Jack Phillips, a Christian cake baker based in Colorado, is being sued for a third time for declining to make a cake that expresses messages contrary to his religious beliefs.
Phillips is the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., a Denver suburb. Last year, he won a six year legal battle that led all the way up to the Supreme Court, which upheld Phillips’ religious freedom and freedom of expression in his declining to make a cake in 2012 that would have celebrated a same-sex union.
Three months after winning the Supreme Court case, Phillips was sued again by Colorado lawyer Autumn Scardina, who identifies as a transgender woman, for his refusal to make Scardina a gender transition cake.
Phillips then countersued the state of Colorado, claiming that he was being persecuted for his religious beliefs. The case was dropped in March, “after the discovery phase demonstrated that the state was displaying ‘anti-religious hostility’ by continuing to pursue Phillips,’” the National Review reported.
At the time, Phillips expressed his desire to be done with legal proceedings and out of the spotlight. “I hope this is the end of my legal battles, and that I can return to my quiet life as a cake artist,” Phillips wrote in an opinion essay for the Denver Post.
Phillips did not get his wish for long.
Scardina is now the plaintiff in a new suit against Phillips. On June 5, Scardina sued Phillips for the second time, this time claiming that he refused to make Scardina a birthday cake.
According to the complaint, filed with the District Court for the city and county of Denver, Scardina called Masterpiece Cakeshop to order a “birthday cake - one in a simple design that Defendants admit they would make for any other customer.”
The complaint noted that Phillips has said previously that he would be happy to make other kinds of cakes for LGBT individuals, as long as they expressed messages that did not violate his religious beliefs.
In the call, Scardina requested from Masterpiece Cakeshop a birthday cake for 6-8 people, with pink cake and blue frosting. A Masterpiece Cakeshop employee confirmed to Scardina that they could make such a cake.
“Ms. Scardina then informed Masterpiece Cakeshop that the requested design had personal significance for her because it reflects her status as a transgender female,” the complaint states.
It was at this point that Masterpiece Cakeshop told Scardina that they “did not make cakes for ‘sex changes.’” Scardina reconfirmed that it was a birthday cake, but Masterpiece Cakeshop declined to take the order and ended the call, according to the complaint.
Scardina called Masterpiece Cakeshop again, in case the previous call had been unintentionally disconnected, the complaint states. Scardina spoke to a different Masterpiece Cakeshop employee about the same order, and that employee also declined the order, saying that making such a cake would violate their religious beliefs.
“Masterpiece Cakeshop, at the direction of Phillips, refused to sell a birthday cake to Ms. Scardina because of her status as a transgender woman,” the complaint states.
Paula Griesen, one of the attorneys representing Scardina, said that “the dignity of all citizens in our state needs to be honored,” according to the National Review. “Masterpiece Cakeshop said before the Supreme Court they would serve any baked good to members of the LGBTQ community. It was just the religious significance of it being a wedding cake. We don’t believe they’ve been honest with the public.”
The cake Scardina mentions in the new complaint is notably similar to the gender transition cake Scardina requested from Masterpiece Cakeshop in 2017, which was also requested to be made with pink cake and blue frosting.
Phillips was first sued for a declined cake in 2012, after declining to make a cake celebrating the union of a same-sex couple. Phillips said that particular kind of cake would violate his religious beliefs, but that he would create other kinds of cakes for the couple. Colorado law did not recognize same-sex unions as marriages at the time.
The couple filed a lawsuit against Phillips and in 2013 a Colorado judge sided with the plaintiffs. Phillips chose to stop serving wedding cakes at his shop in order to avoid further litigation.
The Colorado Civil Rights Commission then took up the case, and ruled that Phillips had violated the state’s anti-discrimination law, which categorizes sexual orientation as a protected class, by refusing to make the cake. The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in 2018 that Phillips has a right to refuse to create cakes that expressed messages contrary to his religious beliefs.
Phillips has said in the past that he not only has declined same-sex union cakes, but he also declines other types of cakes that go against his beliefs, including cakes for Halloween, bachelor parties, divorce, cakes with alcohol in the ingredients, and cakes with atheist messages.
Jim Campbell, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, whose lawyers have defended Phillips in the past, said the new lawsuit is another example of Phillips’ harassment for his religious beliefs.
“So this latest attack by Scardina looks like yet another desperate attempt to harass cake artist Jack Phillips,” Campbell said, according to the National Review. “And it stumbles over the one detail that matters most: Jack serves everyone; he just cannot express all messages through his custom cakes.”