Another cake shop in legal trouble for refusing to make cake for gay wedding

A cake shop owner in Colorado finds himself in legal trouble after refusing to make a cake for a gay wedding. Although participating in a gay wedding goes against his Christian beliefs, he says that he has no problem serving gay people otherwise. The Colorado attorney general filed the complaint against him on behalf of the gay couple that ordered the cake. According to an Associated Press report:

The complaint seeks to force Masterpiece Cakeshop to “cease and desist” the practice of refusing wedding cakes for gay couples, and to tell the public that their business is open to everyone.

If Phillips loses the case and refuses to comply with the order, he would face fines of $500 per case and up to a year in jail, his attorney said.

“It would force him to choose between his conscience and a paycheck. I just think that’s an intolerable choice,” Martin said.

Here we have another instance that puts on full display how religious liberty is being threatened by the legal redefinition of marriage and by treating homosexuals as a protected class. If this complaint stands, this cake-shop owner will have to choose between being faithful to his conscience and going out of business.

I have already noted several other stories like this one, and I expect we will see many more in the future. Christians are going to have to navigate some tough ethical questions in the coming days. I believe that many Christian business owners will be able serve homosexuals and do so with a good conscience. For many owners, relationships with such customers may very well be the context for their ongoing Christian witness to them. For a Christian selling hamburgers, providing goods and services is a no-brainer. But for the Christian wedding planner, there will likely be a different moral calculus. And there’s the rub.

The key issue that will weigh on the Christian conscience is whether providing a good or a service might be construed as approving homosexuality or the sinful fiction known as gay “marriage.” That’s why the cake shop owner in this case is happy to serve gay people but not to participate in their wedding celebration. His conscience dictates a course of action that may very well run him afoul of the legal authorities. These are exactly the kinds of cases that are going to test the limits of religious liberty in coming days. Get ready.

19 Responses to Another cake shop in legal trouble for refusing to make cake for gay wedding

  1. Chris Ryan June 12, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

    To be honest I think everyone should be treated equally. We’re all God’s children. Nobody should be discriminated against. So I actually believe that homosexuals should be a protected class, esp when it comes to employment, housing and accommodations.

    That being said, this is an extreme interpretation of the anti-discrimination laws. In a free country gays should be able to marry if they please, but Christians shouldn’t have to personally support it.

    Just as the 14th Amendment demands that we treat everyone equally, the 1st Amendment demands that we give everyone room to express their conscience. Sauce for the goose & sauce for the gander, as Mitt Romney might say, lol…

  2. buddyglass June 12, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

    “For a Christian selling hamburgers, providing goods and services is a no-brainer.”

    What if the hamburgers are for the reception after a same-sex marriage ceremony?

  3. Ian Shaw June 12, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

    If the 14th Amendment is so important for treating all people equally, abortion would therefore be considered murder by courts. Except not all people are created equal, if you ask those that are pro-abortion.

  4. Ian Shaw June 12, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

    I have a feeling that more and more bakers will either be fined, jailed or go out of business. What I really don’t understand is, if a wedding cake is all the homosexual couple want, why don’t they just go to another baker? Why waste the time filing a complaint with the state and punitively go after an entreprenuer for his/her conscience? Why not just find another baker? Why single out and target someone who isn’t willing to compromise their beliefs for profit? You see where their true motives lie.

    Can these bakers join together and form some kind of a faith-based/non-profit consortium and file for 501(C) status? I guess that would be a first among bakers, huh?

    This will go beyond wedding cakes. Large corporations that mandate/force employee’s to do volunteer hours at different organizations that support the certain agendas, will start firing those that refuse. As Obi-Wan Kenobi once said, “I have a bad feeling about this.”

    • buddyglass June 13, 2013 at 1:36 am #

      It’s the same rationale used to force operators of public accommodations to refrain from discriminating against, say, African Americans.

      If a racist cake shop owner won’t sell to a mixed-race couple for their wedding, can’t they just go find a different cake shop?

