Many people have asked me how I’m feeling as I await the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in my case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. My answer changes moment by moment because my feelings are a whirlwind. More than anything, though, I wonder if there will be a place in the community for me when the dust settles. Will this big, diverse country of ours still have room for me and the millions of others who share my beliefs about marriage?
At times, my concerns are quite specific. I consider whether I’ll ever again get to do the wedding art that I loved. Will I get to see that gleam in a bride’s eye when my cake design captures her vision for the big day?
Will my shop survive the 40 percent loss of business that we suffered when the government forced us to decide to stop designing wedding cakes? Or will everything that my wife and I worked for be gone?
I also wonder whether the people who have taken an interest in my case truly understand who I am and how I operate. It’s really quite simple: I serve everyone, but I can’t create custom cakes that express messages or celebrate events in conflict with my faith. That is why I told the gentlemen who are suing me that, even though I couldn’t design a custom cake to celebrate their same-sex marriage, I’d be happy to sell them anything else in my shop or create a cake for them for another occasion.
Everyone is welcome in my shop — be it homeless folks (many of whom I’ve befriended over coffee, cookies and conversation), the two men who are suing me, or anyone else who finds their way in. The God that I serve, whose arms are open to all, expects that of me, and it is my joy to obey Him. But creating a cake that celebrates a view of marriage in conflict with my faith is not something that I can do.
It is troubling to imagine what the future looks like for me and the millions of others — whether Muslims, Orthodox Jews or fellow Christians — who believe as part of their faith that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. After years of my state telling me that I must hide, ignore or reject that belief, my sense is that we just don’t belong anymore.
The government’s hostility toward my beliefs has spread through pockets of my community. My life and the lives of my family have been threatened repeatedly. Last year, one man swore that he’d shoot me in the head, and another threatened to kill me with a machete — all for declining to create a wedding cake. The threats and harassment have been so bad at times that my wife has been too afraid to set foot in our shop.
If the Supreme Court rules against me, I fear it will only get worse. The law, I’ve come to learn, not only dictates what you may do, but it also teaches what you ought to do. If the highest court in the land banishes my beliefs from the marketplace, that will embolden others to continue treating me with scorn and contempt.
That sort of ruling will also exclude people who share my beliefs from certain artistic work and creative professions. I shudder to think what I’d say if my granddaughter one day tells me that she wants to design wedding cakes like I did. I guess I’ll tell her that she must choose between the faith we taught her and the wedding-cake artistry I showed her.
But if the court upholds my freedom to serve all people while declining to design cakes that celebrate certain events, that would welcome me back into the community from which I’ve been estranged. Those who are opposing me in court have compared me to racists and argued that I’m deserving of their fate — social marginalization. But a ruling for me would reject all that and declare to the world that my faith is not a scarlet letter.
We all want to belong. I’m no different. The Supreme Court’s decision in my case will say a lot about the First Amendment. But I sure hope the court makes it clear that I belong, too.
Jack Phillips is the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado.