Way back in January, I criticized an Associated Press report on Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker who declined to make a cake for a same-sex wedding:
I argued that the AP improperly framed that story by reporting that Phillips "refused to serve" a lesbian couple.
AP's latest story — on a court decision in Phillips' case last week — does a better job of framing the issue in the lede:
The lede on the latest story:
DENVER (AP) — A suburban Denver baker who would not make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple cannot cite his Christian beliefs in refusing them service because it would lead to discrimination, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.
The three-judge panel said in a 66-page ruling that Colorado's anti-discrimination law does not prevent baker Jack Phillips from believing what he wants but that if he wants his business open to the public, he is prohibited "from picking and choosing customers based on their sexual orientation."
Yes, this lede, like the last one, refers to the baker "refusing them service," but it provides more needed context.
Moreover, the story does a nice job of presenting Phillips' point of view — including his contention that it's making a same-sex wedding cake, not serving a gay couple, that concerns him:
His attorneys previously said they would consider appealing up to the nation's high court, noting that more cases are likely to arise in which businesses' religious convictions clash with gay rights. But any appeal first would go to the Colorado Supreme Court.
"Jack simply exercised the long-cherished American freedom to decline to use his artistic talents to promote a message with which he disagrees," said another of Phillips' attorneys, Jeremy Tedesco, with the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom. "The court is wrong to deny Jack his fundamental freedoms."
Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, declined to make a cake for Charlie Craig and David Mullins in 2012. They were married in Massachusetts but planned to celebrate in Colorado.
Phillips has been facing fines if he kept refusing to make wedding cakes for gay couples, so his attorneys have said he stopped making them altogether.
The baker has maintained that he has no problem serving gay people at his store but says that making a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding would violate his religious views.
This hits at a crucial question, worthy of coverage, that we've raised previously at GetReligion:
Has any business person, anywhere, (as opposed to leaders of a doctrinally defined religious ministry) requested a right to discriminate against gays and lesbians as a class?
I realize I'm making a big to-do over arguably subtle differences, but in journalism, words matter.
And when reporting on the ongoing clash of gay rights vs. religious freedom, it's crucial that journalists adequately — and accurately — reflect the true arguments and motivations of both sides.