Christian cake artist targeted by transgender activists again

HRLA represents everyday Australians like Jasmine Sussex, Jereth Kok, Jillian Spencer, and Lyle Shelton when they are targeted for what they believe or what they say. But it is not just in Australia that the law is being weaponised to silence people’s speech and ruin their livelihoods.

This month, Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips is in the Colorado Supreme Court appealing a decision that he can be legally punished for declining to create custom cakes celebrating a “gender transition”. For over a decade, Jack has endured targeted attacks against himself and his business, Masterpiece Cakeshop. He was first targeted by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission in 2012, when the organisation took legal action against him after he declined a request to create a custom-designed cake celebrating a same-sex wedding.

In June 2018, Jack achieved a significant victory in the United States Supreme Court.

The Court ruled 7 to 2 that the state had shown “clear and impermissible hostility” toward Jack’s religious beliefs, and therefore had violated the First Amendment. But this was far from the end.

After the same Colorado agency dropped a second case against Jack for declining to create a cake celebrating a “gender transition”, the transgender person concerned sued Jack in state court. Following losses in the district court and the Court of Appeals, Jack’s lawyers Alliance Defending Freedom have appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court.

Jack’s story has been widely publicised. He serves everyone who walks into his shop but won’t create custom cakes that conflict with his deeply held religious beliefs. This stance includes refusing to create Halloween cakes, cakes advocating drug use, and cakes disparaging people, including those who identify as LGBT.

The transgender activist suing Jack, an attorney named Autumn Scardina, also requested a cake featuring Satan smoking marijuana. Scardina has vowed to continue harassing Jack until he is punished, aiming to “correct the errors of [his] thinking.”

This month’s hearings are crucial. ADF will argue that the Colorado Supreme Court should affirm that artists like Jack have freedom of speech free from government coercion.

The US Supreme Court’s decision in 303 Creative v Elenis, in which ADF represented graphic artist Lorie Smith, is relevant to Jack’s case. In June 2023, the Court ruled that Colorado cannot misuse its public-accommodation law to force people to express messages they disagree with. ADF has asked the Colorado Supreme Court to apply this ruling in Jack’s case to uphold his First Amendment rights.

As Jack has written:

“Six years later, I’m still in court. I’m again facing punishment for declining to express a message I don’t believe. But it’s not just my freedom at risk. It’s yours too. We can disagree about how to define marriage and whether someone can transition from male to female but still agree that the government should not force anyone to express a message they don’t believe”.

Jack’s case is an example of ‘lawfare’ being used against Christians who disagree with certain ideological narratives.  He has been dragged through the legal system for 12 years, even after the US Supreme Court found in his favour in 2018.

Similar cases of ‘lawfare’ being used to silence dissent can be seen here in Australia in HRLA cases involving Lyle Shelton, Jasmine Sussex, Jereth Kok and Jillian Spencer.  The process is the punishment, with many people tied up in court cases for many years.

HRLA represents individuals who, like Jack Phillips, find themselves targeted for their faith.