Dispute over Bible cake with gay slurs raises charge of religious discrimination

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. Ivan Moreno, AP

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.Ivan Moreno, AP

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.

DENVER — A dispute over a cake in Colorado raises a new question about gay rights and religious freedom: If bakers can be fined for refusing to serve married gay couples, can they also be punished for declining to make a cake with anti-gay statements?

A baker in suburban Denver who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding is fighting a legal order requiring him to serve gay couples even though he argued that would violate his religious beliefs.

Bill Jack of Castle Rock, Colo., says he "was discriminated against" when Azucar Bakery refused to write gay slurs on a Bible shaped cake.

Bill Jack of Castle Rock, Colo., says he “was discriminated against” when Azucar Bakery refused to write gay slurs on a Bible shaped cake.

But now a separate case puts a twist in the debate over discrimination in public businesses, and it underscores the tensions that can arise when religious freedom intersects with a growing acceptance of gay couples.

Marjorie Silva, owner of Denver’s Azucar Bakery, is facing a complaint from a customer alleging she discriminated against his religious beliefs.

According to Silva, the man who visited last year wanted a Bible-shaped cake, which she agreed to make. Just as they were getting ready to complete the order, Silva said the man showed her a piece of paper with hateful words about gays that he wanted written on the cake.

He also wanted the cake to have two men holding hands and an X on top of them, Silva said.

She said she would make the cake, but declined to write his suggested messages on the cake, telling him she would give him icing and a pastry bag so he could write the words himself. Silva said the customer didn’t want that.

“It’s just horrible. It doesn’t matter if, you know, if you’re Catholic, or Jewish, or Christian, if I’m gay or not gay or whatever,” said Silva, 40, adding that she has made cakes regularly for all religious occasions. “We should all be loving each other. I mean there’s no reason to discriminate.”

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Discrimination complaints to Colorado’s Civil Rights Division, which is reviewing the matter, are confidential. Silva said she would honor the division’s policy and would not share the correspondence she has received from state officials on the case. KUSA-TV reported the complainant is Bill Jack of Castle Rock, a bedroom community south of Denver.

In a statement to the television station, Jack said he believes he “was discriminated against by the bakery based on my creed.”

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