It's time to talk cake.
The story that sparked this latest post comes courtesy of The Associated Press, which reports:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Prominent chefs, bakers and restaurant owners want the Supreme Court to rule against a Colorado baker who wouldn’t make a cake for a same-sex couple’s wedding.
The food makers say that once they open their doors for business, they don’t get to choose their customers. They say that abiding by laws that bar discrimination based on sexual orientation does not strip them of creative control of a dish or a pastry.
Celebrity chefs Jose Andres, Elizabeth Falkner and Carla Hall, the owners of a popular Washington, D.C., cupcake shop and a small-town baker from Mississippi are among those who are signing onto a legal brief being written by the Human Rights Campaign.
Keep reading, and AP introduces a twist in the story — one that, to me, is even more interesting than the new development reported up high:
Cake artists who want the justices to recognize the artistic expression in cake-baking filed a separate brief last month that does not take sides in the case.
Hmmmm, artistic expression.
Does that sound familiar?
Here at GetReligion, we repeatedly have highlighted this key question in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case (that's the name of the shop owned by Phillips):
Is there a difference between (1) making a generic cake and selling it to anybody willing to pay for it and (2) using one's artistic talents to create a special cake celebrating an occasion such as a wedding?
After quoting more artists opposed to Phillips' side, AP offers just a bit more on the "artistic expression" brief:
Last month, 11 cake artists submitted a brief that looked almost good enough to eat. It contained dozens of pictures of extravagant and finely detailed cakes, including multitiered cakes for same-sex weddings.
The point of the brief was to show that the cakes are works of art and are entitled to the same constitutional protection as artworks in other mediums.
The cake artists do not call for the court to rule one way or another, but their argument fits nicely with the one being advanced by Phillips.
I Googled to see if an earlier AP report might have quoted some of those cake artists. However, I could not find such a story. So I'm unsure if this is news that the wire service reported previously or if this is the first time AP has mentioned it.
But my internet search did turn up a Washington Post story on the brief that I missed:
The point is to convince the justices that, whatever else they decide, they should acknowledge that cakemaking is not “just baking,” but also an art.
“If this brief did nothing beyond showcasing this small sample of creative work, it would surely convey that these unique projects involve artistic talent and communicate emotions and messages at least as clearly as other forms of art,” says the file from 11 bakers from around the country.
Such a finding is important to Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., who was found to have violated the state’s public accommodation law by refusing to create a cake for Charlie Craig and David Mullins.
Phillips cited his religious objections to same-sex marriage, but at the Supreme Court his brief stresses that his cakes are creations of artistic expression and that the First Amendment protects him from being compelled to create art with a message he rejects.
Some more fascinating material from that Post report:
At least one of the bakers — Young didn’t want to identify her — said she hoped not to be asked to create a cake for a same-sex couple.
But another, Kim Brittenburg, of Kym’s Creations in Allentown, Pa., loves same-sex weddings. She has a transgender son, and the brief says same-sex couples offer her the most artistic freedom. They are “frequently far more open to displays of personality and vivid expression, allowing the cake artist a decidedly freer hand in creation.”
Rainbows, though, apparently are de rigueur.
Cake artists, the brief explains, “must be able to sculpt, to paint, to draw; they must have the aesthetic sense of an interior designer and the architect’s ability to convert ideas into three-dimensional, stable products.”
I couldn't help but notice that the AP headline described this as a "major gay rights case" — with no mention of the religious liberty and artistic expression issues.
Yes, space is tight when writing headlines.
But for the sake of journalistic fairness and accuracy, it'll be helpful for news organizations to remember that gay rights aren't the only issue involved here.