An openly gay Texas pastor is dropping his lawsuit against Whole Foods, admitting he made up his claim that a cake he bought from the chain’s Austin flagship store included an anti-gay slur, the Austin American Statesman reports.
Pastor Jordan Brown had said the cake he bought on April 14 included the slur “f*g,” under “love wins,” the phrase he had requested, according to a press release from his attorney, Austin Kaplan, of the Kaplan Law Firm.
Whole Foods denied the slur was written on the cake by its employees, according to a statement from the chain.
The original lawsuit was filed April 18 in Texas state court in Travis County. On April 19, Whole Foods issued an updated statement saying they are also planning legal action.
“After a deeper investigation of Mr. Brown’s claim, we believe his accusations are fraudulent and we intend to take legal action against both Mr. Brown and his attorney,” Whole Foods said in the statement.
After Brown withdrew his lawsuit and admitted to fabricating his claims, Whole Foods said it will not countersue.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Brown Recorded a Video That He Says Shows the Cake in a Sealed Box With the Slur on It
Brown recorded a video after he received the cake, which you can watch above.
In the video, Brown shows a cake with the slur written on it, which he says is in the still-sealed box he received from the store on South Lamar Boulevard in Austin. The South Lamar Boulevard store is the chain’s flagship location.
“After reporting the incident to a Whole Foods Team Lead who claimed to have investigated what happened, Pastor Jordan was told the store and its employee had done nothing wrong, and no action would be taken. Kaplan Law Firm reached out to Whole Foods’ corporate office on April 15, 2016, but after receiving no substantive response for more than three days, filed this lawsuit,” Brown’s attorney, Austin Kaplan, said in a statement.
2. Whole Foods Says Its Employee, Who Is ‘Part of the LGBTQ Community’, Only Wrote ‘Love Wins’ on the Cake
Whole Foods quickly issued a statement, denying that any of its employees did anything wrong.
The company released surveillance video from the store, which you can watch above.
It also said the employee who prepared the cake is a member of the LGBTQ community:
Our team member wrote ‘Love Wins’ at the top of the cake as requested by the guest, and that’s exactly how the cake was packaged and sold at the store. Our team members do not accept or design bakery orders that include language or images that are offensive. Whole Foods Market has a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination. We stand behind our bakery team member, who is part of the LGBTQ community, and the additional team members from the store, who confirmed the cake was decorated with only the message ‘Love Wins.’
In a follow-up statement on Tuesday, Whole Foods said:
· Our bakery team member wrote “Love Wins” at the top of the cake, which was visible to Mr. Brown through the clear portion of the packaging. That’s exactly how the cake was packaged and sold at the store. Whole Foods Market has a strict policy that prohibits team members from accepting or designing bakery orders that include language or images that are offensive.
· Mr. Brown admits that he was in sole possession and control of the cake until he posted his video, which showed the UPC label on the bottom and side of the box.
· After reviewing our security footage of Mr. Brown, it’s clear that the UPC label was in fact on top of the cake box, not on the side of the package. This is evident as the cashier scans the UPC code on top of the box, which you can view here.
· We stand behind our bakery team member, who is part of the LGBTQ community, and we appreciate the team members and shoppers who recognize that this claim is completely false and directly contradicts Whole Foods Market’s inclusive culture, which celebrates diversity.
Whole Foods is based in Austin.
3. Brown’s Attorney Says His Client Is Overwhelmed by the Feelings of Pain, Anguish & Humiliation’
You can read the full court documents above, which include a photo Brown claims to show the unopened cake box.
Austin Kaplan, Brown’s attorney, said in a statement, “Pastor Brown never asked for this to happen. He continues to be overwhelmed by the feelings of pain, anguish, and humiliation because of this incident. He frequently shopped at Whole Foods, which makes this all the more shocking and disappointing. What really concerns him is knowing that unless some action is taken, this kind of thing could happen again, and that someone else might have to go through a similarly excruciating experience.”
4. Brown Is the Founder of the Church of Open Doors in Southeast Austin
Brown is the founder of the Church of Open Doors in southeast Austin.
The church is “a non-denominational, Christian-based church that stands as a safe place welcoming all. His ministry focuses on creating an atmosphere where the members of his congregation can have the freedom to be themselves and experience God in their own way,” according to the press release from his attorney.
5. Brown’s Attorneys Represented a Gay Couple Who Sued Hood County, Texas, for a Marriage License
Brown’s attorneys sued Hood County, Texas, on behalf of a gay couple who were seeking a marriage license. The lawsuit led the county to grant a license to the couple, Jim Cato and Joe Stapelton, according to the Texas Tribune.
“Jim Cato and Joe Stapleton are delighted that they finally have been issued a marriage license and can get married in their home county,” the firm said in a statement last June, after the ruling. “It’s a shame that they needed to hire lawyers and file a lawsuit to make that happen.”