Cake Wars the Sequel

In this Jan. 20, 2015 photo, bakery owner Marjorie Silva stands for a photo inside her own Azucar Bakery, in Denver. Silva is
In this Jan. 20, 2015 photo, bakery owner Marjorie Silva stands for a photo inside her own Azucar Bakery, in Denver. Silva is facing a discrimination complaint with Colorado’s Civil Rights Division because she refused to write hateful words about gays on a cake for a customer. (AP Photo/Ivan Moreno)

There seems to be a widespread ignorance of the two different issues being debated in the so-called "cake wars."

If one is looking for ignorance, then Breitbart is a good place to start. Thomas Williams, a theologian, writes there:

In a bizarre new twist on the religious liberty front, Colorado officials have determined that bakeries must cater to proponents of gay marriage but are not legally obliged to decorate cakes with Bible verses.

What happened was that a fundamentalist Christian contacted Azucar Bakery and wanted them to bake a cake, which they agreed to do. He then wanted them to write anti-gay messages on the cake. Azucar said they would not, so he filed a discrimination complaint, which he lost.

Anti-gay activist Bill Jack screamed "hypocrisy" at the Colorado authorities, "Colorado prosecuted Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop for bringing his Christian faith to bear in his decision not to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, yet business owners who decide to refuse service to a Christian wanting Bible verses on cakes are exonerated by the state."

In a race toward ignorance, Fox News and Todd Starnes are not about to be left behind. Starnes quotes the hypocritical Alliance Defending (sic) Freedom, "'The commission's inconsistent rulings mean that the owners of these three cake shops may run them according to their beliefs, while Jack cannot,' ADF attorney Jeremy Tedesco said."

Not satisfied in allowing ADF to monopolize the distortion, Starnes says, "If the owner of Azucar Bakery can run her business according to her beliefs - why can't the owner of the Masterpiece Cakeshop?"

So, are the rulings inconsistent, as ADF says? Or is ADF distorting facts once again?

Well, the ruling isn't inconsistent. As for ADF, perhaps they should rebrand themselves as The Alliance Distorting Facts.

Both rulings made the same distinction, one that Williams, Jack, ADF and Starnes are ignoring.

Masterpiece Cakes refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple. The issue was not about the message on the cake, but the customer. Colorado ruled against Masterpiece.

Azucar Bakery agreed to sell Jack a cake, but said he would have to add anti-gay messages himself. ABC Denver reported:

Marjorie Silva, the owner of the bakery, told Jack that she would make him the bible-shaped cakes, but would not decorate them with the biblical verses and the image of the groomsmen that he requested. Instead, she offered to provide him with icing and a pastry bag so he could write or draw whatever messages he wished on the cakes.

The Colorado Civil Rights Division ruled in favor of Azucar.

Masterpiece Cakes refused to sell a cake because the clients were gay, not because they were asked to add a message endorsing gay marriage. In the Azucar case, there was no discrimination against the buyer; there was only a refusal to add a message.

Anyone who read the original ruling in Masterpiece would know how the Azucar case would come out. The courts are ruling consistently. In Masterpiece they said:

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.

A baker cannot tell a Westboro Baptist member they will not sell him a cake because of his religion, but they can refuse to add, "God hates fags" on it. In those areas that also protect gay customers -- all areas protect religious people -- a Christian baker can't refuse to sell a cake to gay customers, but he can refuse to write an affirmative message on it.

There is no inconsistency. Azucar was decided on precisely the same principle as Masterpiece. The difference is that Azucar was willing to sell a cake to the client, where Masterpiece refused to do so. Azucar was asked to add a message, which they refused, while Masterpiece wasn't.

Discrimination laws protect Christians far more than gays in this country. They restrict a business owner from refusing to serve certain protected classes. At the same time the 1st Amendment protects free speech, and free speech includes the right not to speak.

Who is buying the cake is one issue. Both Azucar and Masterpiece were required to follow the same rule in regards to the customer. No baker can be compelled to add a message, and both Azucar and Masterpiece were held to the same standard there as well.

That the Religious Right fails to make the distinction seems intentional. In their campaign to paint fundamentalist Christians as persecuted victims, they have to lie in the name of the "greater good." No matter what you think about laws on discrimination, it just doesn't help public discourse to lie about the facts.