A dramatic amateur video recorded how a gay coffee shop owner in Seattle refused to provide service to a group of Christians on Sunday. The owner of The Bedlam coffee shop evicted the group after an expletive-laden tirade, in which he offered to engage in anal sex with his boyfriend in front of them. The group of pro-life advocates had been visiting Seattle to share their Christian beliefs and pro-life materials.
According to The Liberator -- a Christian online publication -- the group had stopped at The Bedlam in order rest and drink coffee on the second floor. According to Caytie Davis, a member of the group, they had not gone to the coffee shop to engage with anyone. Within minutes, the barista and then the owner burst into the room and told the group that they had to leave.
In the video, the visibly agitated owner waved a pamphlet that he had found outside the shop. Davis said that the group had not dropped anything of the sort in the store, but admitted that it was one of the pamphlets they had distributed outside of the shop. The pamphlet depicts the image of an aborted child, as well as a rainbow and an explanation of its Biblical meaning.
When members of the group asked the owner why they were being told to leave, he answered vehemently, “This offends me,” in reference to the pamphlet he had in his hands. When one of the group said that the pamphlet had been found on public property, the owner shouted “Shut up! Shut up!”
When a member of the group asked, “So you’re not willing to tolerate our presence?,” the man responded, “Will you tolerate my presence?” When the member of the group pointed out, “We’re actually in your coffee shop,” the man responded, “Really? If I go get my boyfriend and f*ck him in the a** right here you’re going to tolerate that?” “That would be your choice,” said the group member, who The Liberator identified as Jonathan Sutherland.
The shop owner responded, “Are you going to tolerate it?” he asked again. “Answer my f***ing question! No, you’re going to sit right here and f***ing watch it!” “Well, we don’t want to watch that,” said another member of the group. “Well than I don’t have to f*cking tolerate this!” the man said. “Leave! All of you. Tell all your f*cking friends, don’t f*cking come here.” When the group decided to leave, they also shared their Christian beliefs with the shop owner. The owner responded, “Yeah, I like a***. I’m not going to be saved by anything. I’d f*ck Christ in the a**. Ok? He’s hot.”
An October 4 post on the Bedlam Coffee Facebook page read: "Context, context, context, and source...in the end, it's all about context, everything is context. Out of context a comment can serve any argument. Take for example the phrase “I will bring my boyfriend out here and fuck him in the ass.” out of context it could mean a slew of things. It's delivery in this case was meant to shock and repulse the audience. Out of context it could be labeled a perversion, or a kink depending how you personally couch the subject. In context it was a response, a response to being shocked and repulsed. A revenge you could even call it, a weakness demonstrated in the typical, they hurt me, I will hurt them fashion."
In an exclusive interview, Spero News contacted Richard Thompson, chief counsel and president of the Thomas More Legal Center in Michigan. Thompson, who is a veteran of cases involving civil rights, said that the Christians who were denied service at the Seattle coffee shop may well have a "meritorious case" in what he described as a probable violation of state and federal laws concerning public accomodation. Thompson cited Title 2 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as having a bearing in the incident.
Title 2 U.S. Code § 2000a - "Prohibition against discrimination or segregation in places of public accommodation" of the US Code states regarding equal access that: "All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin." It goes on to say that "Establishments affecting interstate commerce or supported in their activities by State action as places of public accommodation," such as lodgings, restaurants, gas stations, and theatres that serve the public, including "any restaurant, cafeteria, lunchroom, lunch counter, soda fountain, or other facility principally engaged in selling food for consumption on the premises," must comply with federal law to provide public accomodation to all persons.
Thompson likened the situation of the Christians who were denied accomodation in Seattle to the story of the mother of Jesus who was denied accomodation at the inn in Bethlehem. He said of the Seattle Christians, "If they want to file a lawsuit, I think they have a very meritorious case."
Thompson was asked how this case differs from that of a baker who refused to make a cake for a gay wedding. He said that there is a case in which a baker refused to use "his artistic talents" to bake a cake for a gay wedding, but offered to sell any one of the cakes he had on hand to the couple in question. Being forced to use one's artistic talents to bake a cake against one's conscience is a violation of the Constitution, said Thompson. "Imagine if an African-American singer were to be asked to compose a song for the Ku Klux Klan," Thompson said.
In the case of the coffee shop owner in Seattle, Thompson said that the owner was merely being asked to pour a cup of coffee rather than being compelled to use his artistic talents against his will. The case of the baker and the coffee shop owner are "totally different," said Thompson. "The Christians who came into his shop were not asking him to invent a new brand of coffee," said Thompson. "Here we have a clear violation of civil rights," said Thompson.