AUSTIN (Christian Examiner) – Video cameras are everywhere, including over the checkout line of an Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market.
That's particularly bad news for an openly-gay pastor who claimed in an video April 14 that he purchased a personalized cake at the store only to find that it had been inscribed with an anti-gay slur.
Jordan Brown, who leads the "affirming" congregation known as Church of Open Doors, said he discovered the phrase "Love Wins Fag" on the cake only after he left the store. In his original video, he claimed the cake was in its sealed container with an intact label over the lower lip of the box.
Citing his emotional anguish and extreme disappointment and frustration over the cake, Brown and his attorney publicly announced a lawsuit against the grocer.
The attorney, Austin Kaplan, said Whole Food's policy of inclusion, tolerance and equality made the incident all the more surprising. The retailer is supportive of the gay rights movement.
"This cake contained a slur directed at the LGBT community, but the next could contain slurs directed at different races, religions, or national origins," Kaplan said during a press conference announcing the lawsuit.
There's just one problem (and a huge one) – mounting evidence that the entire incident is a hoax designed to drum up sympathy for the gay pastor.
That evidence has led the grocery giant to launch its own defense against Brown. Whole Foods announced April 19 that it had filed a countersuit against the pastor for fraud and the company brought compelling evidence to bear in the investigation – the security video at the store's checkout counter.
"Mr. Brown admits that he was in sole possession and control of the cake until he posted his video, which showed the UPC label on the bottom and side of the box," the company's statement said. When the cake left the store, however, the UPC label was on the top of the box. A cashier can be seen scanning the label on the top of the box in the video.
Whole Foods said in a statement that while a bakery team member had, in fact, iced the cake with the phrase "Love Wins" at the top of the cake, there was no slur on the top of the cake when it left the store. The company also said the employee who topped the cake is part of the LGBT community. Whole Foods also claimed it has a policy that prohibits employees from accepting orders for bakery items that contain offensive language or images on them.
"We stand behind our bakery team member, who is part of the LGBTQ community, and we appreciate the team members and shoppers who recognize that this claim is completely false and directly contradicts Whole Foods Market's inclusive culture, which celebrates diversity," the company said.
Brown and his attorney have yet to respond publicly to the countersuit. However, more than a few invectives have been launched against Brown on his church's Facebook page.