On June 15, 2021, a Colorado District Court ruled in Scardina v. Masterpiece Cakeshop that Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, CO, violated the State of Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act when he politely refused to bake a cake that celebrated a gender transition. This is the second time Mr. Phillips has come into conflict with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. In 2018, he won a limited religious victory at the U.S. Supreme Court after refusing to bake a cake that celebrated a same-sex wedding ceremony because it was contrary to his well-founded convictions on human sexuality.

Scardina is a blatant affront to religious liberty. No individual or organization should be compelled under the threat of financial or criminal penalty to create a product with a message that violates their well-founded convictions.

The Colorado Court decided that Mr. Phillips refused to provide a product to the customer because of that customer’s perceived identity as a transgender person. In doing so, the Court refused to acknowledge the freedom of expression rights afforded to every American. The Court even acknowledged that Mr. Phillips does not deny service based on one’s sexual orientation or gender identity, stating:

“[Phillips’] willingness to serve those who identify as LGBT includes the creation of custom cakes for them. For instance, [Phillips created] a custom cake every year to celebrate the birthday of a lesbian couple’s daughter.“[1]

Phillips’ refusal to bake the cake was therefore not based on the customer’s identification as a transgender male, but rather on his unwillingness to create a product with a message that violated his beliefs. As Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) counsel Kristen Waggoner said:

“Jack Phillips serves all people but shouldn’t be forced to create custom cakes with messages that violate his conscience. In this case, an activist attorney demanded Jack create custom cakes in order to ‘test’ Jack and ‘correct the errors’ of his thinking, and the activist even threatened to sue Jack again if the case is dismissed for any reason.”[2]

Mr. Phillips’ belief that one cannot choose to alter or change their gender is backed by both science and reason. Sex reassignment surgery and other “gender transition therapies” do not change the biological reality of their sex. Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) activists target individuals like Mr. Phillips—individuals who adhere to natural truths regarding marriage, gender, and human sexuality— in order to coerce them into abandoning those well-founded convictions in favor of modern SOGI ideology.

Scardina is yet another instance of litigation between SOGI ideology and religious liberty. The U.S. Supreme Court has recently ruled in favor of religious liberty in the first Masterpiece decision, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (2018), and in this month’s Fulton v. City of Philadelphia (2021). The U.S. Supreme Court’s narrow ruling in both cases represent small victories for institutions and individuals who want to live in accordance with their well-founded convictions. These cases may be precursors to more significant legal battles regarding religious liberty.

For instance, the U.S. Supreme Court may soon agree to hear Arlene’s Flowers v. State of Washington and Arlene’s Flowers v. Ingersoll, which concerns whether or not Barronelle Stutzman, a floral artist from Washington, can be compelled by the government to create a floral arrangement for a same-sex wedding, despite her conviction that marriage is between a man and a woman.[3] This case represents an opportunity for the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold Stutzman’s Free Exercise protections and ensure all Americans the freedom to live according to their beliefs.

The American Founders understood religious liberty, freedom of expression, and freedom of conscience to be sacred human rights, which is why they enshrined them in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Americans like Mr. Phillips should be free to own and operate their businesses without government compulsion to violate their well-founded convictions on gender identity. The Colorado District Court was wrong to rule against Masterpiece Cakeshop and force Mr. Phillips to pay a $500 fine. The case is now awaiting an appeal.

[1] Scardina v. Masterpiece Cakeshop Inc et al. District Court, City and County of Denver, State of Colorado. 19CV32214

[2] Alliance Defending Freedom, Scardina v. Masterpiece Cakeshop 2021. https://adfmedia.org/case/scardina-v-masterpiece-cakeshop

[3] Alliance Defending Freedom, Arlene’s Flowers v. State of Washington | Arlene’s Flowers v. Ingersoll. 2021