Q&A with Jack Phillips: 'Every American’s freedoms were at stake'

How refusing to create a cake for a same-sex wedding led to the Supreme Court.

 Wedding cake (illustrative) (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Wedding cake (illustrative)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

Jack Phillips is a cake artist and the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo. Phillips gained national recognition as a result of his Supreme Court case, Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which originated when Phillips refused to create a cake for a same-sex wedding in 2012. 

The Kairos Company recently had an opportunity to sit down with Phillips. This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

KAIROS: Your book, “The Cost of My Faith: How a Decision in My Cake Shop Took Me to the Supreme Court,” is a powerful look at what has transpired over the past nine years for you and your cakeshop. Jumping ahead in your story, in 2022 you’re still holding onto your faith and you’re now the owner of Masterpiece Cake Shop. Take us back to that day in July 2012 when a conversation with two potential customers changed your life forever. 

PHILLIPS: One July afternoon, two men came into my store in Lakewood, Colo. I went over to the men who were sitting at the wedding desk to discuss how we could help them. They gave me their names and said they were looking at cakes for their wedding. I replied, “Sorry guys, we don’t do cakes for same-sex weddings.”  

They stared at me blankly. I told them we would do their birthday cake, cookies, brownies - anything like that. I just don’t do cakes for same-sex weddings. Immediately they jumped up, started swearing at me and then stormed out of the shop. 

I thought to myself, “What in the world just happened?” Twenty minutes later, I get a call and someone asks, “Are you the one who just turned away the gay couple?” I replied that I would never turn anyone away, I just told them we wouldn’t create that specific kind of wedding cake. Things just took off from there. 

KAIROS: What ultimately led to the Supreme Court case?

PHILLIPS: In the weeks that followed the two men coming into the shop, they staged two protests right outside the store. Media came, and there were a lot of people on both sides. One of the reporters asked me if I was aware I had broken an anti-discrimination law. As it turns out, the two men who came into the shop filed a complaint through the Colorado Civil Rights Division, and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission found probable cause to pursue and took me to court. This eventually led to us petitioning the case to the Supreme Court and, against incredible odds, they took the case. 

It was through this process that I realized this case was not about me; every American’s freedoms were at stake. We were fighting for the right to exercise freedom of speech and religion. Before I ever opened the shop, my wife sat down and decided on the kinds of cakes we could not create because of our religious convictions. This was one of those cakes, and we never waivered. 

My faith compels me to serve everyone that comes into my shop, but I can’t create every message. Every American should be free to live and work according to their conscience without fear of punishment from the government. And that’s what was at stake.

Phillips was ultimately victorious.

Jack Phillip’s book, “The Cost of My Faith: How a Decision in My Cake Shop Took Me to the Supreme Court,” is available on Amazon. 

My Faith Votes is one of America’s leading non-profits focused on educating people of faith on public policy and encouraging them to vote in every election. The organization’s founding chair was Dr. Ben Carson and it’s current honorary chair is Gov. Mike Huckabee.