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Focus on the Family Broadcast

Loving Others While Standing by My Beliefs

Loving Others While Standing by My Beliefs

Cake artist Jack Phillips discusses the challenges he's faced since a same-sex couple filed a discrimination complaint against him for declining to create a cake for their wedding ceremony – a case that gained nationwide attention and went to the U.S. Supreme Court. Jack describes how his Christian faith has sustained him and inspired others to stand in defense of religious freedom.
Original Air Date: August 23, 2021


Jack Phillips: One of the commissioners said that religious freedom was a despicable piece of rhetoric and joined it too, uh, things in our history, things in world history, like, uh, she compared it to the Holocaust and to slavery.

End of Preview

John Fuller: That’s Jack describing the difficulties and the pain he and his family have endured after he took a stand for his faith. He’s our guest today on Focus on the Family, and you’ll hear how he remained faithful to God’s word and his convictions, even when it meant going all the way to the US Supreme Court. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, one of the greatest privileges we’ve been given here in America is the freedom of worship in God. And, you know, I’ve had the privilege doing the international work here at Focus to go to about 70 countries. I’ve been to Cuba. And I think a lot of the people that think Cuba is really a good place, need to go visit it. And I met with Christians there, people that have been persecuted, threatened with their lives. Um, it is not the place that some people like to paint it. And I would only say that, uh, we have the greatest country that’s ever been created. And I’m speaking from that experience. The first amendment of the constitution reads, and I want to quote it so that we know it, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” I mean, it is plain and simple. I think it was Supreme Court Justice Scalia, who said, “For a country that separates church and state, we tell people what to do with God a lot here at the Supreme Court.” Isn’t that interesting?

John: It is, yeah.

Jim: And it’s pretty clear. They just need to get out of the way, let people pursue their conscience. And I think we’re at a very, uh, you know, dangerous tipping point in this country where government is now beginning to tell us what to think, what to say, what to do. And today we’re going to talk about it.

John: We are, we have Jack here, as I mentioned, he’s the owner and founder of Masterpiece Cake shop, uh, here in Colorado. Uh, Jack and his wife, Debbie, have been married over 40 years. They have three adult children and he has a riveting story, as I alluded to earlier. Uh, he’s captured that story in the book, The Cost of My Faith: How a Decision in My Cake Shop Took Me to the Supreme Court. And we have that here at the ministry, you can call 800-A-Family, or stop by

Jim: Jack, welcome back to Focus on the Family.

Jack: Uh, it’s an honor to be here, Jim. Thank you.

Jim: It’s so good to see you. And I consider you a good friend. I mean, it’s been fun in a tough circumstances though to get to know you and your family, your wife, Debbie, and, and your, your daughter and your grandkids. It’s just been wonderful. And let me say, you know, one of the things, and I have, uh, you know, I have developed relationships within the LGBTQ community. And what I’m saying to them is, “You’re picking on the wrong dude.” ‘Cause this, this family is such a nice family. And uh, in most cases they respond with, “Yeah. He’s not what we would choose as an opponent.” (laughs) Isn’t that great to hear though?

Jack: That is good to hear.

Jim: That the, the aroma of Christ is in you and all around you. And that’s, I think one of the greatest distinctions here. You- you’re not looking to pick a fight. You are a kind and gentle soul, and I think they just entirely missed that.

Jack: Well, thank you. In fact, in our most recent trial, we actually had, uh, a gay activist testify on our behalf because he saw that he knows that, that we serve everybody and we just can’t create every cake and express every message that people ask us to. So it’s, it’s good to hear it from your side too.

Jim: Yeah. And you know, we’re going to get to the more specifics of that whole thing. But this book, The Cost of My Faith, really starts back about who you are and how these values were shaped. And I’d like to go back and start in that area. And you met your wife, Debbie, I mean, I think in high school you knew each other, right?

Jack: No, um, it was, uh, a year later, it was October of 1975. I’ve been at this bakery for a year and a half and…

Jim: Yeah. And now when you gave your life to the Lord, were you guys already married?

