Supreme Court Rules for Colorado Baker Who Refused to Make Same-Sex Wedding Cake

WASHINGTON — While not completely solving the issue at large, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who was at the center of a case involving his right to decline to decorate cakes for events such as same-sex celebrations when doing so would violate his religious convictions, finding that he was wrongfully subjected to hostility by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission because of his faith.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, appointed to the bench by then-President Ronald Reagan, wrote the majority opinion, concluding that the Commission was “neither tolerant nor respectful of [the baker’s] religious beliefs.”

“As the record shows, some of the commissioners at the Commission’s formal, public hearings endorsed the view that religious beliefs cannot legitimately be carried into the public sphere or commercial domain, disparaged Phillips’ faith as despicable and characterized it as merely rhetorical, and compared his invocation of his sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust,” he wrote.

“The Commission’s hostility was inconsistent with the First Amendment’s guarantee that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion. Phillips was entitled to a neutral decisionmaker who would give full and fair consideration to his religious objection as he sought to assert it in all of the circumstances in which this case was presented, considered, and decided,” Kennedy outlined.

He, however, did not go further into the merits of the case—the specifics as to the rights of business owners, but said that the issue would need to play out as time passes. Kennedy suggested that the courts need to strike a balance between religious conviction and the rights of those who identify as homosexual, not infringing upon either.

“The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market,” he wrote.

Read the 7-2 ruling in full here. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were the lone dissenters.

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As previously reported, the case began in 2012 when Dave Mullin and Charlie Craig visited Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado to look for options for their upcoming same-sex ceremony celebration. As Colorado—at the time—had a constitutional amendment enshrining marriage as being between a man and a woman, the men planned to travel to Massachusetts and then return to Colorado for a separate celebration.

However, after their arrival at the cake shop, Mullin and Craig were advised by owner Jack Phillips that he does not make cakes for same-sex ceremonies.

“My first comment was, ‘We’re getting married,’ and he just shut that down immediately,” Craig stated.

Phillips told Christian News Network that he does not make cakes for such events because of his Christian convictions.

“I’m a follower of Jesus Christ, and I believe that the relationship is not something that He looks favorably on,” the master pastry chef stated. “If Jesus was a carpenter, He wouldn’t make a bed for this union.”

However, Phillips says that it is not just same-sex celebrations that he declines. He also doesn’t create custom baked goods for bachelor parties or Halloween events, and remarked in a recent video that sometimes in a day he will turn down more requests than he accepts.

Phillips, who attends a Baptist church, said that when he informed Mullin and Craig that his bakery does not make cakes for same-sex “weddings,” the men immediately left. He stated that one of them made a comment on his way out the door that the bakery was a “homophobic cake shop.”

Phillips said that he told the men that he would be happy to make them any other type of baked goods outside of having to facilitate the ceremony, which he believed was a form of personal participation. But Mullin and Craig complained to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and have prevailed in their case ever since.

In December 2013, Judge Robert Spencer sided with the ACLU, contending that Phillips should have made the cake because he was not told that there would be any words or symbols written on it.

“Phillips was not asked to apply any message or symbol to the cake, or to construct the cake in any fashion that could be reasonably understood as advocating same-sex marriage,” he wrote. “The act of preparing a cake is simply not ‘speech’ warranting First Amendment protection.”

In May 2014, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission upheld Spencer’s ruling, stating that Phillips violated the state’s civil rights law. The Commission then ordered that Phillips educate his staff in alignment with the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, to implement new policies in light of the ruling, and to file quarterly compliance reports for two years. The reports were to outline each pastry creation request that was declined and the reason why to prove that Phillips’ religious beliefs no longer influence his business decisions.

Phillips filed an appeal with the Colorado Court of Appeals, which upheld the lower court’s rulings in August 2015, asserting that providing the cake for the ceremony does not equal an endorsement of same-sex nuptials.

“Nothing in the record supports the conclusion that a reasonable observer would interpret Masterpiece’s providing a wedding cake for a same-sex couple as an endorsement of same-sex marriage rather than a reflection of its desire to conduct business in accordance with Colorado’s public accommodations law,” the court ruled.

