DENVER – The owner of the Masterpiece Cakeshop, whose case involving his denial to make a cake for a gay couple was taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court Monday after being declined nearly a dozen times, says the lower court’s decision, which will now be argued in front of the nation’s highest court, has caused him to lose business and that he’s received threats.
Jack Phillips spoke with his attorneys from the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative group that took up his case, after the Supreme Court decided it would hear oral arguments in his case sometime later this year.
In a prepared statement, Phillips said that after 23 years of being open, the shop is losing business after the Colorado Supreme Court last August declined to review the case, agreeing with a Colorado Court of Appeals decision that said the shop could continue to enforce its religious beliefs, but not while operating as a business in Colorado.
Phillips and his attorney petitioned to the Supreme Court after the Court of Appeals ruled he’d discriminated against a gay couple, David Mullins and Charlie Craig, who wanted him to write a message on a cake for their wedding in 2012.
Phillips has long claimed that as a Christian, he has the religious freedom to deny business to same-sex couples.
He reiterated that again Monday in his prepared statement.
“I’ve always had to operate my cake shop in a manner that honors God. I gladly welcome and serve everyone who comes into my shop, and would sell anyone any pre-made baked goods. I’m closed on Sundays,” he said. “I don’t take orders for cakes with messages or designs commemorating events or ideas in conflict with my beliefs, including messages that are anti-American, celebrate atheism, racism, or indecency.”
He says in the particular case that landed him in court, he told the couple he “would gladly sell them birthday cakes, shower cakes, cookies brownies…but I couldn’t design a cake promoting an event in conflict with my beliefs.”
He said Monday that the decisions by the courts in Colorado have been devastating for his business.
“The government’s actions have forced me to lose 40 percent of my business, a crushing loss for us,” he said. “I fear that I will ultimately lose everything and be forced to close if the lower court’s decision is not reversed.”
Phillips also says that the notoriety that has come from the ongoing court battle has led to threats.
“Because of the lawsuit and the Colorado law behind it, I’ve received vile and hateful calls at the shop, including one death threat that was so bad that I had my daughter and granddaughter in the back until the police arrived,” he said.
He and his attorney tried to frame the ongoing argument as one about free speech rather than religious beliefs.
“Regardless of your viewpoint about same-sex marriage, shouldn’t we all agree that the government shouldn’t force us to speak or act in a way that violates our deepest convictions?” Phillips queried in his prepared statement. “Like the one in Colorado will result in kind-hearted Americans being dragged before state commissions and courts, and punished by the government for peacefully seeking to live and work consistent with their beliefs about marriage? The couple who came to my shop that day 5 years ago are free to hold their beliefs about marriage, and all I ask is that I be allowed the equal opportunity to keep mine.”
ADF Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner said that she was “very pleased” the court will allow the case to move forward, saying the Colorado’s laws here “used in Jack’s case to try and silence and punish him for simply trying to speak in what was consistent with his religious convictions on marriage.”
“We’re hopeful that the court will affirm the basic principle that the government cannot punish artists like Jack for refusing to create art that violates his religious convictions,” Waggoner said.
ADF General Counsel Michael Farris echoed those sentiments, saying it was likely the court would start hearings in the late fall.
“It’s never been about Jack’s willingness to sell products or services to people based on who they are,” he said. “If an LGBT person came to his cake shop wanting to buy a pre-existing cake, he’d be happy to for any purpose.”
But both Farris and Waggoner said that requiring him to write messages that go against his religious beliefs, including one promoting same-sex marriage, is where he draws the line.
Both Mullins and Craig, the couple who were denied the service by Phillips, also spoke following Monday’s decision.
“This has always been about more than a cake. Businesses should not be allowed to violate the law and discriminate against us because of who we are and who we love,” said Mullins.
“While we’re disappointed that the courts continue debating the simple question of whether LGBT people deserve to be treated like everyone else, we hope that our case helps ensure that no one has to experience being turned away simply because of who they are,” Craig said.
Both the national and Colorado chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have represented the two men, and say they are happy to continue doing so.
“The law is squarely on Dave and Charlie’s side because when businesses are open to the public, they’re supposed to be open to everyone,” said James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s LGBT Project. “While the right to one’s religious beliefs is fundamental, a license to discriminate is not. Same-sex couples like Dave and Charlie deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect as anyone else, and we’re ready to take that fight all the way to the Supreme Court.“
The exact date for the first oral arguments in the case has not yet been set.