Jack: Yeah. Yeah. We’d been married, I’m not sure how long at that point, but it was 1978 in the spring. I know exactly when and where, but I don’t have the date in my mind.

Jim: So you, you have this experience, you, you feel a call from God on your life. Describe that for us. Some people listening are not Christians. You know, we have a percentage of the audience that don’t have a relationship with Christ. We’re glad you’re listening, (laughs) but man, we’d love for you to make that next step to a commitment to Christ because that’s what it’s all about.

Jack: Yeah. It makes life really full and really good. Um, but I was working a night shift at a bakery that I worked at and, uh, it was mid-morning, 10 o’clock, 11 o’clock probably while I was headed home from work. And I was just driving home and nothing particular on my mind. And suddenly I felt the Holy Spirit, uh, in my car. And I knew the Holy Spirit was convicting me that I was a sinner and I needed a savior. And like, I hadn’t been to church in a long time. I quit going to church probably when I was 17, and at this point I’m like 23, but all the Sunday school stories I heard suddenly made sense that God created us to have a relationship with Him, and that relationship is spoiled by our sin, our rebellion against Him. And he paid the penalty for that because our sins have to be paid for. And, uh, he paid the penalty for that with his son, Jesus Christ, dying on the cross and rising the dead and paying for my sins. And I understood all that so clearly. And it’s like, I get it. But I decided to negotiate with him for a minute. (laughs)

Jim: How did that go?

Jack: Uh, it was short. (laughs)

Jim: He said, “I’m God you’re not.”

Jack: Yeah. I said, “Well, let me clean up my life a little bit, you know, you’ll get a better deal.” And he said, “You can’t.” And I understood that he did everything. And I said, “You’re right, I’m yours.”

Jim: Yeah. So you take this powerful experience, this powerful commitment, this brief negotiation with God, and it shapes your life. It forms who you are, right to your core. I mean, you believe in eternity with God, right?

Jack: Absolutely.

Jim: So now you start this, uh, this bakery.

Jack: Well, before that I had to, uh, finish my drive home. I was just a few blocks from my house (laughs) and I had to go home and, and tell my wife what had just happened.

Jim: Right.

Jack: And just a few weeks earlier, my sister-in-law had invited her to church and she blew up. Was like, “You know, Christians are all hypocrites,” all that. I don’t know what, what was all said, but it wasn’t a friendly conversation. I wasn’t there. But apparently, um, I told my wife Debbie, I said, “Well, why don’t you go to church with her?” I don’t know why, (laughs) but apparently she did and she heard the gospel for the first time. So I didn’t know that when I came home, I still had the memory in my mind of, you know, she just blew up at my sister-in-law just for asking her to go to church. So when I got home, I had to walk in and say hello to her. And I’m like, “What’s wrong?” And I kind of stuttered and stammered and, “I became a Christian this morning,” expecting the worst. Instead I got, “Me too, three days ago.”

Jim: Oh, that’s fantastic. Um, to see God working in both of your lives like that, I love it. And so you leave the corporate bakery scene and you start Masterpiece Cake Shop in Denver. Right from the beginning, you infuse your faith in your vocation and you put boundaries on the kind of art you would or wouldn’t do. What were some of those boundaries?

Jack: Well, before we opened, you know, we had discussions what the bakery would look like, you know, “Are you going to make donuts?” “No, I’m not going to do that. You know, we’re just gonna…”

Jim: Well, that’s disappointing.

Jack: I know. (laughs)

Jim: Come on.

Jack: I like donuts. (laughs) Um, But we knew that, uh, there were… It would just focus on, on custom cakes and, uh, the, uh, cakes that we decided that we would make, you know, it’d be, you know, for graduations, especially wedding cakes, um, different things like that. But we also decided there were celebrations that we wouldn’t create cakes for, and among those would be Halloween. We decided we would create cakes that celebrated Halloween or cakes that would be anti-American, or racist cakes, or cakes that would insult people. And that even includes people who identify as LGBT. So we would just, when the cakes have a message, I have to agree with the message that I’m expressing through a cake. And part of that would be cakes to celebrate same-sex weddings. And I can’t create a cake to celebrate a same-sex wedding, a wedding that goes against the biblical definition of weddings. Though the, the people who would ask for that cake, whether they would be homosexual or heterosexual friends ordering it for them, it would never be the person ordering the cake here, it would just be the message of the cake that we couldn’t  agree on.