The matter was appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case last year. Therefore, Phillips took his case to the nation’s highest court, which agreed in June to be the arbiter of the issue.

Phillips expressed relief over the decision on Monday, remarking in a statement, “It’s hard to believe that the government punished me for operating my business consistent with my beliefs about marriage. That isn’t freedom or tolerance. I’m so thankful to the U.S. Supreme Court for this ruling.”

Editor’s Note: There has been confusion among some as to why reports from various outlets refer to the ruling as “narrow.” “Narrow” refers to the chosen scope of the ruling, and not the fact that the decision was 7-2. The justices did not explicitly reach whether or not people of faith may decline to create goods for same-sex celebrations, but rather simply noted that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission must be neutral toward religion in applying the law. In writing the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy outlined that “[t]he outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts” with “tolerance” to both sides of the issue. 

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    Maybe the country has not quite flat lined yet. Maybe!

    • Guest✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

      Keep praying!

      • Rhesus Peanut Buttercup

        Who are you praying against?

  • Guest✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    Told you so. The Supreme Court used the same argument in their ruling that we’ve been making here for years.

    • Rhesus Peanut Buttercup

      Um, no. Read Bob’s comment.

  • rick tanner

    The Colorado commission wanted to “disparaged Phillips’ faith”. This was an attempt to destroy our religious beliefs. Pure and simple. Justice Kennedy and the majority were spot on.

    Note: the fake “news” reported it as a “narrow” victory. The vote was 7-2. Hardly a narrow victory in my book.

    • Bob Johnson

      Narrow in the sense that Phillips did not get a fair trail. The Court did not rule on the Civil Rights issues the case represented.

    • Railpirate

      I do like to note even this article itself adressed clearly why the case was noted to be “narrow”, Which though understandably confusing is regular choice of words in this situation.

  • james blue

    A self employed person should be able to do or refuse to do business with whomever they wish for whatever reason they wish. I agree with this ruling, I’m sure conservatives agree with this ruling too, I just hope they will also agree when a baker refuses to sell a cake for a Christian wedding. There shouldn’t be a one way street.

    if we want religious freedom we must realize that religious freedom isn’t forcing others to accommodate our faith and they have the right to refuse us.

    I support the right of people to live by their sincerely held beliefs, be they religious or other, but it’s up to us to work around life, not expect life to work around us to achieve this. An employer shouldn’t have to make accommodations, but if we make it so someone cannot live by their principles on their own dime then we are denying freedom based on our own “bigotry” and we become that which we claim to be against.

    I do not defend the person who commits refusal of service, I’m defending freedom, because if we don’t defend that which offends us we will find we are forced to violate our own principles some day.

    • Bob Johnson

      Next time you are driving down the highway, remember most trauma surgeons are self-employed.

      Freedom comes with responsibilities, you seem to be advocating anarchy.

      • james blue

        How many hospitals do you think would contract with a surgeon who would refuse to carry out emergency surgery?

        • Bob Johnson

          As reported here at Christian News Network on January 19th 2018 ”HSS Announces Creation of ‘Conscience and Religious Freedom Division’ to Protect Rights of Medical Professionals”

          Also in January HHS proposed rule HHS-OCR-2018-0002

          • james blue


  • SupportMcCarthyism

    If liberals truly were concerned about hate, consider this: How many homosexuals have died since the 1980s because of AIDS? Would a million be an overreaching number? Out of that million, how many of them knowly passed AIDS onto another person without ever informing the other person they have it? Out of that number, how many have ever been held accountable in a court of law? Now, consider how many people who have been held accountable for shooting a person with a gun? There is your double standards in a bread basket!

    • Railpirate

      As a gay male, I really hope more of such cases are going to be held accountable in a court of law (Over where I live in the Netherlands it’s not uncommon for people to be held accountable for the knowing spread of such disease). If you think about it, it’s actually the gay people really suffering from this issue at hand, I wish there was more attention for it around LGBT communities.

