Florida bakery did right by refusing to bake a hateful cake

Florida bakery did right by refusing to bake a hateful cake February 13, 2017

A judge has thrown out a case brought against a bakery by Robert Mannarino, above.
Mannarino, described here as “a US marine”, alleged that he was religiously discriminated against by Cut the Cake because the company refused his request for a cake bearing the words:

Homosexuality is an abomination unto the Lord.

During a hearing presided over by Administrative Law Judge J Bruce Culpepper, Mannarino maintained that he was a devout Christian and “reads the Bible often”.
But, the judge noted, Mannarino was “unable to provide another biblical verse from memory” when pressed to do so.
Culpepper noted that Mannarino’s claim that he is a Christian “has several weaknesses” because he does not regularly attend church or belong to a specific denomination. And Mannarino “displayed questionable knowledge about the Bible,” including the quote at the heart of the dispute.
Mannarino “emphatically declared” that the quote was “a direct quote” from the Bible” but the judge said it was not.
Furthermore, Mannarino:

Presented no direct or statistical evidence of religious discrimination. Petitioner did not offer evidence or elicit testimony that Cut the Cake refused to provide him a baked good specifically because he was a Christian. (In fact, all Cut the Cake did was quote a price for the cake, then hang up the phone without completing his order).

The bakery owners –  Sharon Haller and her daughter, Cyndol Knarr – testified that they are Christians and frequently make cakes with religious themes and biblical inscriptions but they ignored Mannarino’s request because of the “mean” and “ugly” message he wanted on the cake.
Believing Mannarino’s request for a cake to be a prank, Knarr sarcastically quoted a price of $150 per letter, bringing the cost of the confection to nearly $6,000. She hung up when Mannarino told her he was recording the call.
The bakery owners’ objections to Mannarino’s phrase had nothing to do with same-sex marriage, Knarr said.

Why would people want something so hateful on a cake in the first place? If someone asked us to write something else that was hateful on a cake, we wouldn’t.

Culpepper’s order in favour of Cut the Cake comes nearly two years after the Central Florida bakery was targeted by Arizona evangelist Joshua Feuerstein, above for refusing to make a cake decorated with the words:

We do not support gay marriage.

Hat tip: BarrieJohn

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  • John the Drunkard

    Golly! If you expect American Kuhrischuns to demonstrate actual familiarity with the Bible…they might actually try to read it.
    Would that convert them to atheism, or just make them notice that they’re illiterate?

  • As a general rule I support businesses being able to turn away business. This includes to an equal degree businesses that turn away those who want same-sex wedding cakes and businesses that turn away those who want anti-same-sex wedding cakes. Those who must have their cake will find someone else who can sell it to them, and those who choose to not take on the business can enjoy the cost and benefit of their choice.
    Judge Culpepper appears to have administered a religious test of the plaintiff. This is exactly as appropriate if the Judge had administered a gay test of a same-sex couple denied a cake. “Mr. and Mr. Smith, can you demonstrate for the court that you are in fact homosexuals? Yes, I see that you are now engaged in same-sex sexual relations on the table there, but how can the court be sure that you are in fact not play-acting?” Ridiculous? Yes, ridiculous.

  • Newspaniard

    Is that an atheist symbol on the cap of Robert Mannarino?

  • Barry Duke

    Nope, Newspaniard, the atheist symbol is an “A” within a circle (I have one tattooed on my right pectoral). The “A” on Mannarino’s cap stands for arsehole.

  • lucy1

    @trevorblake. It is a difficult one. there are mischief makers who are just determined to be victims.
    However I support the ‘if you are in business you must supply your services to all’ thing, because if not, then any minority could be turned away from a hotel, a shop etc, with ‘I choose not to serve this person’ as a valid excuse. It was how it was. ‘no blacks , no Irish’ It is better now, I think. The cake wars are the next line of conflict.

  • barriejohn

    I can’t say that I am happy about the bakery not being considered a place of “public accommodation”, but surely the case should have been thrown out if the situation was deliberately engineered by Mannarino? Anyway, as was pointed out, his request was never refused!

  • Peter Sykes

    Trevor Blake:
    Spot on!

  • Laura Roberts

    @lucy1: I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. There’s a big difference between refusing to put a specific message on a cake and refusing service to a particular class of people. I’m OK with the former, as long as the bakery doesn’t state they will write anything a client chooses. I take issue with Trevor’s claim that “those who must have their cake will find someone else who can sell it to them”. While it’s likely in a big city, I can easily imagine a gay couple being turned away by the only bakery in a small town.

  • Tim

    Should a Jewish printer be obliged by law to print material denying the Holocaust, or should he have the freedom to turn that business away? Surely the answer is yes, he should have that freedom. And if it is granted to the Jewish printer, then it should also be granted to the baker, Christian or otherwise, however much one may disagree with their reasoning.

  • John

    The nature of contract law suggests that the bargain had not been struck between the parties as the conversation was terminated before it concluded.
    This nitwit’s personal beliefs are irrelevant.
    The shop offered an “invitation to treat” but – as with all retail establishments – they do not legally have to conclude the transaction, at least in English Law.
    This is to protect them in case they were to label some item with a ludicrously low price label by mistake.
    The potential buyer cannot insist on them selling the item at the mistaken price.
    See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invitation_to_treat.
    I think the judge was wrong to bring religion into the case.
    He could have chucked the case out solely based on commercial law.

  • Laura Roberts

    @John: nice to have an actual legal reference for this, even if from outside the pertinent jurisdiction.
    @Tim: nice example! I believe my point still stands: it’s the message, not the person, that the printer would reject.