So, last Friday afternoon, 46 Summit students, along with five staff, one of our directors, and myself traveled to Lakewood to visit the Masterpiece Cakeshop. When we arrived, we found a line of customers stretching out the door and down the sidewalk. I went inside, found Jack, and gave him a hug. I said hello to Jack’s daughter Lisa. Both Jack and Lisa have spoken at Summit and were graciously thankful for the Summit group. Then I caught up with Jeremy Tedesco, a Summit speaker and an attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom. Jeremy greeted our students and briefed them on the plan for the day.
Masterpiece Cakeshop, Lakewood, Colorado, Friday June 8, 2018
This piece is from one of our allies, Dr. Jeff Meyers, Summit Ministries in Manitou Springs Colorado. We are seeing some of the same vile behavior here in West Virginia against Christian-owned businesses. We need your financial help to defend our own brothers and sisters. Can you give something today?
– Late last week I received word that a group called the “Gay Army” intended to hold a protest of Jack Phillips’ cake shop in Lakewood, Colorado, a two-hour drive from Summit Minstries’ Manitou Springs headquarters. The Supreme Court has just released its 7-2 decision rebuking the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for abusing the cake artist’s right to free speech and freedom of religion, and the LGBT lobby was trying to find ways to express its anger. Hundreds of protesters might show up, I was told.
Wanting to support Jack and sensing an opportunity to give our Summit Ministries students an experience in civic engagement, I called our program guys and suggested that we figure out how to attend. They jumped on it, sharing the opportunity with the students attending our second two-week session of the summer. They emphasized that this wasn’t a freak show, and that students should only come if they were 18 or older (or had their parents’ permission), and if they were prepared to engage personally and share Jesus with those they encountered.
Many of our students lined up to buy something from the shop. They were delighted when Jim Daly, the jovial head of Focus on the Family, walked down the line and said hello. Their eyes lit up when Jim mentioned Focus’s hit kids show, Adventures in Odyssey.
Just before the protestors were to arrive, we gathered in front of the cameras. Ryan Bomberger from the Radiance Foundation said a few words, pumping up the crowd to chant, “We’ve got your back, Jack!” I thanked Jack for how he’s inspired this rising generation of Summit students, and Jim Daly reminded people that Jack has always graciously served everyone who comes into the shop and that his heart was to share Jesus. Then Jeremy read a statement about the Supreme Court Case and Jack Phillips addressed the crowd to wild cheers, expressing his gratefulness for those who had supported him and his family.
Meanwhile, the protesters arrived. Having heard that they would arrive by the hundreds, we were startled at the tiny group of maybe a dozen, standing shyly a few yards away.
Ryan and I approached a couple of them. We offered them bottles of water, told them our names, and asked for their viewpoint while sharing ours. This greatly annoyed an older man standing behind them, who leaned over and hissed in one of their ears, “This is how they do it. They’re all nice one-on-one, but in groups they’re like …PIRANHAS.”
Looking directly at Ryan and me he shouted, “F*** YOU!”
Having spoken his mind, the man turned to walk away. Suddenly he wheeled around and moved in close. “I bet you never talk about f***ing do you? F***!!! I bet that makes your Christian ears burn, DOESN’T it?” he spat.
“Not really,” Ryan replied simply.
“We love you,” I called after him as he walked away, flipping us the bird.
As Ryan and I returned to our chat with the protestors, I noticed our Summit students following our cue, offering bottles of water and engaging other protestors in conversation.
This all worked well for a few minutes until a new protestor arrived to organize things and get a good-old-fashioned battle line formed.
With her tiny group arrayed behind her, the newcomer began shouting through a bullhorn: “This whole thing shows me that capitalism has taken a much bigger hold than I imagined. This is about a CAKE, people! We’re fighting each other over a F***ING CAKE!”
That was it. As soon as she cursed through the bullhorn, the Lakewood police and shopping center security guards closed in, moving the protesters to a public sidewalk a hundred yards away and out of sight of the cake shop. As they walked away, the old man flipped the bird again and a same-sex couple stopped to share a passionate kiss, hoping that the crowd was watching. But most had already turned their attention to visiting with one another and handing out bottles of water to a group of polite, tattooed, camo-wearing flag-wavers standing across the driveway.
As I reflect on the day, I’m disappointed that so few protestors showed up. And it bothered me that their leaders chose dismissive vulgarity over engagement. But then, it also seems odd how few of those who came to support Jack seemed interested in dialoguing with the protesters.
On the other hand, I’m deeply proud of our Summit students. They bore their training well. I was grateful for the hours they had with Christopher Yuan, a Summit instructor who left the same-sex lifestyle and is now a Bible college professor, and with Travis Barham, an attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom. I was grateful for how our staff had prepared them with our Summit approach, which basically involves getting to know people and focusing on asking questions rather than making statements.
When the time came, these bold young Summit students waded into the situation rather than standing back. Young people like this that give me hope for the future of our nation!