Jim: Sure. And again, this distinction between, um, having to collaborate with something that you believe in scripture, and I think most theologians would agree, goes against what God talks about and the way he designed human beings, male and female, the two shall become one flesh. And, you know, the lot of people are gonna freak out at this point, and some in the Christian community that have kind of jettisoned what the scripture teaches about human design and human sexuality. But that conviction is what you’ve been on trial for, right?

Jack: Right, yeah. It started nine years ago. And, uh, um, two men came into my cake shop. So I sat down, made introductions, like, you know, “This David and Charlie, and you know, I’m Jack, what can I do for you?” “We’re here to look at wedding cakes, it’s for our wedding.” So I knew immediately what I was, what my answer would be, but I just didn’t know how I was gonna phrase it. And so what came out was, “Oh, sorry guys, I don’t do cakes for same-sex weddings.” And they both kind of stared at me like, you know, “What did you just say?” They didn’t say anything, that I can remember, but you know, they were taking a back, I think, “Either you just said something that we can’t believe or what, what did you say?” I said, “Yeah, I’ll make you birthday cakes, shower cakes. I’ll sell you cookies or brownies, but I just can’t create a cake to celebrate a same-sex wedding,” expecting more conversation but I didn’t get it. David stood up, stormed out of the shop, flipping me off and swearing at me loudly. I’m like, “What was that?” You know, the guy Charlie gets up and his mom apparently was sitting at one of our other tables, so they got up and went out the other door. I’m like, “What in the world just happened? I need to process this. I’m not sure what’s, what all just happened because that’s never happened before.” We’ve been in business for almost 20 years, hundreds of wedding cakes, you know, lots of happy brides and lots of other occasions that we’ve, um, made cakes for. We’ve served cakes to gays, we’ve served cakes to atheists, we’ve served cakes to anybody who comes in, but that’s just a cake that I couldn’t create. And I really hoped for more of an opportunity to explain, it’s my faith. You know, I’m glad to serve you. Um, that didn’t happen. But then about 20 minutes later, the phone rang and somebody called and I answered the phone, “Are you the baker who just turned away the gay couple?” “Like what? I would never turn away anybody.” You know, I declined to create a cake that, you know, tried to explain to this person that I couldn’t create a cake that, uh, violated my biblical view of marriage, but the man just swore at me and hung up. Like this is twice in 20 minutes that I don’t know what’s going on. My head is just spinning. Then the phone rang again and again, and again, like half a dozen times before we closed the store that night. And it was another hour after we closed that I finally left and the phone kept ringing, but I didn’t answer it. And so I closed up the shop and headed home and just went into a grocery store, a local store and thinking everybody here hates me, they’re all gonna call me, what’s going on? And God gave me a verse out of Timothy that says, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, and of power, and of a sound mind, and a sound mindset.” They don’t know you, they don’t know anything about this, I’m in control of this. And from that moment to this, I rest in fact that God’s sovereign over this whole situation.

Jim: You know what, what’s amazing Jack, as you think about this, it’s somewhat you’re living in a time warp. Because 20 years ago, this would never have popped up, right?

Jack: Right.

Jim: Um, it, your conscience rights would have been respected and people would have assumed after hearing that, that they, they would go to a different baker and find the services that they would need. And I think this is the biggest problem that we’re facing right now in the country is that, uh, the Christian community is being basically herded into, uh, a violation of their conscience, that they don’t support these things where the culture is now moved. We haven’t moved, we’ve been the same for 2000 years.

Jack: Right.

