The Colorado Connection to Sarah Sanders's Restaurant Ejection

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders's visit to a Red Hen restaurant ended with a Colorado-flavored twist.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders's visit to a Red Hen restaurant ended with a Colorado-flavored twist.
Time via YouTube
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On Friday evening, June 22, the owner of a Red Hen restaurant in Virginia refused to serve White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders for a reason with a strong Colorado flavor: the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop, whose main man, Jack Phillips, said he wouldn't make a wedding cake for a gay couple because of his religious beliefs.

Since then, the Red Hen has been Yelp-bombed by those who feel as positively about the decision as does the administration of President Donald Trump, whose attorney general, Jeff Sessions, recently celebrated Phillips as a hero during an appearance at Denver's Western Conservative Summit. But Yelpers on the other side of the ideological divide have had their way with Masterpiece Cakeshop, too.

In recent weeks, the site has stripped dozens of negative comments about Phillips's business from the Masterpiece page and shifted the political conversation to a Yelp Talk thread in which those who disagree about the issue have gone back and forth for weeks.

This isn't the first time Yelpers have ripped Masterpiece over its stance in regard to Charlie Craig and David Mullins, the pair who asked Phillips to bake a cake for their nuptials. In July 2012, shortly after the story first broke, Yelp removed dozens of negative comments that had lowered Masterpiece's score from a four to below one.

Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop.
Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop.
Courtesy of Colorado Christian University

The phenomenon was revisited earlier this month. Here are some examples of the comments that Yelp erased.

Masterpiece Cake Shop isn't really all that great — even before the Supreme Court ruling. The point is, our lives hold few precious moments. Why entrust them to hateful folks who want to tell you how to celebrate those precious moments? I'd just avoid this like the plague unless you want a KKKake....

There's a difference in refusal to serve someone based on your personal or religious beliefs. That is bigotry, because it imposes your beliefs on another person or persons. You know like refusing to put a man and a man on top of a wedding cake. That is outright bigotry. The idea that a person may not believe in gay marriage. That is a belief. There is a systematic difference because a person is entitled to their beliefs. Clearly this place has a bigot for an owner. Next he'll be refusing to make cakes for people of color, creed and/or origin.

An imaginary person named Jesus once said, 'Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself." Some people started a religion based on this and some other nice stuff they heard he said. The owners of Masterpiece Cakeshop believe Jesus was real, but decided that the stuff he said wasn't really true and instead chose to hate some of their neighbors.

Today, there are enough positive takes about Masterpiece Cakeshop to produce a three-and-a-half-star Yelp ranking.

But there's also an "Active Cleanup Alert" from Yelp that reads in part: "This business recently made waves in the news, which often means that people come to this page to post their reactions. The best place to share your thoughts is on Yelp Talk. You are also welcome to post a review about this business, but we will ultimately remove reviews that appear to be motivated more by the news coverage itself than by the reviewer’s own customer experience with the business (even if that means removing points of view we might agree with). Please note that we apply this same policy regardless of the business and regardless of the topic at issue in order to avoid injecting our own varied viewpoints into the debate."

Charlie Craig and David Mullins, whose request for a wedding cake was refused by Masterpiece Cakeshop.
Charlie Craig and David Mullins, whose request for a wedding cake was refused by Masterpiece Cakeshop.
Denver7 file photo

At this writing, there are 98 comments on Yelp Talk about Masterpiece Cakeshop, and the majority — 56 — are from people in Colorado. We've included a sampling below.

In the meantime, the Masterpiece ruling continues to make its mark in the legal community. This morning, the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal organization that backed Masterpiece, announced that the U.S. Supreme Court has vacated a case involving "floral artist" and fellow ADF client Barronelle Stutzman and ordered a court in Washington state to reconsider its earlier determination in light of the decision about Phillips.

Continue to read the start of the Yelp Talk conversation about Masterpiece Cakeshop.
Jill S.
Philadelphia, PA

The owner of this shop refused to sell a gay couple a wedding cake on the grounds that it violated his Christian values.

Should non-secular/non-Christian business owners take a stand by not selling products or providing services to Christians for the exact same reason this cake shop refused the gay customers?

For example, a Muslim gas station owner refusing to sell gas to Christians because of their conflicting religious views. Should this be acceptable in our society?

Luchino C.
Santa Monica, CA

Jill, no this should not be acceptable in our society. The way towards anti-discrimination is not through retaliatory discrimination. Also this opens up businesses for further lawsuits and then who wins.....the lawyers.

While I disagree with the Supreme Court ruling, it is a narrow opinion that is protecting the cake baker's freedom of artistic expression. This ruling can not be used to defend businesses from refusing service to any group of individuals based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation.

Imo, the best way to approach this situation is for competing cakeshops to advertise and promote that they will bake cakes for any and ALL occasions, that they welcome business from any and all groups of people. The other thing that Denver area folks can do is go to the Masterpiece cakeshop and politely request a cake for the myriad of reasons the cakeshop owner says he will refuse to bake a cake for. Then each potential customer can leave a review indicating they were refused service and eventually the cakeshops rating will be so low that people will not want to frequent that business.