      Do we need such laws? Maybe, maybe not. But we (as a society) seem to be okay with them when it comes to other classes of individuals.

  5. James Bradshaw June 12, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

    Ian: Personally, if I and my partner were denied such services, we’d simply look elsewhere. I don’t believe in forcing people to act in a way that may violate their own conscience.

    That being said, I would ask this baker if:
    1) they have knowingly provided services to heterosexuals who are seeking unbiblical first marriages or subsequent remarriages or interfaith marriages that would be rejected by the pastor of their church
    2) why providing food implies they are complicit in anything to begin with

    Providing products to a customer does not imply that the provider is endorsing the buyer or their actions in most circumstances that I can think of.

    • Michael Lynch June 12, 2013 at 7:09 pm #

      What is an unbiblical first marriage? Subsequent marriages are not necessarily unbiblical (as I’ve said before, you need to do your homework on this if you want to keep using it). And as far as interfaith (or any of these situations), it’s not the baker’s job litmus test every wedding. But if the baker is clearly presented with a job for a “marriage” that goes against the God’s design in creation (even unbelievers marrying is keeping with that design), the baker should reject the job. The baker should be free to discriminate.

      • James Bradshaw June 12, 2013 at 10:14 pm #

        Michael writes: “The baker should be free to discriminate.”

        For any reason whatsoever so long as the discrimination is on “religious” grounds?
        Are there no reasonable limitations on this?

        What about those who, on religious grounds (rightly or wrongly), object to interracial couplings? Should they be free to discriminate and deny services to such couples? Why or why not?

        I’m not denying that there are legitimate claims on both sides here. I’m just asking how the law should give proper consideration to the rights of both parties.

        It seems to me that to reject one completely in favor of the other is an injustice (in either way).

        • Michael Lynch June 13, 2013 at 6:54 am #

          Racism is repugnant and stupid. If a business owner refused service to someone one the grounds of race, they should be free to do so. I believe they would be putting themselves out of business. But being free to discriminate allows someone like a baker to refuse making goods (knowingly) for a Klan meeting or a Church of Satan picnic. No one would have a problem with this baker in these cases.

  6. Jason Kates June 12, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    I never understand why these things have to end up as big issues. The cake maker has a right to say no. The cake buyers have dozens of other options. Just go somewhere else for your cake. Kudos to the cake maker for not only standing firm in his convictions, but for not making a big issue of this.

  7. Micah Terry June 12, 2013 at 6:26 pm #

    I guess the main question I have is why does this baker’s conscience prevent him from making a cake for a gay wedding while my conscience wouldn’t prevent me from doing the same (I’ve never been in this position but I anticipate that I wouldn’t have a problem with it)? We are both professing Christians…it seems strange that God would lead us different ways on the same issue (although I’m sure there is Biblical precedent for this). Heck, maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t see how baking a cake in any way condones anything. Now, I would feel differently if the issue was being asked to perform the ceremony. Not sure where I’d draw the line….somewhere in between baking a cake and officiating the wedding.

    To respond to the points brought up by Ian and Jason as to why the cake buyers are making a big deal of this instead of just going somewhere else, I imagine it has to do with what they feel is discriminatory treatment. If i try to put myself in their shoes, i guess I might respond the same way if, for example, the cake owner told me he wouldn’t sell me a cake b/c I was overweight and he didn’t feel I needed any cake. I’m not sure the analogy is perfect, but in this situation I would be tempted to push the issue legally rather than just moving on to another cake store. Maybe it would be an emotional response as opposed to a logical response based on my libertarian ideals, but if i’m honest with myself i’d say there’s a good chance this is how I’d respond.

  8. BigDaddyWeave June 12, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

    Denny,

    From a perspective of Christian ethics, what is ithe difference between the baker and the caterer?

    Are those for-profit businesspersons somehow different than say, the owner of a furniture store where a same-sex couple is seeking to purchase a bed?