Jim: But the culture in the last 10 years has moved significantly. And now it… They make you to feel like you’re the outsider. What’s wrong with you? Even their expression in that moment. And I know your heart well enough. You love everybody. Um…

Jack: That’s why I got into retail.

Jim: Right.

Jack: I like to, I like to work with people.

Jim: And that’s not the issue. The issue is just your… You can’t be compelled to do something that violates your conscience. And I’m not sure how, how we ever are going to get to a place where everybody feels like they’re accommodated here. I don’t think it’s possible because somebody loses here, either your conscience rights, your religious conviction loses, or their right to get a cake from you loses. Now the issue there, the amazing thing is there’s plenty of bakers that will bake them that cake, but they want to make an example out of you. Uh, in that context, what have you suffered from? I know you’ve had death threats. How, how has your family responded to this? You’ve got beautiful grandkids. I mean, describe that for us, what it’s like to take a firm position, with a loving heart, in a culture that is now sending you death threats?

Jack: Well, our family is… We encourage each other. We’ve, we’ve grown collectively much stronger through this whole thing. Um, I have a nephew who has come to faith in Christ because of this situation. You know like, “Why would they be attacking my uncle? You know, he’s such a, a good guy.” You know and then from there led to, you know, faith in Christ. Um, but we encourage each other, we build each other up. But the states in the first ruling that on the way to the US Supreme Court said that if I were to continue making wedding cakes, that I had to make them for every couple that came in. So there was a choice, if you’re going to make weddings, you have to make weddings that go against your faith. And so the choice was easy, I’m not gonna make wedding cakes. And the choice was difficult at the same time, because that was a large percentage of our business.

Jim: So let’s, let’s move ahead. Uh, life continues, you’re getting harassment and we get that. And you know, again, even in our tone of voice, I think that I could get a little defensive about this because I feel, I feel for you that all you’re doing is trying to be a good Christian man and all of a sudden the whole world’s coming down on you. And, and I know like you, we as Christians need to have a heart for everybody, LGBTQ, everybody, the people who work in the abortion industry. We know that, nobody is beyond the reach of God. And it is in Romans 2:4 where it says, you know, “It’s God’s kindness that leads one to repentance.” So we want to express that, but at the same time, we’re saying, “Can you just leave us alone?” And so what happened when you got the letter informing you that, “Hey, we’re taking this up with higher authority?”

Jack: Yeah. It, it actually, when you look at the, uh, challenge at the US Supreme Court, it’s Masterpiece Cake Shop versus Colorado Civil Rights Commission. So it was the, the state coming against me, not the two men, but the two men filed a complaint with the state. And so, yeah, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission is part of the executive branch. So the governor, um, appoints the commissioners and then you go to an administrative law court, which the governor also points the judge of that administrative law court. So being a governor appointed judge, he’s part of the executive branch, he’s not part of the judicial branch. So you’re going into their courtroom with their judge and their complaint. And so, you know, you’re gonna lose. And so we did lose, but then we filed the appeal to the next step, which was to the Colorado Court of Appeals, so now you’re in the judicial system.

Jim: And in that case, what happened?

Jack: Um, they have a three-judge panel. And so ADF brought one of their staff attorneys in to help with that, and we lost three to nothing. And so we’re, we’re done unless we appeal to the Colorado, uh, Colorado State Supreme Court, which we did. And the Colorado State Supreme Court has discretion over which cases they take and they declined to take our case. And so at that point, you’re done in the state, there’s only one, one opportunity for justice left and that’s the United States Supreme Court.

Jim: So let’s get into it. You, you get the thumbs up that the Supreme Court’s gonna review the case, and how do you go about thinking about that, preparing for that, what happens?

