By now, you've surely heard of the plight facing Christian baker Jack Phillips of Colorado, who has refused to bake cakes that go against his religious beliefs, such as a wedding cake celebrating a same-sex marriage. This time, Phillips is being sued by Autumn Scardina, a transgender activist and attorney.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Phillips in 2018. As the American Bar explained, though, in its analysis of "Not a Masterpiece: The Supreme Court’s Decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission":
But that was exactly the issue in Masterpiece Cakeshop: Is a business’s freedom to choose its customers more important than the government interest in stopping sexual orientation discrimination?
The Supreme Court did not answer this question, but instead decided the case on narrower grounds by concluding that members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission expressed impermissible hostility to religion.
Fast-forward and Phillips is back in court. As AP reported, referring to Scardina as "her," with added emphasis:
Autumn Scardina attempted to order the birthday cake on the same day in 2017 that the high court announced it would hear baker Jack Phillips’ appeal in the wedding cake case. Scardina, an attorney, requested a cake that was blue on the outside and pink on the inside in honor of her gender transition.
Court documents obtained by Townhall explain that Scardina, in a charge of discrimination that was signed, stated, "The Respondent refused to prepare my order for a cake with pink interior and blue exterior, which I disclosed was intended for the celebration of my transition from male to female." Scardina also wrote, "I explained I was celebrating my birthday on July 6, 2017, and that it would also be the 7th year anniversary of my transition from male to female. When I explained I am a transexual and that I wanted my birthday cake to celebrate my transition by having a blue exterior and a pink interior, they told me they will not make the cake based on their religious beliefs."
Additionally, Scardina said, "I think I wanted [Phillips] to make me a cake with an image of Satan smoking a joint."
The more details that come out, the more Scardina's vindictiveness becomes apparent. In an email from Scardina to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Scardina volunteered to be the one to file a complaint against Phillips in the initial case, which involved a request for a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding. Further, in another instance, Scardina said, "I wanted to start a dialogue with Mr. Phillips and try to better understand his thinking. I truly believed that -- I want to believe that he's a good person. I want to believe that he could be, sort of, persuaded to the errors of his thinking."
AP, referring to Scardina as "she" and "her" further reported:
[Scardina] said she called Phillips’ Masterpiece Cakeshop to place the order after hearing about the court’s announcement because she wanted to find out if he really meant it.
When her lawyer Paula Greisen asked whether the call was a “setup,” she said it was not.
“It was more of calling someone’s bluff,” she said.
In opening arguments, a lawyer representing Phillips, Sean Gates, said his refusal to make Scardina’s cake was about its message, not discriminating against Scardina, echoing assertions made in Phillips’ legal battle over his refusal to make a wedding cake for Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins in 2012. With Phillips getting media attention since then, he could not create a cake with a message he disagreed with, Gates said.
“The message would be that he agrees that a gender transition is something to be celebrated,” said Gates, who noted later that Phillips had objected to making cakes with other messages he opposed, including Halloween items.
Before filing her lawsuit, Scardina filed a complaint against Phillips with the state, and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission found probable cause that Phillips had discriminated against her. Phillips then filed a federal lawsuit against Colorado, accusing it of waging a “crusade to crush” him by pursuing the complaint.
In March 2019, lawyers for the state and Phillips agreed to drop both cases under a settlement which still allowed Scardina to pursue a lawsuit on her own. At the time, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said both sides agreed it was not in anyone’s best interest to move forward with the cases.
Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing Phillips, has a comprehensive explanation of the timeline of the legal battles, aptly titled "When Will It End? Jack Is Back in Court for a Third Time."
ADF also spoke to Townhall. "Jack Phillips serves all people, no matter how they identify, but cannot violate his conscience and create custom cakes celebrating all messages. And, he is not alone. There are cases like these across the nation where an artist's livelihood – and in some instances, their homes and personal assets – are on the line simply for not wanting to speak a message that violates their core convictions. These cases represent a disturbing trend: our system of justice is being weaponized as nothing more than an arm of cancel culture to ruin people with whom one disagrees," Jon Scruggs, senior counsel for ADF, said in an emailed statement.
What's particularly compelling, however, is that Phillips has support from an unlikely source, Mike Jones, who appeared at Phillips' trial. Jones is a gay man and former gay prostitute who outed his long-time client Ted Haggard, an Evangelical Christian pastor who preached against homosexuality. Jones shared in a deposition that "through the years, I've placed numerous orders with Jack" for cakes, with one reading "Happy Birthday Jeannie." Jones also shared that his visits to the bakery "developed into... a friendship" and that "each time I would go, I felt more and more welcomed. So it was a very friendly and comfortable experience for me." Additionally, Jones shared that he was "always [treated] with respect and good customer service" by employees.
Jones also shared his take in support of Phillips in the "POINT/COUNTERPOINT: Should government require a bakery to design cakes for gay weddings?" piece from the Gazette.
With such a narrow ruling to begin with, and the relentless actions from those who can't stand Phillips being able to practice his faith in the public square, the case is bound to come back before the Supreme Court sooner or later. Hopefully, we'll have a more final and complete ruling once and for all, in Phillips' favor.