It all started in July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Phillips to design a wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex ceremony. In an exchange lasting about 30 seconds, Phillips politely declined, explaining that he would gladly make them any other type of baked item they wanted, but that he could not design a cake promoting a same-sex ceremony because of his faith. The couple immediately left the shop and later filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which eventually ruled against Phillips. The same-sex couple was easily able to obtain their desired rainbow-themed cake from another nearby cake artist.

In contrast to the ruling against Phillips, the commission found in 2015 that three other Denver cake artists were not guilty of creed discrimination when they declined a Christian customer’s request for a cake that reflected his religious opposition to same-sex marriage.

“All people should have the freedom to live and work in line with their conscience. Nobody should fear being punished by a government, just because they do not want to promote certain messages,” said Robert Clarke, Director of European Advocacy for ADF International and an expert in international law. “Free society requires free speech – a fact recognized by every major human rights treaty. Until now, the U.S. has had some of the strongest protections for free speech in the world. Any dilution of that foundational principle will mark a shift towards the sort of speech regulations more associated with totalitarian regimes. Artists need to be able to express themselves freely or everyone’s freedom is at risk.” 

Freely use images with mentioning above content: Kristen Waggoner and Jack Phillips. Print quality available upon request ©

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