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Colorado Baker Jack Phillips Reveals How He Became a Christian in New Interview

05-12-2021
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Jack Phillips. (Image credit: Faithwire)

For nearly a decade, Colorado confectioner Jack Phillips has drawn the ire of many LGBT activists over his Christian convictions.

The baker has been caught up in controversy since 2012 when a gay couple from Colorado made plans to be legally married in Massachusetts before heading back to the Centennial State to celebrate their nuptials with family and friends.

As part of the festivities, the same-sex pair ordered a cake from Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood. Ultimately, though, Phillips declined to bake the themed cake because doing so would violate his sincerely held beliefs about marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

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The couple filed a lawsuit against Phillips and, many years later, the small business owner found himself before the Supreme Court, where the justices ruled in his favor in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

Despite the 2018 victory, Phillips is now mired in another legal dispute over his refusal in 2017 to bake a cake celebrating a gender identity transition for attorney Autumn Scardina, who has admitted her request was nothing more than a “challenge” to see what Phillips would do.

Faithwire recently spoke with Phillips, author of the forthcoming memoir The Cost of My Faith: How a Decision in My Cake Shop Took Me to the Supreme Court, about his new book, his personal faith, and his thoughts on the future of religious liberty in the United States.

Some of his answers have been lightly edited for clarity.

Did you ever imagine you would become a household name?

No, when I opened the cake shop, I just wanted to help people celebrate, create artistic cakes, and make a living and enjoy what I do. So, no, this was the farthest thing from my mind.

Why did you decide to tell your story now through a book?

When I was first approached about writing a book, “The Cost of My Faith,” I decided to do it for my kids and my grandkids. I wanted them to know the clear, true story of what actually happened because it’s not that easy to go online and find all the — you can find any story you want — but find the one that actually is true.

Many in the media have misconstrued who you are, suggesting you don’t serve people in the LGBT community. That’s not the case, as you know. Can you tell us a little bit more about the nuance of what you actually believe and what you do and don’t do?

I serve everybody at Masterpiece Cakeshop. We have people from all walks of life. The neighborhood’s changed some, and there are homeless people who come in all the time, people of all religions, different faiths, different gender identities.

In fact, when we were just on trial in March, a gay man named Mike Jones testified on our behalf that I always treated him with great respect and served him everything he needed. But I can’t create every cake people ask me to create.

Can you tell us a little about your faith journey, how you came to be a Christian and why you believe what you believe?

I grew up going to church and not paying any attention to it. I’m not sure if this stayed in the book, but there was a time growing up when I thought David and Goliath and Moses and Jesus all lived at the same time, at the same place, just different sides of town. It just didn’t make sense, and I didn’t really care.

But as I grew older, in my mid-twenties, I was headed home from work one day and the Holy Spirit confronted me in my car that I was a sinner and needed a savior, and I knew that to be true. And I knew that savior was Jesus Christ and there was no other salvation available anywhere.

I submitted to His rule and reign right there. It was an easy choice but a difficult one at the same time, because, right after, I had to explain this sudden change in my life to my wife, and I didn’t think that would go very well. That was an interesting and life-changing conversation as well.

How did the idea to start a cake shop come about? What was the original motivation to get into this kind of business?

When I graduated from high school, I needed a job, and the man who lived across the street from me owned a large, wholesale bakery with like 100 employees and conveyor belts full of doughnuts and Danish. He was gracious enough to hire me and, within a short time, I found that I really enjoyed working in a bakery. In fact, I thought, “Maybe someday I’ll open my own bakery.”

But it wasn’t until a couple of years down the road when he bought out another bakery and brought in some cake decorators, I knew with my art background, my love for art, that I could join my love for baking and my love for art and create my own bakery. And I knew, even then, before I had any money or really a business plan that it would be called “Masterpiece Cakeshop.”

You wouldn’t come to my shop looking for a loaf of bread or a pie. You would hopefully come in looking for an artistic cake, and that was my goal: to help people celebrate by using the cake as a canvas.

Another part of that “Masterpiece” reminds me — even to this day — every time I write “Masterpiece Cakeshop” that Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount said, “No man can serve two masters,” and so when I come in each day, I think, “Who am I gonna serve today?” And I want my life to reflect my serving of Jesus Christ in everything I do.

As a Christian, you know God uses all things for His glory. How has God used what you’ve gone through?

The first thing that comes to my mind with that question is my family. This is a very small bakery. My wife and I own it, my daughter works here, my other two kids have worked here at different points in time. It’s helped our family grow together, so that’s been a great blessing.

Then people will come in and they want to see, “Who’s this guy? I was in the area or I came across town just to see what this cake shop is all about.” And I get to share my faith with them sometimes or just explain the cakes and make it clear I serve everybody, it’s just there are certain cakes that I can’t create because of the message they convey.

Not many people know what it’s like to be part of a Supreme Court case. Could you give us a picture of what that was like in 2018?

Well, you know, you hear somebody say, “I’m gonna sue you. I’m gonna take you all the way to the Supreme Court.” But that’s just not the way it works.

The Supreme Court gets petitioned with 8,000 to 10,000 cases a year, and they’re only gonna take 70 or 80. They’re very selective over which ones they choose, and for them to choose our case was just incredibly awesome.

Sitting in that room, watching the justices file in, hearing all the questions, hearing all the answers, and just knowing the importance of this case… I realized a long time ago this was not about, “Let’s hope we get Jack back to making wedding cakes.” This was a case that hopefully will continue to help every American have the right to work and live according to their conscience without fear of punishment from the government.

When the court ruled in our favor, that was tremendous.

What do you make of the future of religious liberty in the United States?

I wouldn’t have paid attention to it 10 years ago, period. I just don’t watch news or politics. But now that I’ve been through this — and am still going through it — we need to protect these rights. The government, that’s supposed to be their job to protect our constitutional rights. We need to make sure that’s done.

What are your interests and hobbies outside the cake shop?

My daughter who works for me has three daughters — six, nine, and 12. And so they’re part of my life all the time. I spend a lot of time with them. When I get free time, I like to go hiking, being outdoors, that kind of thing.

I don’t sit and listen to conservative radio, talk shows, anything like that. People give me all the news I need to know and I’ll look up what I don’t. But then, that’s part of the reason why I wrote “The Cost of My Faith,” because you can look up and find any story you wanna back. So I wanted to write this for my kids and grandkids to have a true understanding of what actually happened.

When you look back on your life, what do you want your legacy to be for your kids and grandkids?

I would like for them to look and not say that I was a big political guy but that I was a follower of Jesus Christ and did my best in my work and family and life and all of my relationships to reflect that relationship with the savior of the world.

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