Pastor Sues Whole Foods Over Cake Iced With Anti-Gay Slur (Updated)

Jordan Brown said he didn't notice the slur on this cake until he was driving home from the Whole Foods flagship store in Austin where he purchased it.
Courtesy of Austin Kaplan
Jordan Brown said he didn’t notice the slur on this cake until he was driving home from the Whole Foods flagship store in Austin where he purchased it.

Update, April 19: Whole Foods released a statement saying they plan to take legal action against Jordan Brown and his attorney after an internal investigation raised more questions about the legitimacy of Brown’s claims. In security footage of Brown purchasing the cake, which Whole Foods posted on YouTube, the cake’s label — which Brown had previously said was evidence the cake was unopened — is shown on the top of the box. In the YouTube video filmed by Brown on the day he purchased the cake, the label is shown on the side and bottom of the box. In a statement late Tuesday, Brown’s attorney, Austin Kaplan, said that they are “aware” of Whole Foods’ statement, video and countersuit, and are “currently investigating these allegations.”

Original story:

An Austin pastor who says the local Whole Foods flagship store sold him a cake with a homophobic slur written on it in icing is now suing the grocery chain for unspecified damages. Pastor Jordan Brown also said he wants Whole Foods to train employees to ensure something similar doesn’t happen again.

Brown, who is gay, said he’d ordered the “Love Wins” cake with the pro-LGBT marriage slogan on April 14 for one his congregants, but it wasn’t until he was driving home with the dessert that he noticed the message, written in blue: “Love Wins Fag.”

Whole Foods issued a statement saying that the store’s “team members do not accept or design bakery orders that include language or images that are offensive,” and that when Brown requested a “Love Wins” cake, that’s exactly — and only — what he got.

But Brown says a YouTube video he posted with the cake, sealed in the package and along with a receipt, proves that someone at Whole Foods added the slur.

Brown said that after he read the cake, he contacted a Whole Foods manager who at first apologized, offered him a gift card and said he would him call back with more information. But when the manager called back, he told Brown there was nothing that could be done.

Brown’s lawyer, Austin Kaplan, told members of the press on Monday that they would be open to dropping the lawsuit if Whole Foods would be willing to work with them on implementing diversity training measures, but said Whole Foods has yet to respond.

“The same problem could occur today or tomorrow,” Kaplan said. “Other customers could be similarly harmed. We do not want to see that happen, which is why we had no other choice than to file this lawsuit.”

Pastor Jordan Brown, bottom left, says that the Whole Foods bakery sold him a cake with a gay slur written on it in icing.
Selah Maya Zighelboim
Pastor Jordan Brown, bottom left, says that the Whole Foods bakery sold him a cake with a gay slur written on it in icing.

Kaplan rejected speculation that Brown wrote the message on the cake himself, and said his client doesn’t keep icing at home.

“You can’t do something like this unless you know how to draw on a cake, unless you’ve been trained,” said Kaplan. “My client has not been trained. He does not have icing. He didn’t do it.”

Brown said he’s a fan of Whole Foods who eats there regularly and has ordered cakes from the grocery chain several times already this year. But this incident left him feeling humiliated.

“It’s more than just a cake,” Brown said. “The words that you say have the potential to speak life or death into somebody’s life. Given the opportunity, you should always be speaking life and not death. And that was definitely hurtful and inappropriate.”

Selah Maya is an intern at the Texas Observer, a journalism junior at the University of Texas and a copy editor for the student-run ORANGE magazine.

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Published at 5:15 pm CST
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