FAIRFAX, Va. — A national grocery chain has issued an apology after a prominent professing atheist group submitted a complaint over a local store that declined to decorate a cake celebrating the third anniversary of an ex-Muslim group, stating that the requested wording might be offensive to employees.
According to reports, on May 31, a member of the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) contacted the Wegmans bakery in Fairfax, Virginia to request a cake that read, “Ex-Muslims of North America: Congratulations on three years!”
When FFRF phoned the location to confirm the order’s status, the representative was told by a bakery associate that the request could not be accommodated as the text could potentially be offensive.
It was later reiterated by the store that Wegmans declined the order because it did not want to take a side “one way or the other.” The supervisor stated that the store has “a lot of employees who are Muslim,” and that “employees may not know what this stands for.”
In turn, FFRF submitted a letter to the corporate office of Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. on Monday to allege that the Fairfax location had engaged in unlawful discrimination.
“Unlike the blatant discrimination some Christian bakeries have shown to LGBTQ Americans in the name of religious freedom, this appears to be discrimination against customers’ lack of religious belief—Wegmans essentially refused to serve a group of non-believers,” the correspondence read. “This raises serious concerns under federal, state and local civil rights laws.”
“Refusing to bake and decorate a cake for a group of ex-Muslims is refusing to provide equal enjoyment of goods, services, privileges, and advantages on the basis of religious identification,” it stated. “It is unlawful discrimination.”
FFRF asserted that Wegmans’ declination of the order violated the federal Civil Rights Act, the Virginia Human Rights Act and the Human Rights Ordinance of Fairfax County. It requested that the cake be provided for free and that employees receiving training on the matter.
Wegmans Senior Vice President and General Counsel Stephen Van Arsdale replied promptly to the letter, advising that the order should have been fulfilled.
“Danny Wegman was very concerned about the incident described in your letter today, and asked me to look into it, which I have done with the Virginia division manager and the Fairfax store manager,” he wrote. “We have concluded that the bakery department made the wrong decision and that they should have made the cake as ordered. Our employees typically do an incredible job of serving our customers, but occasionally they make mistakes. This was one of those times, unfortunately, and we apologize.”
Van Arsdale also agreed to provide the cake at no charge.
While FFRF says that it is pleased with the outcome of the situation, others believe that Wegmans should be free to decline messages that it does not wish to write, just as Christians prefer to not engage in forms of personal participation at celebrations that violate their convictions.
A poll conducted by the outlet Opposing Views has found thus far that 67 percent of its readers believe that the store had the right to decline the order, while 33 percent said that Wegmans could not legally refuse.