A Colorado bakery is being accused of discrimination and investigated after refusing to make Bible-shaped cakes that included anti-gay wording — a somewhat different scenario from what is typically seen when Christian bakers refuse to make cakes for same-sex weddings, but one that will certainly invoke debate over the free speech rights of business owners.
Problems began for the Azucar Bakery in Denver back in March 2014, when customer Bill Jack requested that at least one of his cakes include the words "God hates gays," shop owner Marjorie Silva told USA Today.
Silva also said that the man wanted to include an image of two men holding hands, but after she saw the design concepts she declined to include the anti-gay wording or the image of the men, instead offering to make the Bible-shaped cakes without those elements.
"After I read it, I was like 'No way,'" Silva told USA Today. "'We're not doing this. This is just very discriminatory and hateful.'"
But Jack, who is the founder of a Christian organization known as Worldview, didn't take too kindly to that refusal, filing a complaint against Azucar Bakery with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, sparking a religious discrimination investigation into the incident. If it is determined that discrimination did, indeed, occur, the case against the bakery will move on to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for additional scrutiny.
Silva told USA Today that the discrimination claim is unfair, though, as she believe "he was the one that [was] discriminating."
When KUSA-TV inquired to find out why Jack had requested the cakes from the bakery and what messaging he had asked to be included on them, he declined to answer, instead issuing a short statement affirming his belief that he was "discriminated against."
"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," he said. "Out of respect for the process, I will wait for the director to release his findings before making further comments."
As the investigation forges on, at least one representative with a conservative, Christian group that opposes gay marriage has come out in support of the bakery. Jeff Johnston, issues analyst at Focus on the Family, a group based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, told the Christian Post that he supports Azucar Bakery based on First Amendment principles.
"This is a free speech issue, and we support freedom of speech. It's also a religious or conscience issue — the government should not force people to violate their core beliefs," Johnston told the outlet. "Just as a Christian baker should not be required to create a cake for a same-sex ceremony, this baker should not be required to create a cake with a message that goes against her conscience."
The case against Azucar Bakery allows for a different look at an issue TheBlaze has covered in recent months: whether faith-based businesses should be exempt from offering services for same-sex marriages. Only, in this case, the bakery seemingly opposed anti-gay messaging that was brought by a Christian.
The free speech debate surrounding this issue often attracts unexpected bedfellows. Consider Kathy Trautvetter, a lesbian who founded printing company BMP T-Shirts in 2003 with her partner, Kathy. She told TheBlaze last year that both women believe that businesses shouldn’t be forced by the government to violate their religious conscience.
Trautvetter has been vocal about her views surrounding an ongoing debate involving Blaine Adamson, owner of Hands on Originals, a Kentucky-based T-shirt company, that refused to print shirts for a gay pride festival in 2012, offering support to the printer, despite disagreeing with his views on homosexuality.
“The idea is that when you own your own business, it’s your own art and creation — it’s very personal … it takes a long time to build a business,” she said at the time. “When someone wants to force you to go against it — that’s what stuck me right in the heart. I really felt for Blaine.”