So basically, right now the option is to let market forces prevail.

Brian P.
Denver, CO

What a lot of people seem to be missing with these types of arguments is that "selling gas" isn't the same thing as creating a custom designed cake for a specific type of event.

When you go to a gas station, the business owner has no realistic way of knowing your religion or what you plan to do with the gas. In fact, in our modern age, you likely won't even have any contact with the gas station owner or any of his employees! You stick your credit card in the machine, pump your own gas and drive away.

But lets say that I walk into a bakery, one owned by a Muslim man, and I demand that he create a cake with a picture of Muhammad eating a pile of raw bacon. I also tell him that the cake will be used at a political rally to lobby the government to deport all Muslim immigrants. You think he is going to refuse to make that cake? Of course he will! I'm asking a very specific person to preform a very specific act, one that he finds offensive and will be used to support an act he personally opposes.

Remember, Jack Phillips doesn't deny service to homosexuals. They can purchase any product from him... EXCEPT for custom made wedding cakes. He is refusing to make a product that he doesn't want to make. He is not refusing service to a specific person.

The product which Jack Phillips won't create, will more than happily be created by other businesses in the same marketplace. There are several other bakeries within walking distance that will perform this same task.

To paraphrase the Supreme Court; "Tolerance is most meaningful when it is mutual."

Jill S.
Philadelphia, PA

Brian, just to be clear: The bakery sells wedding cakes, and a couple came in and asked to buy a wedding cake, and the owner refused to sell them one because they were gay. They weren't asking for anything extreme, or outside the scope of what the bakery normally provides. This wasn't an issue over customization on the cake. The owner flat out would not sell them a wedding cake, period, due to religious reasons. He did not support what the cake would be used for (a gay wedding), which is why he outright wouldn't sell them any wedding cake in any capacity.

You said "He is refusing to make a product that he doesn't want to make," but that's not true. He would have made the same product for any straight couple. That's why this is textbook discrimination.

Ivan N.
Commerce City, CO

I thought they asked for two groom dolls. Now that's discrimination...

Sarah Sanders's Twitter profile pic.
Sarah Sanders's Twitter profile pic.

Brian P.
Denver, CO

Jill, I'm sensing that you've not yet had the experience of ordering a wedding cake. It isn't quite the same as walking into King Soopers and picking up a cake off the bakery counter.

First off, most people set up the cake in advance when they are planning the wedding. This often happens months in advance as part of the planning process. Hence, you wouldn't just walk into the bakery and pick out your cake that day. It would be rock hard and moldy by the date of the wedding! For that reason, the initial meeting with the baker is not to actually obtain the cake, but to discuss the cake with the baker, notify them of the date of the wedding and where the cake needs to be delivered to. The actual couple getting married rarely even handles the cake themselves, until the actual wedding reception when they spend about 30 seconds cutting the cake and are subsequently rushed off to the next event.

Furthermore, the whole point of going to a custom bakery like Jack's is so that you CAN order a custom wedding cake. If all a person wanted was to go grab a generic one off the shelf, why wouldn't they just go buy a basic sheet cake from King Soopers? Jack might have been able to decline their request just on the basis of the fact that he doesn't just have random wedding cakes sitting on the shelf, as that isn't the way bakeries do business for weddings.

And for the record, the gay couple in this case weren't planning on getting a cake off the shelf anyway. They visited the bakery in July, the wedding was scheduled to take place in a different state in September, and a reception was going to be held in Colorado in October! So getting a cake off the shelf in July definitely wasn't an option here.

Also, let me once again reiterate; The couple was not denied service because they were gay. They were not denied service at all! Jack has repeatedly stated that homosexuals are welcome to buy products from his bakery. It is only custom wedding cakes which he will not make for the specific event of a homosexual wedding ceremony. This is no different than if someone asked Jack to make them a turkey dinner for a fancy house party and he declined. It just isn't a service he provides.

There were other bakeries happy to provide the unique service the couple was asking for, including one that was within walking distance directly across the street. This is common when you plan a wedding and want specific and unique services for your ceremony or reception. Not every business you visit will be able to fulfill all of your requests and you often end up shopping at multiple different locations before you find someone willing to do what you want at the price you are willing to pay.

This is how economics has worked since the dawn of human history... it has only been in the last few decades in America that we have come up with the idea that businesses should be forced to provide services to every person who walks through the front door...

Christopher G.
Englewood, CO

Ivan — nope not two groom dolls. They asked specifically for the same kind of cake as everyone else. They were told to take business elsewhere

After legal proceedings began the bakery "offered" a bland cake without decoration

John J.
Denver, CO

While any business has the right to refuse service to anyone, I think the Pope would be disappointed in these business owners.

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