On Sept. 11, Marilyn Synek, a communications specialist for the Nebraska Family Alliance, was publicly berated by an employee of a Lincoln, Nebraska, coffee shop and told to leave because of her socially conservative political views.
Stopping at the café had become a weekly tradition for Synek since she moved to Lincoln. “I enjoy sipping coffee and savoring crepes surrounded by my neighbors who may believe differently than I do,” she said. But on Sept. 11, her favorite breakfast spot became a place of anger and hostility.
An employee, who identifies as a transgender woman, approached Synek and began to loudly curse at her without provocation. The employee called Synek “bigoted trash” and demanded she leave and never return.
“I was stunned by those hateful words. I’ve always treated the employees of this cafe with respect and courtesy and never broadcast my political beliefs in the shop.”
The coffee shop fired the employee shortly after the altercation, and one of the shop’s owners contacted Synek to apologize and welcome her back to the café any time.
“We do not condone this behavior and never have,” said Sharon Grossman, a co-owner of the shop. “Our sincere apologies to anyone who had to witness this incident.”
In an op-ed for The Daily Signal, Synek recounted her experience and addressed the importance of religious freedom and civil discourse in today’s society.
“Some people have suggested that a barista berating me and threatening to deny me future service is no different from a cake artist or a florist declining certain requests that contain messages they would prefer not to celebrate, design, or promote,” Synek wrote. “But it’s incredibly different. Jack Phillips and Barronelle Stutzman simply didn’t want to speak messages that violated their convictions. The cafe employee in my case, however, had no such burden.”
The op-ed continued: “Phillips and Stutzman are business owners who treat all clients with respect and kindness. They serve everyone who walks through their doors. And, like any other business owner, they run their small businesses consistent with their mission and values.”
Synek argued that if she asked a printer to design a poster for a Nebraska Family Alliance event and they objected to the message, she would understand their decision and go to another business.
“Tolerance goes both ways, and civil disagreement and discourse on important issues facing our country is a necessary component of a pluralistic society like ours,” she wrote.
“… As American citizens, we will inevitably disagree on political and policy issues. The First Amendment guarantees the freedom to peacefully express our ideas and promote what we believe. It also protects our freedom not to participate in speech and events that promote things we don’t believe … I don’t expect everyone to share my beliefs, but I do welcome rational debate and reasonable discussion.”