      • Amos Moses – He>i

        does that include those who SEROTYPE ……….

      • SupportMcCarthyism

        In America, since it is refer to as “love”, the judicial system looks the other way. However, the Democratic party, AKA the liberal political party, is the reason why. It’s called special interest groups that pays off our political members not to. In other terms, it means keeping everything politically correct. The CDC (Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia) periodically releases the information as to what that percentage is; however, should a conservative newspaper released the information, the liberals treat the information as nothing more than a lie and a joke and down right hateful. Should such information be released by a liberal newspaper, they take the issue a little more seriously. Over the years, the only article that I could ever find on the problem was in the Los Angeles Times in 1993. The article basically stated, at least the part I read (it was very long), people are overreacting to the possibility of getting AIDS. (I’m trying to keep this “short and sweet.”) The reason liberals over here call statements like mine stereotyping is for the fact I’m not mentioning the fact the heterosexual have it as well. So they use this to side step the issue to make something else out of it.

        • Railpirate

          “In America, since it is refer to as “love”, the judicial system looks the other way. ”

          – I’d like to make a sidenote on this: There is no basis to say gay people loving eachother in function is any different then straight people loving eachother, and that this being a commonly accounted factor doesn’t make the judicial system look the other way in specific, that’s not mutually exclusive. Though not all countries seem to report on it in the media (I am not a big media fan, been the victim of media bias myself to an extend in unrelated areas), succesfull court cases against the knowing spread of HIV are very common in most of western Europe after looking into the available data more.

          It could still be the reason, but it’s at the least a blanket statement.

          “It’s called special interest groups that pays off our political members not to. In other terms, it means keeping everything politically correct.”
          – Without making a statement on what’s happening, this is almost conspiracy like about people maybe having certain opinions on how society should be, so that it must be payd off by others. Now I can say that America is in that sense quite a corrup system with the way politicians can receive donations and can be lobbied, but still, what you did here kind of is a blanked statement and is kind of far reaching.
          – I’d also strongly question you here, if the goal is to help the people that are at risk for this disease, data has shown time and time again destigmatisation and access to information around a diseases’ spread, protection and check-up’s are by far the most effective way to start slowing a diseases spread (Assuming theres work in the medicinal field as well at the same time.) What will repeatedly smashing gay people over the amount of people who died of AIDS do? Create fear under these people to an extend they’ll be less likely to go get checked out of fear, increasing the issue, with fear and hate due to the disease causing further sitgmatisation furthering the issue. We’ve been here in the 1980’s already with the major outbreak. I don’t think the data should be silenced as much as it is now, but to say political correctness is why, is rather ludicrous, considdering theres valid verifyable reason as to what methods of avoiding the further spread and finding a solution to the problem are most effective. What you did here is kind of a blanked statement, and kind of doesn’t help anyone.

          “it means keeping everything politically correct.”

          – Personal Opinion: Political Correctness is not helpfull, you can’t always avoid people from being offended, that’s ludicrous, but I do think proper anti-discrimination protections need to be in place, for the often frequent burden people face due to it. I think it’s a bit more subtile as well, as both sides are quite politically correct as, just towards different groups. Think about it for a minute, who the main appeal for such discussions is on both sides and why it appeals.

          “however, should a conservative newspaper released the information, the
          liberals treat the information as nothing more than a lie and a joke and
          down right hateful.”
          – I don’t think that’s so much of the issue. I am pretty liberal in views (Despite considdering myself a centrist as a result of how I try to make conclusions as un-partisan as possible), I’ve repeatedly written debunks of articles on news sites from the left to the right or discussed with people (Admittedly more on right wing news sources then left wing) about accuracy of news articles, sourcing issues, irrelevant spread of partisan messages rather then factual reporting etc. Both sides are absolutely atrocious, I can’t really blame people for not trusting the other sides news, people live in this self affirming bubble most of the time, but one that’s just as flawed as the other sides self affirming bubble.
          You should google Louis Rossmann’s video titled “Let’s discuss why journalists are afraid of Elon Musk right now(and why they deserve to be)” I am not confident in the solutions he proposes, but theres some verifyable and logical reasoning towards where at least some of the issue lies.

