Last year, Marjorie Silva, owner of Denver, Colorado’s Azucar Bakery, was asked by a customer to make a cake featuring homophobic language and imagery. Silva agreed to make the cake and offered to furnish decorating instruments if wanted but said that the bakery would not inscribe the cake with the offensive language. The customer, Bill Jack, subsequently filed a religious discrimination complaint against her with the Civil Rights division of the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA).
Silva says Jack pulled out a piece of paper with phrases like “God hates gays” and requested her to write them on his cakes.
He wouldn’t let employees make a copy of the paper and would not read the words out loud, Silva claims. The bakery owner also says the customer wanted an image of two men holding hands with an “X” on top.
While Silva agreed to make the Bible-shaped cake, she would not write the messages requested. This did not sit well with Jack, who believes Silva is guilty of discrimination.
In a statement to 9NEWS Jack said, “I believe I was discriminated against by the bakery based on my creed.”
Jack’s beliefs about homosexuality are no doubt informed by his religion. He is a founder of the Christian Worldview Academy, which has a very blunt mission: “helping Christians to think and to live in accord with a biblical worldview so that they will serve Christ and lead the culture.” His bio describes him as
… an educator with ten years experience in public schools and 14 years with The Caleb Campaign, a creationist youth ministry… As a founder of Worldview Academy he continues to pursue his passion to raise up a generation who have the vision to reach their culture with the gospel, who have the valor to engage that culture with the truth and who rely on the virtue of the Word of God.
It’s doubtless true, then, that his anti-LGBT sentiments are inspired, or at least supported, by his religious beliefs. Because of this, anti-LGBT activists are drawing parallels to last year’s ruling against a Christian baker who refused to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple.
There are some distinctions worth noting, however.
The first is that Silva did not apply a standard to Jack’s request that she wouldn’t to anyone else’s:
“But I wouldn’t write an anti-Christian message, either,” said Silva.
The Masterpiece Cakeshop decision involved a baker who offered wedding cakes (even for dogs) but refused to sell wedding cakes to same-sex couples. As Silva refuses to write messages advocating hate (quite literally, with phrases like “God hates gays”) in general, the denial of Jack’s request seems to have nothing to do with his religion, but with the nature of his request.
Furthermore, Masterpiece Cakeshop outright denied service. This is not the case of Azucar Bakery. As University of Denver law professor Nancy Leong notes,
“This is not a situation where a business owner denied service to somebody,” Leong said. “She offered to accommodate him to the extent that she could. In fact, requiring her to write that message would infringe on her own free speech rights.”
DORA has requested an extension as it considers the matter, so a decision is unlikely to come for a while. But I’ll be surprised if they decide that a baker is required to write a message advocating hate when they would not otherwise (or in another context) do so, just because the person requesting the hateful message does so with religious motivation.
(Image via Facebook)