Jack: Well, that was quite the day. Um, it was the last day of the session, they had conferenced my case, which means that they looked at my case, like a record number of times for the Supreme Court. And they would look at it, set it aside, and look at it and set it aside. So I’m waiting the entire year, pretty much from October to June, um, through the whole session and finally the last day, um, watching on my computer, a website that, uh, monitors the Supreme Court and it says that, “Masterpiece Cake Shop has been granted.” And chokes me up today, but that day I couldn’t call anybody, I couldn’t talk to anybody for awhile. You know, all I could do is text and send emails ’cause I couldn’t speak, I just lost my voice. It was such a powerful thing. But there was one person in my shop that I could share it with and it was a homeless guy who comes in. So I told him, “Hey, I get to go to the Supreme Court.” And then he looked at me and he said, yeah, “I gotta go to court on Wednesdays.” (laughs) He needed a parole officer, I didn’t. But, uh, so that started off a long string of things from, that was June of 2017 until December 5th, 2017, when we actually appeared at the court for arguments.

Jim: Yeah. So when you, you wrap it all up, Jack, I mean, these are substantial cases for the Christian community. And I know there’s gonna be division within the Christian community, let’s acknowledge that. Some people would say, “Jack just bake the cake,” and I get it. And that may be their choice, and they might embrace that as a Christian Baker, but for you, it, it was convictional. Uh, you don’t mean any ill will toward anyone, but for you as a Christian, you wanna live your faith according to the tenants of your faith.

Jack: Right.

Jim: And that’s what you were on trial for basically. What was their decision in the end and how did that play out? Because a lot of people that I talked to it was kind of, um, you know, not exactly what everybody wanted, but it was a step in the right direction.

Jack: Yeah. In the end, in June of 2018, so six months after the arguments, the court released their opinion and we won seven to two. And many people say that it was a narrow opinion, but it’s still an opinion that people, that the other courts have used in different cases. Um, just the last few weeks, um, a case involving an adoption agency in Philadelphia, Fulton Case, they referenced our case in the US Supreme Court again.

Jim: And this is why this is so important.

Jack: It is. And it’s important that, you know, Christians will stand up for what they believe because God will give us a strength and he will supply everything we need. He promises that as we go through these trials, he’s, he’s there and more than adequate to help us.

Jim: And basically they said the commission in Colorado was harassing you and your religious convictions, that was in the decision correct?

Jack: Right. The commissioners at one point in one of their meetings said that, uh, um, one of the commissioners said that, “Religious freedom was a despicable piece of rhetoric.” And joined to things in world history like the… She compared it to the Holocaust and to slavery. And the… For them to compare it to the Holocaust was specifically egregious to me because my dad fought in World War II. He fought in France, and he fought in Germany, and he fought in the Battle of the Bulge and he got a purple heart for, uh, a mortar attack, a big jagged scar on his back. They patched him up and sent him back into combat again and he ended up, uh, being part of a group that, that they have wrote a book called Concentration Camp. And he saw what concentration camp was like. And for her to compare my decision, not to create a cake that violates my faith with the horrors of the Holocaust was even too much for the Supreme Court. And they use… They held that in our favor that, uh, this commission was, um, held impermissible hostility to me and my faith and they were required to be neutral. So that hostility is one of the things that gave us the victory.

Jim: And Jack, again, this is where people can pray and you’re not the only person. I mean, there are florists that are facing this, [inaudible] actually, the woman up in Seattle, who’s lost, you know, she’s an elderly woman who’s lost all of her savings and everything else because of the conviction she didn’t want to do a same-sex wedding with the floral arrangements. And, um, the point of this is this is really good for us to pray for you. In that regard, the harassment is not ended. Uh, the lawsuits have not ended. It… There’s just something that the Lord has for you that you’ve got to be a little bewildered by like, “Lord, why am I the bullseye?” Um, but you, you overcome that and that’s what I want people to hear, how we can manage that rather than saying, “Why always me? Lord, thank you for this burden and I’m glad to move forward with it.” But do you… You put it in your words. I mean, I just know you well enough to know, I think how you’re approaching it. But the, um, hostility has not ended is the point. And you have another lawsuit pending, correct?

