Restaurant denies service to Christian group for anti-abortion and LGBTQ stances

A Virginia restaurant has found itself at the center of controversy after refusing to serve a conservative Christian organization over the group’s opposition to abortion rights and same-sex marriage.

On November 31, Richmond restaurant Metzger Bar and Butchery canceled a reservation for a private Family Foundation event, first reported by Virginia businesses. The next day, Metzger posted about his decision on instagramciting the organization’s views on abortion and LGBTQ rights as a reason for denying them the service.

“In eight years of service, we have rarely turned down service to someone wishing to dine with us,” the Instagram post read. “We recently refused service to a group that had booked an event with us after the owners of Metzger discovered it was a group of donors to a political organization that seeks to deprive women and LGBTQ+ people of their basic human rights in Virginia. ”.

The restaurant then wrote that management has in the past refused service to anyone who has made staff feel “uncomfortable or unsafe”, saying this was the driving force behind the decision.

“Many of our staff are women and/or members of the LGBTO+ community,” the post reads. “All of our staff are people with rights who deserve dignity and a safe work environment. We respect the established rights of our staff as human beings and strive to create a work environment where they can do their jobs with dignity, comfort and safety.”

Neither Metzger nor the Family Foundation responded to TODAY.com’s requests for comment.

Metzger's Bar and Butcher Shop in Richmond, VA.
Metzger’s Bar and Butcher Shop in Richmond, VA.Jay Paul/The Washington Post via Getty Images

On the same day, the president of the Family Foundation, Victoria Cobb wrote a blog post with the organization side of the incident.

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“Have you ever been denied a meal because of your beliefs? Last night, our team and supporters had that experience firsthand when Metzger’s Bar and Butchery in Richmond, VA, refused to cater our pre-booked event, leaving us in a rush moments before,” Cobb writes, adding that the group had planned a meeting of supporters. and interested in the restaurant.

“About an hour and a half before the event was to take place, one of the restaurant owners called our team to cancel the event,” the post read. “As our vice president of operations explained that guests would be arriving at her restaurant shortly, she asked for an explanation. Indeed, an employee searched for our organization and his waiters refused to serve us.

Cobb goes on to compare the situation to a famous 1960 incident where a department store refused service to 34 Virginia Union University students because they were black.

“Welcome to the double standards of the left,” Cobb writes, further comparing the incident to the case of Colorado baker Jack Phillips. Phillips was the victor of a 2018 Supreme Court case for his refusal to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. Later in 2021, Phillips was found to have violated discrimination laws when he refused to bake a birthday cake for a trans woman.

“We believe that there is not a square inch in the entire universe that God has not claimed ‘Mine,’ and that includes the arenas of civil government and public policy where we spend much of our time,” reads the “About” page. de” on the website of the Family Foundation. The organization advocates “policies based on biblical principles,” including lobbying against same-sex marriage, abortion rights, and education. critical race theory in public schools.

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Since the incident, Yelp has frozen reviews for Metzger, citing that the business is being monitored by Yelp’s support team for content related to media reports. Yelp takes this step when a business is in the news for “something controversial,” saying on its website that people often visit Yelp with the intention of sharing their views on the situation in a review, photo, or other way. contents.

“These comments generally do not reflect a consumer’s personal experience with the business, which should always be the focus of user content on Yelp.” read a post on the Yelp website.

The Family Foundation is also facing increased attention. The organization’s “Personal” page has also been disabled, with a message citing “an increase in inappropriate messages left for our staff” as the reason for the change.

The legal perspective

This incident comes as arguments are heard in another high-profile case on anti-discrimination, freedom of expression and religious freedom in the case of 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis. The plaintiff in the case is Lorie Smith of Colorado, an evangelical Christian web designer who refuses to create same-sex wedding websites despite strict anti-discrimination laws in her home state.

“One of the reasons I think the restaurant story is getting a lot of attention is because it happened on basically the same day as the Supreme Court arguments about the web designer.” Richard W Garnett, a professor at Notre Dame Law School and director of the Notre Dame Program on Church, State and Society, tells TODAY.com. “So for this restaurant story to come out, it seems like, ‘Whoops, now the tables are turned.'”

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Garnett says that restaurants are governed by public accommodation lawswhich stipulate that restaurants cannot deny service on the basis of certain protected categories such as race, gender, religion, and sometimes sexual orientation under local law.

“These public accommodation laws have been around for a long time, and they started out having to do with making sure people had access to things like trains, movie theaters, restaurants, etc.,” Garnett says.

The American Civil Liberties Union says that while there is no federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in public places such as restaurants, theaters, and other businesses, there are state and local laws, such as those of colorado — where this type of discrimination is prohibited.

On the other hand, Garnett says that discrimination based on political beliefs is only protected in a few areas in the United States, including Washington D.C.. – but not Virginia, where this case occurred.

“Generally speaking, public accommodations laws don’t protect people from exclusion for reasons like political expression, political affiliation, or political beliefs,” Garnett says. “But, in some jurisdictions, local governments have actually added protections for people’s political affiliation.”