Jack Phillips’ bakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., has become a frontline in the battle for religious liberty. Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, recently refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding. The couple filed a complaint against the bakery, which has been in business for more than two decades. I spoke with Phillips and his attorney, Nicolle Martin of the Alliance Defending Freedom, in the dining area of Masterpiece Cakeshop in the Denver suburbs.
A couple of years ago in 2012, a situation happened here in your bakeshop. Would you describe what has happened since then? I had two guys come in that wanted me to make them a wedding cake. I declined to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. I informed them that I'd make all their other products, birthday cakes, shower cakes, cookies, and brownies, but that was a product that I didn't do. They left and sent out a message to all their Facebook friends or whatever, and soon phone calls started coming and emails and a lot of hate mail. Pretty vile phone calls … and then it just got pretty crazy after.
Talk to me about that very first interaction. I had two girls working for me, and it would have been their job to do that first. But they were both tied up, so I'm third in line. They indicated that they were both busy, and could I take care of that. I went over to the desk. The two guys introduced themselves. I introduced myself. They said what they were here for. I declined to make that, and they said, “What?” and I said, “I’ll make your other stuff,” and then they stomped out.
Was this something that you had predicted might be a decision you would have to make in your future, or had you actually had other couples come in, in the past? Yes, we’ve run across this in the past, but I don’t make any judgment because two girls could come in, and they're just good friends and one of them is the bride, you know, and the other one is a friend. So I don’t determine that. But first thing they said was, “We’re here to get a wedding cake. It’s for our wedding.” They let me know it right off.
You and Nicole, with Alliance Defending Freedom, spoke, and things didn't go away. No, it did not. They proceeded and set a hearing date, determined that there was cause for a trial, and so then we had a trial.
You still have an opportunity to appeal, but there has been, more or less, a final adjudication, right? Yes, the judge’s ruling. He determined that I violated the public accommodations statute, and I guess that was sent back to the Civil Rights Commission for them to make a ruling. They finalized their ruling a couple weeks ago.
The consequences to you are that you have to file quarterly reports. Quarterly reports. I have to cease and desist my practices, change my policies, retrain my employees, and reports.
Are you going to do any of that? You know, I have to talk with my attorneys and see how that plays out.
I’ve heard from media reports that, since this situation has gone public, it has actually helped your business. Is that accurate? It is. A number of things have happened since then that have increased our business because of people hearing about it. A whole lot of local people didn’t know we were here, so they come by and order cakes. More than that, it is people from all over the place that will just come in and want to show their support and buy some cookies or brownies and say they’ve been here. Yesterday, I had a family … on vacation from Michigan, and they didn’t want to go to the coast of Florida or something like that, but this year they wanted to go to Colorado. They went to the zoo … Glenwood Springs, and Masterpiece Cakeshop. That was a destination.
Down in New Mexico, where a photographer faced a similar trial, there have been nasty threats, letters, and voicemails. You said you got some of those in the beginning. In the case of the photographer down in New Mexico, it actually put them out of business. Clearly that’s not happening here, but is it a concern of yours that, maybe after the publicity has gone away and all of the well-wishers forget that you’re in the news, you won’t be able to bake wedding cakes anymore or you might be in violation of your order? It could be, but I’ve given that up to the Lord, also. If that’s what he wants to do here, it’s his business, and he already knows if I can win it or not, so just take it as it comes.
Nicolle, legally, you don’t really know what's going to happen next. Is that correct? Yes. … In order for the Commission to enforce this order, it has to go to the District Court, a court of record, because … even though the Colorado Civil Rights Commission sits as prosecutor, judge, and jury to order Jack to do all this stuff, they have no authority to make him do it. They would have to go and have that order enforced in the District Court. At that point, if and when that were to happen, district courts, courts of record, have broad contempt powers. From there, it's really not clear what would happen.
You mean that if Jack doesn’t comply, they could find him in contempt of court? That’s correct.
So what’s next? Right now we are considering all of our legal options, which would include an appeal, and weighing that decision. Jack is considering his next steps.
From where you sit, as an affiliated attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, where is Jack’s case relative to other cases of this kind? Could we end up with law, with precedent, that could dictate how companies all across the country are going to be forced to behave? Sure, that’s the precipice that we’re on. In New Mexico, there’s certainly a bad precedent with Elane Photography. If I was an artist living in New Mexico, I would be greatly concerned about my First Amendment rights. What we’re about to do is force gay print shop owners to make the signs for the Westboro Baptist Church. I think most of your listeners are probably astute enough to know what those signs say. … Or the gay printer might be compelled to print the literature and marketing collateral for the National Organization for Marriage. Are we now to force a pro-life photographer to film Planned Parenthood’s annual gala? That’s where we’re at. What I call the captains of diversity, that’s what they don't seem to understand is that this tolerance agenda goes both ways. Unfortunately, right now, we’re seeing it used against mainly Christians, but all people of faith are at risk.
Hear the full Listening In program, which includes an interview with Professor Mike Adams, who successfully defended his religious liberty from an attack by the university where he works: