AUSTIN - Austin-based grocer Whole Foods Market is being sued after an openly gay pastor alleged a cake he ordered from the flagship store on North Lamar Boulevard contained a gay slur.
The three-letter word written on the cake has incited much emotion.
"For me, it was humiliating," said Jordan Brown. "The feeling that I had just resurfaced a bunch of painful memories."
Brown is the Founder and Pastor of Austin's Church of Open Doors. He said last Thursday he went to the Downtown Whole Foods store to get a cake for a member of his congregation. He asked the bakery employee to write "Love Wins" on it.
Brown said it took about five minutes, then he paid for the cake and left the store.
"I was rushing out," said Brown. "I have ordered multiple personalized cakes there before and I've never had a problem, an issue. And so I didn't think anything of it. 'Love Wins' is an easy, simple word."
Brown said while he was at the stoplight near the store, he noticed an additional word on the cake, a gay slur. He said he was too upset to go back into the store so instead he drove home where he shot a video of the cake box and says the label is still on it. Brown also called the store manager and said he was initially offered a gift card, but the manager said he would need to call him back. When he did, Brown said the manager told him there was nothing they could do for him.
"I checked with my client and, like me, he doesn't have icing at home," said Austin Kaplan, Brown's attorney. Kaplan said he and his client reached out to Whole Foods, but didn't get a response. So Monday afternoon, they filed a lawsuit against the grocer.
Whole Foods denies the claim and sent KVUE News the following statement on the incident:
"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.”"
Whole Foods added that "no team members, including the cashier who rang the guest up, saw this word on the cake."
Kaplan said his client isn't lying.
"He didn't do it. Simply he received the cake that way and if you look at the cake you can see that the icing is the same color and the same handwriting throughout the cake," said Kaplan.
"As a pastor and proud member of the LGBT community, I find it absolutely necessary to make a stand for what is right," said Brown. "At this time I am requesting that Whole Foods makes the necessary internal changes to ensure this never happens again."
In addition to that request, Brown is suing for emotional distress. The lawsuit does not specify a monetary amount.
"It's more than just a cake. The words that you say have the potential to speak life or death in somebody's life and so given an opportunity, you should always be speaking life," Brown said.
He also added he has forgiven the person who wrote the slur on the cake.
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