An Austin pastor is suing Whole Foods alleging that a bakery employee gave him a cake with an anti-gay slur written on it.
Church of Open Doors Pastor Jordan Brown said he planned to surprise his congregation members on Thursday with a cake. As he had done several times in the past, Brown said, he went to the Whole Foods flagship store on North Lamar Boulevard, approached the bakery counter and picked a blank, pre-frosted cake from the display case.
This time, he asked the bakery associate to write the words “Love Wins” with icing on the cake and waited until the employee handed him a box sealed with the store’s sticker, Brown said.
“I didn’t tell her anything about me being gay,” he said.
He paid for it, walked out the store and set the cake on the floor of the passenger seat side of his car before leaving. He didn’t look inside the box until he stopped at a stop light on Fifth Street and North Lamar Boulevard and saw the cake had the message: “Love Wins Fag” written on it, according to the lawsuit.
Brown is openly gay and is the founder of Church of Open Doors, a non-denominational Christian and LGBT-welcoming church in Southeast Austin. The message brought back memories of being bullied and humiliated over his sexual orientation, Brown said.
“This has been extremely offensive and humiliating,” he said.
Later that day, Brown spoke with a store employee about the incident, the lawsuit said. The employee eventually told him he had concluded the store had not done anything wrong, according to the lawsuit.
Brown’s attorney Austin Kaplan said they filed a lawsuit at the Travis County District court Monday after several days of unsuccessful attempts to reach the Whole Foods corporate and legal offices.
“It’s all the more frustrating and disappointing for this to happen with a company that professes to have the kind of values of inclusion, equality and tolerance that we share,” Kaplan said. “This cake contained a slur directed at the LGBT community, but the next could contain slurs directed at different races, religions, or national origins.”
Whole Foods issued a statement Monday saying: “Our team member wrote “Love Wins” at the top of the cake as requested by the guest, and that’s exactly how the cake was packaged and sold at the store. Our team members do not accept or design bakery orders that include language or images that are offensive. Whole Foods Market has a zero tolerance policy for discrimination. We stand behind our bakery team member, who is part of the LGBTQ community, and the additional team members from the store, who confirmed the cake was decorated with only the message “Love Wins.”
In the lawsuit, Brown is requesting a jury trial and is seeking unspecified damages and monetary relief for mental anguish, court costs and other expenses.
“I’m horrified that this has happened and I’m hopeful that through my actions I can protect others in the Austin LGBT community,” he said.