    I just don’t see a compelling case to protect the conscience claims of those in the for-proft sector who are providing goods and services. You and your conservative brethren talk about slippery slopes a good bit. Isn’t this a slippery slope? If we exempt the baker from having to serve a same-sex couple, where does that take us? Signs out-front of businesses owned by Christian conservatives that conveys the message “No Gays Served”? [This isn’t a far-fetched statement either, Douglas Laycock argues in favor of such an arrangement in the book Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty published by Beckett Fund back in 2008]

    • Denny Burk June 12, 2013 at 11:45 pm #

      I think you’re asking the right question, and I don’t think that such cases are all going to be clear-cut–including the one I referenced in this post. In fact, I’m sure there will be other Christian bakers who would provide the cake and do so with a clear conscience.

      But in this case, the man’s conscience–rooted in his religious conviction–is telling him not to participate in this gay wedding by providing the cake for it. Are you saying that there is no religious liberty issue at stake in this case?

  9. Brett Cody June 13, 2013 at 8:50 am #

    There is a knee-jerk reaction that I want to try avoiding here. I want to avoid saying the baker is well within his right simply because I know where it could end up. If the baker is refused the right to refuse service to the homosexual couple, then what about the clergy? What is to stop the couple from bringing a minister before the courts?
    On the other hand, allowing the baker to refuse them on the grounds of religious liberty could lead to a pendulum swing in the other direction.
    I do have some questions for both parties:
    To the couple: What is it that you are fighting for in this legal battle? Can your “marriage” exist without everyone’s approval–down to the guy who baked the cake?
    What about this baker baking your cake is such a mandate? It seems like you are saying by your lawsuit that him baking your cake is indeed an endorsement of your “marriage.”
    To the baker: What is it you are defending in this legal battle? If you are defending your right by saying it goes against your moral religious code, then why are you participating in an economy filled with people who, by serving, would feel a sense of endorsement of their particular lifestyle? How private is your private business?

  10. Ian Shaw June 13, 2013 at 9:17 am #

    Brett, that even goes back to a case a few years ago about a priest refusing to offer the Lord’s Supper to an openly gay woman at her father’s funeral (I think). It might not have been good timing, but offering the Lord’s Supper to someone who is in open rebellion to God clearly conflicts with (that) church’s teachings. Could there be a balance, I suppose, but it’s not an easy conclusion. Unfortunately, these lawsuits are further proof that it’s not just tolerance that is wanted but acceptance/approval. Those are 2 completely different things. That is the way things are being pushed. If you don’t approve of what I do, you’re a bigot. It’s “live and let live…unless you have some moral ground against what I’m doing and then you’re closed minded”. That’s the attitude towards anyone the disagrees with it. These lawsuits are the same lawsuits that pro-homosexual marriage groups said were absurd and would never happen and those of us that warned about them were called morons.

    To your question to the baker, providing goods and services for day-to-day transactions does not give endorsement of every clients lifestyles as the purpose of the transaction is unknown. A baker being called to provide goods for a specific event that is known to conflict with ones conscience can exercise his/her right to refuse service as providing services would endorse a behavior not consistent with his/her beliefs.

    We are inching every closer to the day where pastors will be brought before courts because they refused to marry people, which conflicts with their church’s beliefs/scripture. Churches will be sued under discriminatory reasons, stripping their tax-exempt status and be forced underground.

    @buddyglass-to equate ones ethnicity/skin color to being homosexual is not an equal correlation. Many african-americans have publically spoken about this comparison and do not buy into what you’re selling.

    • buddyglass June 13, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

      I’m not equating homosexual practice and ethnicity in a universal sense. I’m making the point that the same rationale for why minorities aren’t just expected to “go to a different cake shop” is what’s being invoked in this case. Economic inconvenience. Not being full participants in the economy. Etc.

  11. Ian Shaw June 13, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    But based on your context just now, you’re still coming across saying, “well, you can’t tell blacks to go to a different bakery, so why can you get away with telling that to homosexuals?” Isn’t discrimination based on something that a person has no ability to change? But then, many people don’t want sexual orientation being equated as the same as skin color.

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