Jack: Well, we have to know that, you know, God is going to be faithful to us. Um, so even in our current court situation, the person that’s suing me, uh, has informed me face-to-face, and then again under oath, that if I were to win this case, or if it were to be dismissed for any reason that I would get a call the next day with another cake and we would start all over again. This person also asked us to create a cake, um, depicting Satan smoking marijuana. So these are messages that I can’t express through a cake. But we know that, you know, this battle is not gonna end, even if we go to the Court of Appeals and The Court of Appeal rules in our favor or the Supreme Court rules in our favor, these situations, aren’t gonna change because this is a, a world that, um, is lost in sin, and God has sent his son to redeem.

Jim: Yeah. You seem to be at the point of the spears, the culture’s changing, like I’ve talked about Christian universities are coming under some significant pressure to allow same-sex couples to live in their dormitories, et cetera. There’s just a, an onslaught of you better change what you believe and get with the program or you’re gonna be in court, or are you gonna be in jail, or you gonna be fined. Um, what do you think God is teaching you, and, and then teaching the rest of us in the Christian community about the country we live in, the world we live in, what faith is about?

Jack: It goes back for me to that day in my car, on my way home from work, when I surrendered my life to him. I knew that meant all of my life. I didn’t know what that would mean going, you know, 20 years down the road, 30, 40 years down the road, but I know that he’s in control of the universe, he’s going to do what’s good and what’s right, and what’s just, and, uh, he will do what’s best for his glory. And if he’s using these court situations in these other things in our life to bring him glory and, and, uh, we’re willing to do that and happy to do that because he’s so good. I can trust him with whatever he does with these situations.

Jim: How do you not get resentful or how do you deal with those feelings of resentment, which Christians are not called to be? I get that, but being human, how have you managed not lashing out at those who are trying to really do you harm?

Jack: Well, the, the two men that sued me the first time, the attorney who’s suing me now, the commissioner who said the hateful things about, about us, those are people that God created in his own image, and he desires a relationship with them as well. And if I were to lash out, I might be the only witness that they have. And if that’s what your God means to you and you want revenge on us, I don’t want any part of it. So he’s also given us then the grace to be kind and gentle and, and not defend their lifestyles or anything like that. But when people come against them to me and say hateful things about the people that are, um, suing me, my response is to be gracious in defending that these people are, are people who are creating God’s image and God wants a relationship with them, and they’re… They don’t even know me. They don’t hate me, you know.

Jim: Right. And God wants us to respond in kindness to them. But it’s, uh, so non-human to do that. Our flesh wants to lash back at them and go to war with them, and that’s not what I read in the New Testament. And you’ve been such a good example of that, Jack. Um, they have picked on the wrong guy, and I’m glad, I’m sorry for you, but I’m glad that God is using you, uh, to demonstrate his character. Uh, I can’t think of a better person, Jack, that the Lord could have put in this crucible than you. Uh, thank you for being faithful in every direction. And you’re just such a powerful witness for the Lord. Thank you so very much.

Jack: You bet.

John: Well, what a remarkable story we’ve heard today, and, um, I hope you’ve been inspired by what you’ve heard from Jack and his heart for God, his heart to stand on principle. Uh, that story is captured in this great book, The Cost of My Faith: How a Decision in My Cake Shop Took Me to the Supreme Court. And we’ll encourage you to stop by, or call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY, to get your copy. And this kind of conversation is reflective of our hearts here, uh, at Focus on the Family. Uh, we want to encourage you and your faith, and we’d love for you to join the support team. When you do today, uh, make a gift of any amount, either a monthly pledge or a one-time gift, we’ll send Jack’s book to you as our thank you, um, The Cost of My Faith: How a Decision in My Cake Shop Took Me to the Supreme Court. And donate when you call 800-A-FAMILY or stop by Well, on behalf of Jim Daly and the rest of the team here, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back as we once again, help you and your family thrive in Christ.

Today's Guests

Cover image of the book The Cost of My Faith: How a Decision in My Cake Shop Took Me to the Supreme Court

The Cost of My Faith: How a Decision in My Cake Shop Took Me to the Supreme Court

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