Recipe for a Wedding Cake

 

In his famous poem “Ozymandias,” Percy Bysshe Shelley describes the head of the tyrant’s statue lying in the desert sand:

Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

Ozymandias’ nameless sculptor had one thing in common with his innumerable brother sculptors, painters, and other artists throughout the ages: he was not well-positioned to turn down the job. Had he suggested to the king’s agent that his religion and his conscience really did not permit him to honor the king with his artistic talents, presumably the sculptor’s head would have hit the sand long before the king’s statue did.

But the sculptor also had one advantage in common with his brethren before and after him and that was his art. Shelley doesn’t tell us anything about whether Ozymandias liked his statue, with its “sneer of cold command.” Perhaps a guy like Ozymandias found it becoming – sweet actually. But whatever the case, the stone lasted as long as memory of the tyrant did and communicated across time what a schmuck its molder recognized Ozymandias to be.

And therein lies, I think, an answer to the conundrum in which those of today’s bakers in America who oppose same-sex marriages on religious grounds find themselves.

A California Superior Court recently ruled that Tastries Bakery owner Cathy Miller was within her First Amendment Right to free speech when she refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple because she could not “be a part of a celebration that goes against my Lord and Savior.” Interestingly the court so-ruled even though the engaged couple did not ask for any wording to be placed on the cake.

Miller naturally agreed – as most bakers in these situations do – that the couple was free to buy any cake that was already made and sitting in the store display cases. But when a gay couple requests you to produce a symbol of the joy of their union they are effectively asking you – the artist – to sanction that union. This is the same as the core issue of recognition of gay marriage by a religion or a state or a community: God or the state or the participants are basically saying it’s okay for two men or two women to get married. And when the state (to which you unavoidably belong) sanctions gay marriage it is basically saying that, whether you like it or not, it’s okay by you too.

But even if, as a baker and against your wishes, the state sanctions gay marriage, it is a step further to demand that you use your art in service of that recognition. Hence the entirely reasonable First Amendment ruling that such bakers cannot be forced into baking that cake.

Unfortunately, it is utterly unclear if this ruling will stand. When it comes to frowns and wrinkled lips and stares of cold command some of the more emphatic in the radical gay movement don’t concede any ground to the pitiful likes of Ozymandias. The Supreme Court heard arguments in December on a related wedding cake issue and a ruling is expected in June. Supposing that this or a subsequent ruling finds that the bakers have no choice, that they have to bake the damn cake, what then? They’re back, essentially, where Ozymandias’s sculptor was.

But don’t they, after all, have the same artistic avenue open to them as he did? If the cake decorator is asked for a cake for a gay wedding, if indeed he or she is allowed any artistic expression whatsoever, why cannot the artist simply represent, in the cake, the artists’ feelings about the marriage? Hell-fire icing, black crosses, unflattering figurines – it could be blatant or it could be subtle. Here’s your cake. Money back guarantee. Could the courts force the baker not only to provide and decorate a cake but to express in that decoration a message that the baker disagrees with? Surely that violates First Amendment rights.

I suspect that most devoted Christian bakers would find this solution unsatisfactory. But why? Isn’t it true that God never puts more burden on you than you can bear? Does He ask you to throw your business and your life’s work away? Praise Him with your icing … even if you have to be subtle.

Published in Law, Marriage
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There are 15 comments.

  1. Member

    Wedding cake orders usually come with descriptions or inspiration photos of how the couple wants it decorated.

    If they are displeased and walk away, they have wasted the baker’s time and resources.

    I think more likely they would stop advertising wedding cakes and go the St. Valentine route – do them in secret by word of mouth.

    • #1
    • February 12, 2018 at 11:47 am
    • Like
  2. Podcaster
    Michael Stopa Post author

    Stina (View Comment):
    Wedding cake orders usually come with descriptions or inspiration photos of how the couple wants it decorated.

    If they are displeased and walk away, they have wasted the baker’s time and resources.

    I think more likely they would stop advertising wedding cakes and go the St. Valentine route – do them in secret by word of mouth.

