Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Free Speech Won’t Save Jack Phillips

At this rate, Jack Phillips will be in court until the day he dies.

The now-famous Colorado baker, who has owned and operated Masterpiece Cakeshop since 1993, first faced the fury of the rainbow mob a decade ago, when he opted not to bake a cake celebrating a homosexual “marriage.” (In 2012, even the state of Colorado had not yet started to pretend that two men could be joined to each other as husband and wife.) The men who were denied one particular cake by this one particular baker filed a complaint to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which dismissed Phillips’s faith out of hand and issued a vindictive ruling—well beyond the scope of the complaint—requiring the bigot not just to bake the cake but to “change [his] company policies, provide ‘comprehensive staff training’ regarding public accommodations discrimination, and provide quarterly reports for the next two years regarding steps [he] has taken to come into compliance and whether [he] has turned away any prospective customers.”

The Colorado Court of Appeals upheld the commission’s manifestly unjust ruling. Rather than comply, Phillips stopped baking wedding cakes altogether—which he said cost him 40 percent of his business. In 2018, after six years, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a narrow ruling overturning the CCRC’s decision on the grounds that it had not treated Phillips’s religion neutrally in its handling of his case.

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