Apology Not Acceptable: The Pastor, The Cake, And The Whole Foods Scam

This guy takes the cake...

This guy takes the cake…

Jordan Brown is the openly and presumably obviously  gay pastor at Austin’s Church of Open Doors. You will remember him if you saw his video last month explaining how an employee at the local Whole Foods, in an inexplicable burst of baker suicidal tendencies, had written in icing the legend “Love Wins Fag”—whatever that means—on a cake he had ordered there.

“When I got into my vehicle, I looked inside and saw they had wrote ‘Love Wins F–‘ on it,” Brown says in the video, in apparent emotional anguish. “You can see it nice and clear. Also, it is still in a sealed box. As you see, I have not opened up this box yet.” He also held a press conference, describing his feelings of humiliation when he finally got home with his cake and read the icing attack.

Then he sued the groceries giant, claiming that Whole Foods knew or should have known that cakes prepared by mad homophobic bakers in its employ might have “slurs or harassing messages” written on them and then be “presented to a customer without any oversight or prior warning.” Ah, if only Whole Food had said, to Brown, “We have to warn you, sir, we’ve written a homophobic slur on your cake. Have a nice day!”

Naturally, as with so many recent examples of members of frequently harassed and victimized groups, especially on campuses, creating their own racist, sexist or homophobic “hate crimes” and inventing  entire incidents, like Rolling Stone’s “Jackie,” the initial reaction of the news media was gullible acceptance, and the immediate response of social justice warriors was fury. Whole Foods was a cultural villain, and facing significant, business-threatening consequences.

Whole Foods did not turn the other cheek, however. It denied the allegations and countersued, stating that Brown “intentionally, knowingly and falsely accused Whole Foods and its employees of writing the homophobic slur … on a custom made cake that he ordered from WFM’s Lamar Store in Austin.” Whole Foods, ominously for Brown, said that it had video evidence proving that Brown had tampered with the cake.

Suddenly contrite in the face of resistance, the good pastor said, in effect, “Ooopsie!” He issued an e-mail, withdrawing his lawsuit and his story:

“Today I am dismissing my lawsuit against Whole Foods Market. The company did nothing wrong. I was wrong to pursue this matter and use the media to perpetuate this story. I want to apologize to Whole Foods and its team members for questioning the company’s commitment to its values, and especially the bakery associate who I understand was put in a terrible position because of my actions. I apologize to the LGBT community for diverting attention from real issues. I also want to apologize to my partner, my family, my church family, and my attorney.”

In a lovely gesture of reciprocity and in the Christian spirit, Whole Foods withdrew its $100,000 countersuit.

I understand the public relations logic, but Whole Foods should have done the future victims of this kind of thing a favor and reduced Brown to giving sermons from a cardboard box home on a sidewalk somewhere. It should not have accepted his apology, which is a bottom of the barrel #10 on the Apology Scale:

10. An insincere and dishonest apology designed to allow the wrongdoer to escape accountability cheaply, and to deceive his or her victims into forgiveness and trust, so they are vulnerable to future wrongdoing.

This is a by the numbers apology, probably assisted by Brown’s lawyer, designed to get him out of a dilemma of his own making. It shows no genuine contrition at all; what it says is “I was caught, my plot failed, so now I’m admitting everything and apologizing. Are we all square now?”

No. We are not. If Whole Foods “did nothing wrong,” why did Brown say they did so convincingly and emotionally? “I was wrong to pursue this matter”—what was your first clue that falsely accusing an employee and a company in public was “wrong”? Did you ever think it was right? If so, why? If you always knew it was wrong, what changed, other than the fact that Whole Foods was countersuing and you realized that the scam wasn’t going to work?

“I want to apologize to Whole Foods and its team members for questioning the company’s commitment to its values” doesn’t even apologize for what he did! The Perfidious Pastor, as Donald Trump would call him if he knew the word “perfidious,” didn’t question Whole Foods’ values, he slandered the company by creating a hoax that made the public and media question its values. Brown has never directly apologized to Whole Food for his actions, the accusation, the public statements, or trying to use a lawsuit to squeeze a settlement out of the company to make a PR disaster “go away.”

The infuriating aspect of this incident is that Brown will probably face no consequences at all. Churches being what they are, he will probably be welcomed back by his congregation with hugs and tears, since we all are lost sheep in the wilderness and only human, after all, and the Lord is forgiving. Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone! The gay community will probably give him a big hug as well. Hey, it didn’t work, but we all know an employee could have done that, and the hate you exposed was real. Nice try, brother!


There are times when an apology cannot undo what was done, excuse the wrongdoer, or constitute justification for forgiveness,

This is one of those times.


Pointer: Fred

Sources: New York Times 1, 2


7 thoughts on “Apology Not Acceptable: The Pastor, The Cake, And The Whole Foods Scam

  1. Why are nearly all the apologies you reference either a 1 or 10 on the apology scale? Like most “rank 1-10” rubrics, everything seems to fall on one extreme or another — then again, I suppose it’s inherently subjective in the first place.

    • Since the assertion is untrue, I can’t explain it. Just this month, we have had a #7 here. At the end of April, I designated this awful apology a #9.

      Actually, after checking, I was surprised at the range of ratings. Since I could be expected to deem only the extremes worthy of posts–praise for the best, opprobria for the worst, I hasn’t realized how often I had bestowed middle of the pack ratings. Sometimes those ratings have been made in the comments.

      It’s not all that subjective—the 10 levels have substantive qualifications, and in some cases, specific language attached.

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