    But even if they (the buyers) walk away and don’t pay for the cake, at least the bakers don’t get sued and aren’t forced to close their businesses.

    • #2
    • February 12, 2018 at 11:59 am
    • 2 likes
  3. Member

    But how to do it? A subtle thing will not be noticed and you can’t make people ill, so no tabasco in the icing. There is no good solution here and sabotage is not the answer.

    • #3
    • February 12, 2018 at 12:02 pm
    • 2 likes
  4. Podcaster
    Michael Stopa Post author

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):
    But how to do it? A subtle thing will not be noticed and you can’t make people ill, so no tabasco in the icing. There is no good solution here and sabotage is not the answer.

    If it were me, I would go blatant. (I wouldn’t mess with the taste, just the appearance). Make something they don’t want. Can you then be sued?

    • #4
    • February 12, 2018 at 12:17 pm
    • Like
  5. Member

    Michael Stopa (View Comment):

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):
    But how to do it? A subtle thing will not be noticed and you can’t make people ill, so no tabasco in the icing. There is no good solution here and sabotage is not the answer.

    If it were me, I would go blatant. (I wouldn’t mess with the taste, just the appearance). Make something they don’t want. Can you then be sued?

    Christians who are willing to go through this court and defamatory treatment for standing by their beliefs wouldn’t do this.

    If they force you to give them your robe, give them your shoes and staff, too. Kill them with kindness, I guess.

    Thing is, one of the founding principles of this country was freedom of conscience so we wouldn’t be threatened with losing our livlihoods over following our beliefs. These bakers are seeking the protection of the constitution. Without it, they will have to revert to the practices of a persecuted church.

    • #5
    • February 12, 2018 at 12:31 pm
    • 3 likes
  6. Member

    Michael Stopa (View Comment):

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):
    But how to do it? A subtle thing will not be noticed and you can’t make people ill, so no tabasco in the icing. There is no good solution here and sabotage is not the answer.

    If it were me, I would go blatant. (I wouldn’t mess with the taste, just the appearance). Make something they don’t want. Can you then be sued?

    You certainly could be sued. Sabotaging someone’s “wedding” with an intentionally hideous cake could cost you, especially if there were explicit instructions and expectations. Fitness for a particular purpose is implied in all transactions.

    • #6
    • February 12, 2018 at 12:34 pm
    • 1 like
  7. Podcaster
    Michael Stopa Post author

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):

    Michael Stopa (View Comment):

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):
    But how to do it? A subtle thing will not be noticed and you can’t make people ill, so no tabasco in the icing. There is no good solution here and sabotage is not the answer.

    If it were me, I would go blatant. (I wouldn’t mess with the taste, just the appearance). Make something they don’t want. Can you then be sued?

    You certainly could be sued. Sabotaging someone’s “wedding” with an intentionally hideous cake could cost you, especially if there were explicit instructions and expectations. Fitness for a particular purpose is implied in all transactions.

    Well then can Michelle sue over this?

    • #7
    • February 12, 2018 at 12:42 pm
    • 3 likes
  8. Member

    Re: # 2

    You, the baker, ask for all wedding cakes to be paid for in advance. You ask for all couples—gay or straight—to sign something granting you artistic freedom in choosing how to decorate their cake.

    • #8
    • February 12, 2018 at 1:11 pm
    • 2 likes
  9. Member

    When all states do away with the solemnization, as Alabama proposes, the requirement of a parody of religious vow exchange, then we won’t have this problem.

    This is what the Supreme Court shoulda said in Obergefel: the govt is out of the wedding business. File a declaration of domestic status with the IRS, any two adults, regardless of gender, consanguinity, etc., and that will determine how you get taxed and what benefits you receive. If you want a pageant, a ceremony, it’s up to you; that is not the states business.

    It’s the idea that this cake is for a wedding ceremony, a sacred rite,  that causes all,the controversy. You never hear about a baker refusing to sell a sack of bagels to a gay couple throwing a brunch. Indeed, as you point out, they don’t mind selling a cake, they just don’t want to be forced to participate. Y creating one.

