On June 4, 2018, it looked like Jack Phillips’s long legal nightmare was finally over. The Supreme Court had ruled in his favor in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, verbally smacking down the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for attempting to coerce him into using his artistic skills to endorse a message and slandering his religious views in the process. Finally, after several years of fighting, Jack could return to his business and his artistry without compromising his faith.
Or so he thought.
On the very day that the Supreme Court agreed to hear his case, June 26, 2017, local Denver attorney Autumn Scardina called Jack and asked him to create a pink and blue cake celebrating his “gender transition.” Phillips’s staff replied that his religious beliefs precluded him from creating a cake to express that message. That account was, by the way, Scardina’s as well—at least at first.
Scardina then filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission alleging discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The Commission, even after the Supreme Court decision, found probable cause to proceed with this new accusation. In response, Jack filed a federal lawsuit against the Commission, alleging that it was carrying out a vendetta against him.
In March 2019, Colorado officials announced that Scardina’s case before the Commission had been dismissed with prejudice. Finally, end of story, right?
No. Scardina responded by filing a private lawsuit alleging Phillips had violated Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws.
Scardina’s personal vendetta to get Jack faces two significant obstacles. First, his original complaint with the Commission was dismissed with prejudice. In other words, Scardina has had his day in court. Second, Scardina has told different versions of the events of June 2017.
Initially, Scardina admitted that Jack had, because of his religious beliefs, declined the request to create a custom pink and blue cake in order to celebrate a gender transition. In the private suit, Scardina changed stories, suggesting that Jack turned down a request for a simple pink and blue cake only after learning that Scardina identified as transgender.
And, with that changed story, Scardina also accused Jack of violating Colorado’s consumer protection laws with false advertising. Though no one would consider news articles and a fundraising site for a Supreme Court case “advertising,” Scardina pointed to them, and Jack’s claim that he chooses to create cakes based on the message they convey, not the sexual orientation or gender identity of the customer. Even if Jack’s statements are stretched and called “advertising,” they still are not, as the Alliance Defending Freedom pointed out, a “promise to create every cake requested of him, no matter the cake’s message.”
Scardina’s claims are farcical, but the judge refused to dismiss the case completely. Instead, he permitted Scardina to file an amended complaint–twice. In the second amended complaint Scardina claims to have requested the cake out of pity for Jack, after hearing how much business Masterpiece Cakeshop had lost. Jack’s lawyers at ADF are opposing this motion.
At this point, Jack Phillip’s latest trial is scheduled to begin in March. The stakes are enormous.
If Scardina prevails on the consumer protection claim, Jack could potentially have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawyer’s fees, which would put him out of business for good.
Jack’s legal battles have gone on for nearly a decade. He lost his wedding cake business, and tens of thousands of dollars in time and lost revenue. The Alliance Defending Freedom has been with him every step of the way, but he needs our support as well. After all, he is fighting a battle for our freedom as well.
Please pray for a successful outcome in this trial. Pray for Jack’s strength and courage. Pray that Scardina will have a change of heart and will just leave Jack alone.
Also consider supporting Jack financially. If you are able to purchase goods and services from him directly, I can assure you he hasn’t lost his touch. There’s also a page where you can donate to support him.
Publication date: February 18, 2021
Photo courtesy: ©Alliance Defending Freedom
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
BreakPoint is a program of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. BreakPoint commentaries offer incisive content people can't find anywhere else; content that cuts through the fog of relativism and the news cycle with truth and compassion. Founded by Chuck Colson (1931 – 2012) in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends. Today, you can get it in written and a variety of audio formats: on the web, the radio, or your favorite podcast app on the go.
John Stonestreet is President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and radio host of BreakPoint, a daily national radio program providing thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.