          “nothing more than a lie and a joke and down right hateful.”
          – I do want to note something with that, which I’ve realised over time.
          Ever heard of ACPed, and noted how conservative news sources use it’s press releases to make arguments against LGBT individuals (Mainly)? You might want to look into ACPed a bit more. Whether you end up agreeing with them or not, they are one of the most atrocious sources of falsified data I ended up finding in my life, consistantly misrepresenting studical data, using outdated data, Auditorially rebuked studical data, self-reliant studical data and more. Repeatedly seeing this organisation cited (Because it supports pre-existing viewpoints of people) in conservative sources won’t help create trust in the other sides news articles. (I am confident something similar exists on the left side as well, not trying to blame conservatism for this issue, this is just the best example I have). Heck, the whole organisation (ACPed) REQUIRES pre-existing viewpoints to enter, breaking the scientific method in accurate data collection by it’s own definition.

          “The reason liberals over here call statements like mine stereotyping is
          for the fact I’m not mentioning the fact the heterosexual have it as
          well. So they use this to side step the issue to make something else
          out of it.”
          – Both sides have this issue on different topics. Your statement did stereotype in quite a few places, and though pointing toward the issue, a lot is still to be said about the argumentation you use. I do think discussions like these on things that are being said are important to reach a functional conclusion.

          I do think we’ve gotten quite offtopic by now, as most of what you wrote here was new arguments with little specific relation to the original part I responded to, but I still hope my response is meaningfull to an extend.

  • Amos Moses – He>i

    Supreme Court Drags Nation Into Dystopian Nightmare In Which Business Owners Can Openly Practice Their Faith
    June 4, 2018

  • Railpirate

    I have to give serious credit here for giving one of the least skewed
    reports on the story I could find.

  • HpO

    Whose fault was it that “the [US Supreme] Court [has reached] the conclusion that [the following] statements cast doubt on the fairness and impartiality of the [Colorado Civil Rights] Commission’s adjudication of [Jack] Phillips’ case”?

    (1) That “Phillips can believe ‘what he wants to believe,’ but cannot act on his religious beliefs ‘if he decides to do business in the state [of Colorado]'”?

    (2) That “if [Phillips] wants to do business in the state [of Colorado] and he’s got an issue with the law’s impacting his personal belief system, he needs to look at being able to compromise”?

    (3) That “freedom of religion and religion has been used [by Phillips] to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the holocaust … [and that] it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that [Phillips] can use … to use … religion to hurt [David Mullins and Charlie Craig]”?

    Lucky for my fellow born-again Christian brother, Jack Phillips, it’s all the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s fault!

  • Lydia Church

    Praise God, justice won! (and TRUE love and not sin)

  • TheSayer

    Fundamentalist living will always get u in trouble with world as God says
    John 15:20 New American Standard Bible
    “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also….
    Matthew 5:10-11 New American Standard Bible
    “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.

    Thank God the latter happened in this case and keep in mind that ….
    Matthew 5:12 New American Standard Bible
    “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great..

  • Praise God for Jack’s victory!

    However, let’s not overlook that this is but merely a scrap thrown under the table by the masters–in this instance, by a seven to two majority, who could have just as easily ruled against Phillips and would have had the constitutional authority to do so.

    In turn, this is indicative that Christians have become the domionized rather than the dominionizers, as depicted by the Apostle Paul in Romans 13. Tragically, what was Christendom (Christians dominionizing society on behalf of their King) in early 17th-century America has devolved into merely four-walled, stain-glassed Christianity. The bulk of today’s Christians are best depicted by Christ in Matthew 5:13 as salt that’s lost its savor, good for nothing but to be trampled under the foot of man.

    For more, see free online book “The Romans 13 Template for Biblical Dominion: Ten Reasons Why Romans 13 is Not About Secular Government.” Click on my name, then our website. Go to our Online Books page and scroll down to title.

    Then see our blog article “Self-Imposed Impotence.”