    • #9
    • February 12, 2018 at 2:09 pm
    • 2 likes
  10. Thatcher

    Brilliant hook to this piece, Mike. Nails the imperiousness and haughtiness of today’s cultural commissars.

    I’ve often thought that Christians should take a less serious tack.

    Explain that sculpting a cake takes great skill and the idea of two men marrying each other was so funny that they couldn’t stop their laughing while trying their best.

    I know mockery is far from a Christian virtue, but maybe it needs to become one.

    • #10
    • February 12, 2018 at 3:16 pm
    • 2 likes
  11. Member

    Michael Stopa:

    But don’t they, after all, have the same artistic avenue open to them as he did? If the cake decorator is asked for a cake for a gay wedding, if indeed he or she is allowed any artistic expression whatsoever, why cannot the artist simply represent, in the cake, the artists’ feelings about the marriage? Hell-fire icing, black crosses, unflattering figurines – it could be blatant or it could be subtle. Here’s your cake. Money back guarantee. Could the courts force the baker not only to provide and decorate a cake but to express in that decoration a message that the baker disagrees with? Surely that violates First Amendment rights.

    This is awesome. Hilarious, awesome, and very promising as a legal strategy.

    I suspect that most devoted Christian bakers would find this solution unsatisfactory. But why? Isn’t it true that God never puts more burden on you than you can bear? Does He ask you to throw your business and your life’s work away? Praise Him with your icing … even if you have to be subtle.

    I think if I were a cake-maker I would not be able to do it. It would be unsatisfactory because it seems rude, snide, snarky–generally unChristlike. Maybe G-d never gives us a burden we can’t bear, but that can include fines or jail time, and if using this strategy to get out of it required even the minor sin of being unduly snarky I don’t know that I could go along with it.

    • #11
    • February 12, 2018 at 3:23 pm
    • 2 likes
  12. Member

    Let’s hope the ruling is correct.

    I’m reasonably sure baking a bogus cake will be an expensive lawsuit regardless of whatever technicalities can be hidden behind.

    • #12
    • February 12, 2018 at 3:34 pm
    • 1 like
  13. Member

    DocJay (View Comment):
    Let’s hope the ruling is correct.

    I’m reasonably sure baking a bogus cake will be an expensive lawsuit regardless of whatever technicalities can be hidden behind.

    Yup, that’s the thing. This isn’t about procuring wedding cakes. It’s about destroying Christians and chilling their public witness.

    • #13
    • February 12, 2018 at 4:27 pm
    • 5 likes
  14. Member

    Re : 13

    Making people decorate a wedding cake is about the desire for dominance and control .

    Any same sex couple who gives a damn about their upcoming wedding won’t be willing to soil the day on which they will be freely choosing each other in public by making it the day another person was intimidated out of his or her free choice.

    • #14
    • February 12, 2018 at 5:51 pm
    • 4 likes
  15. Member

    I used to have a small business decorating cakes. I did the whole sugarcraft thing with handmade flowers that looked real, but were actually made of sugar (as opposed to frosting). My cakes cost an arm and a leg, and I wasn’t in business very long (by choice). There are basically two kinds of customers: those who may show up with a photo that they want copied or very specific ideas, and those who are very vague and leave it to you. One way to handle this situation would be to price your cake out of reach. For example, I once charged $25/slice for a wedding cake…and that wasn’t the actual price by the size of the edible portion of the cake because most of the cake was decorated styrofoam to make a huge cake for photographs. Had I charged them the actual price of the cake it would have cost them nearly twice as much. It does avoid the real issue, though. If the customer leaves it to you, then it’s their fault if they don’t like what you make.

    Another tactic would be to simply bake sheet cakes. Most weddings that have a display cake have one or more plain sheet cakes sitting back in the kitchen so the staff can plate the dessert and serve it immediately after photographs. If you have to serve the actual wedding cake, you have to dismantle it and no one really wants to know what is going on inside a tiered cake to keep it upright. Of course, the real issue is that the customer is seeking the vendor to validate the lifestyle choice–and how pathetic is that?

    • #15
    • February 13, 2018 at 7:09 am
    • 3 likes