News & Politics

The Owners of The Red Hen in Virginia Are the Real Bigots. Not the Christian Bakers

The Red Hen Restaurant in downtown Lexington, Va. (AP Photo/Daniel Lin)

Have you noticed that the people cheering about Sarah Huckabee Sanders getting denied service at a restaurant are the same people who were outraged when Christian bakers didn’t want to violate their faith to bake cakes for gay weddings?

I certainly have.

Of course, these people who were outraged that Christian bakers wouldn’t make custom cakes for gay weddings think somehow that outrage over what happened to Sarah Huckabee Sanders makes conservative hypocrites, while their enthusiastic approval of her being kicked out of The Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, doesn’t make them hypocritical in the least.

But, I’m going to explain why what happened to Sarah Sanders and her family is actually worse, and why the people who celebrate that denial of service are the real hypocrites and bigots.

The key difference here is that baking a custom cake for a gay wedding is not the same thing as blanket denial of service at a restaurant. None of the Christian bakers ever denied service to gay customers — they just didn’t want to make custom cakes celebrating a lifestyle they believe to be sinful. Media coverage of various incidents has likened the cases of Christian bakers not wanting to create custom cakes for same-sex weddings as refusing to serve homosexuals. However, this is simply not true.

Masterpiece Bakery, owned by Jack Phillips, the complainant (and victor) in the recent Supreme Court case, never refused to serve gay customers.

…from the beginning, Jack has seen his business as an expression of his faith (hence the name), and that has led him to reject business throughout his career. For example, he’s refused to make custom cakes for Halloween and divorce celebrations, and he’s turned down requests for lewd cakes for bachelor and bachelorette parties.

Back in 2012, two men asked Jack to design a cake for their same-sex wedding. Now mind you, back in 2012, the state of Colorado didn’t even recognize same-sex weddings. Jack told them that he would gladly sell them any item in the store—including cakes—but that he could not, due to his religious convictions, use his cake-design talents to participate in the celebration of their ceremony.

So Mr. Phillips went out of his way in an attempt to accommodate the gay couple. This was not a case of denial of service.

How about Sweet Cakes by Melissa, the Christian-owned bakery in Oregon? In this case, the lesbian couple that had wanted a custom cake for their wedding had been customers before the incident that resulted in the bakers being fined $135,000 (which ultimately forced them to shut down the business). There was no refusal of service by owners Aaron and Melissa Klein. The Kleins, in their own words, “declined to create a custom cake that would have required us to express a message our faith teaches against.”

How about 111 Cakery in Indianapolis, Indiana? 111 Cakery, formerly owned by Randy and Trish McGath, was forced to close its doors in 2015 after three years in business. But they weren’t guilty of refusing to serve gay customers, either.

McGath said he and his wife, who attend a Baptist church, were well aware of the neighborhood’s gay culture when they opened their bakery there in 2012. They served the gay community gladly for several years but “just didn’t want to be party to a commitment ceremony” because such an event reflected “a commitment to sin.”


“There was zero hate here,” said McGath, who is now selling recreational vehicles. “We were just trying to be right with our God. I was able to speak to many homosexuals in the community and to speak our opinion and have a civil conversation. I’m still in touch with some.”

Despite all the news stories that accused these bakers of refusing to serve gay customers, nothing could be further from the truth. That’s why what happened to Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her family is so much worse.

They were denied service. There was no attempt to accommodate them. This was legitimate discrimination… over politics. Politics! Mere disagreements over policy have become, in the minds of the left, tantamount to bigotry, thereby justifying outright refusal of service.

The owners of The Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia, are the real bigots. Not the Christian bakers in Oregon, Colorado, Indianapolis, and across the country who were willing to serve anyone as long as they weren’t asked to create something to celebrate something they believe is sinful. The Red Hen wasn’t asked to create anything pro-Trump. Sarah Sanders and her family just wanted to go out to eat and didn’t ask the management or the cooks to endorse or otherwise express approval of her or Donald Trump.

In the past week, we’ve seen the real bigotry becoming more frequent and “mainstreamed” by those who have convinced themselves they are in the right: Sarah Sanders and her family get asked to leave a restaurant. DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen gets shouted out of a Mexican restaurant and gets protesters outside of her home. Actor Peter Fonda calls for Donald Trump’s son Barron to be kidnapped and put in a cage with pedophiles. Tom Arnold has promised to stalk Barron at his school. This is not healthy opposition. This is not progress. America is more divided than ever. If people will refuse to serve you or advocate the rape of a child just for being on the opposite end of the political spectrum, then we’re approaching a new kind of civil war.

How did we get to this point? How did we go from a country that celebrated the diversity of thought to one where differences in opinion are marginalized to the point where people will flat out refuse to serve people because of whom they voted for or whom they work for? It wasn’t always this way. Sure, people passionately disagreed with each other over politics, but things have gotten much worse very quickly. It can partially be explained by the more than eight years of being told that anyone who disagreed with Barack Obama did so because of racism and bigotry and not legitimate ideological differences. The political left has conditioned themselves into not only believing the moral superiority of their beliefs but the supposed bigotry and hatred that motivate anyone who doesn’t believe what they do. Opposition to abortion is written off as anti-woman. Opposition to gay marriage is written off as homophobic. Support of border security is written off as racist and white-supremacist. Yes, this kind of rhetoric has been going on for years and years but somehow, in the age of Obama, it was politically expedient to accuse the opposition of racism and bigotry in an attempt to silence them. Trump, like his Republican predecessors, is compared to Hitler and the owners of The Red Hen, in turn, feel like heroic Social Justice Warriors for refusing service to anyone connected to him—while failing to recognize their own bigotry in the process.

Matt Margolis is the author of the new book, The Scandalous Presidency of Barack Obama and the forthcoming re-release of the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack ObamaYou can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis