A couple of weeks ago, a man walked into Tastries Bakery in Bakersfield and asked owner Cathy Miller to bake him a divorce cake. His plan, he told Miller, was to present the cake to his unsuspecting wife with the news that their marriage was over.

Miller, a life-long Christian who holds to the biblical definition of marriage, refused.

No rational person would insist Miller compromise her faith beliefs to bake a divorce cake. In America’s sexuality obsessed climate, however, it’s become acceptable to demand that she do so when the cake in question will celebrate the union of a same-sex couple.

That demand was made upon Miller in August when an already married lesbian couple, Eileen and Mireya Rodriguez-Del Rio, visited Tastries purportedly to order a wedding cake for a belated celebration. According to mostly sympathetic news reports, the couple were “dumbfounded” when Miller refused to lend her considerable talents to, and thereby give her tacit approval of, same-sex marriage.

How anyone living in America could be sincerely shocked that millions of Christians embrace traditional marriage is beyond me. Regardless, Miller should not be bullied into using her artistic gifts to advance a message she believes is unbiblical and immoral. Her stand is identical to that of Jack Phillips, whose case, Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado, is now before the U.S. Supreme Court. Like Phillips, Miller happily serves people from all walks of life, of all races and, yes, sexual orientations. Still, for those who dare to dissent, there is no mercy.

Soon after their visit, Eileen Rodriguez-Del Rio posted the couples’ grievance against Tastries on Facebook.

Within minutes, Tastries’ Facebook page was so riddled with vulgar and slanderous postings that Miller contacted Facebook to shut the page down. The bakery was next targeted on Yelp, where “customers” from across the country tried to destroy Tastries’ stellar ratings with tall tales of dry, inedible baked goods and horrid service. To stem the tide, Miller and her family were finally forced to shut down all social media outlets – Pinterest, Tumbler, Instagram – for a full month.

Miller is grateful for the support she’s received from the Bakersfield community through the months of harassment. And she’s taken steps to protect her business. She keeps two, inches-thick binders filled with the virulent emails she’s received, many rife with f-bombs, threats, porn and the senders’ sincere hopes that she and her business crash and burn real soon. She’s made local law enforcement aware of the threats and installed in her shop high definition security cameras with two-way audio – the same cameras that captured her conversation with Mr. Divorce Cake in illuminating detail.

Sadly, the continued harassment proved too much for some. Since August, Miller has lost six employees.

While most of her corporate and non-profit customers have stood by her, a couple abruptly cut ties. To cover lost manpower Miller and her family worked nearly round the clock through Christmas. Miller estimates lost revenue at “tens of thousands.”

Miller welcomed a brief respite from the controversy in mid-December, when Kern County Superior Court Judge David Lampe denied the state of California’s temporary restraining order against Tastries, an order that would mandate she make cakes for gay weddings or not at all. The judge postponed the case to Feb. 2 citing the need for more information to make his ruling a fair one, a decision oddly characterized in recent Californian coverage as a “legal setback.” And here you thought making fair and evidence-based rulings is something judges are supposed to do.

It would have been much easier for Miller, her family and employees had she simply caved and agreed to create the cake the Rodriguez-Del Rios believe they’re entitled to. But Miller’s Christian faith is more intrinsic to who she is than anything else. As a Christian and artist she believes that compelling anyone - painter, writer, florist or cake baker - to use their art to promote a message they find immoral is itself a great moral wrong.

Hopefully, the Supreme Court will agree and protect our freedoms of religion and speech. In the meantime, I recommend the pink passion cupcakes. They’re awesome.

 

Marylee Shrider is executive director of Right to Life of Kern County.