Colorado baker sued for refusing to make cake with an anti-gay message

A clever idea poorly executed.

Silva says the man pulled out a piece of paper with hateful 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.

“After I read it, I was like ‘No way,'” Silva said. “‘We’re not doing this. This is just very discriminatory and hateful.'”…

9NEWS has learned Bill Jack, from Castle Rock, was the customer accusing Azucar Bakery of discrimination…

“I believe I was discriminated against by the bakery based on my creed. As a result, I filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights division. Out of respect for the process, I will wait for the director to release his findings before making further comments.”

Silva, the owner of the bakery and a Christian herself, offered to bake a Bible-shaped cake and give Jack a bag of icing so that he could write whatever he wanted on it. He declined and filed a religious discrimination complaint instead. Everyone understands the point here: He’s trying to show that there’s a double standard under the law in which a Christian baker can be compelled to make a cake for a gay wedding whereas the pro-gay baker can’t be compelled to make a cake for a Christian who disapproves of homosexuality. Antidiscrimination laws are supposed to protect gays and religious believers. Two problems, though. As a pure PR matter, it was dumb to make “God hates gays” the centerpiece of his message. Most Christians I know would say it’s ludicrous to think God “hates” anyone; gay-marriage opponents are forever explaining to their critics that they don’t oppose the practice out of “hate,” they oppose it because “marriage” is a Biblically-sanctioned institution reserved for one man and one woman. Why anyone would force a splashy media showdown on tolerance and discrimination over an idea that even many Christians would reject escapes me. He’d have been better off finding a gay-owned bakery and asking them to make a cake inscribed with an Old Testament verse about the sinfulness of homosexuality. Forcing a media fight over whether the Bible itself now runs afoul of discrimination law would be PR gold.

Apart from that, what Jack was asking Silva to do isn’t quite the same thing under Colorado law as what the owner of a Christian baker is being asked to do in making a cake for a gay wedding. Here’s what one Colorado judge wrote about the latter case:

Respondents argue that if they are compelled to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, then a black baker could not refuse to make a cake bearing a white-supremacist message for a member of the Aryan Nation; and an Islamic baker could not refuse to make a cake denigrating the Koran for the Westboro Baptist Church.

However, neither of these fanciful hypothetical situations proves Respondents’ point. In both cases, it is the explicit, unmistakable, offensive message that the bakers are asked to put on the cake that gives rise to the bakers’ free speech right to refuse. That, however, is not the case here, where Respondents refused to bake any cake for Complainants regardless of what was written on it or what it looked like.

Free speech means you can’t force a baker to inscribe a cake with a message he doesn’t agree with, but free exercise does not mean that the baker can refuse to make the cake at all. If Jack wanted to make his challenge to Silva more analogous to the Christian baker/gay wedding scenario, he should have told her to leave the cake blank but mentioned that he wanted it for a church social he was organizing with the theme of “God hates gays.” Maybe Silva would have made the cake, but there are surely some bakers out there who would have refused. All Jack had to do was be persistent in finding one.

Actually, as half a dozen people on Twitter pointed out after I tweeted the link to this story, the way to make the left squirm on matters of religious conscience isn’t to have Christians demanding cakes with anti-gay messages from pro-gay bakers. That’s an easy call for liberals; gay rights are a core part of their agenda whereas, per the Hobby Lobby case, free exercise rights by Christians are … not. The way to go about this is to demand cakes with pro-gay messages from Muslim bakers — or, to avoid the problem I described above, to demand cakes from them for gay weddings. Inevitably one will refuse and then you’ll have two Victim Classes at loggerheads with religious liberty in the balance. I’m surprised a clever Christian lawyer hasn’t arranged for that test case already.

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