Sioux City, IA – A Sioux City Church, Cornerstone World Outreach, claims it was refused service by Opportunities Unlimited because of their faith and the public stands they have taken as a church.
Last week Cornerstone World Outreach ordered Jumpy Monkey® Coffee for their church. Jumpy Monkey Coffee was acquired by Opportunities Unlimited in Sioux City in 2003. Opportunities Unlimited is a rehabilitation facility that provides services to individuals that have sustained a traumatic brain injury. The Jumpy Monkey® Coffee website says that their coffee is roasted at Opportunities Unlimited and with one’s purchase of Jumpy Monkey®products they not only receive a high quality, high value product, but they assist in the employment of people with disabilities.
That was one of the primary reasons that Pastor Cary Gordon and his wife Molly wanted to order coffee from them for their church. Pastor Gordon writing on his church blog said, “my wife and I thought that it would be nice to support a local Sioux City business called “Opportunities Unlimited” because we knew they employed mentally handicapped people.”
Pastor Gordon told Caffeinated Thoughts that they thought this was a good alternative for their church since they encouraged members not to purchase from Starbucks due to their stand in favor of same-sex marriage.
Gordon said they were very accommodating and even offered to put the church logo on the label. The coffee was to be delivered on December 5th. They contacted Molly Gordon on December 4th to say they were refusing service to the church allegedly because their public stands. Mrs. Gordon reported that they “wanted to remain neutral” and believed that the church had been too polarizing.
Pastor Gordon told Caffeinated Thoughts that the only two issues he and the church is really known for speaking out against are abortion and same-sex marriage. Gordon said his wife offered to purchase coffee without the custom labels, but was told, “No. We don’t want to upset our clients.”
Iowa Code 216.7 (The Iowa Civil Rights Act) states that it would be an unfair or discriminatory practice “ to refuse or deny to any person because of race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion, or disability the accommodations, advantages, facilities, services, or privileges thereof, or otherwise to discriminate against any person because of race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion, or disability in the furnishing of such accommodations, advantages, facilities, services, or privileges.”
Gordon says he will not sue because he believes in the free market and disagrees with the law. “I believe in the free market and that consumers have a right to make choices about where they will spend their hard-earned dollars,” Gordon said. Because of that he said he wanted to share his experience with his congregation.
Caffeinated Thoughts contacted Opportunities Unlimited CEO/President Stephanie Brown, but she was unavailable for comment prior to publication. This article will be updated if/when it is provided.
Update: Opportunities Unlimited CEO/President Stephanie Brown released a statement to The Sioux City Journal:
Opportunities Unlimited was shocked to discover Pastor Cary Gordon’s “Open Letter to Christians on the Marketplace” posted December 05, 2013. In representing Cornerstone World Outreach, Pastor Gordon has made statements against Opportunities Unlimited that are untrue, libelous, defamatory and damaging to our reputation in the community, region and country. Located in Sioux City, Iowa, Opportunities Unlimited is a non-profit organization whose purpose and mission has been to serve individuals with disabilities since the early 1990’s. Opportunities Unlimited provides Residential Rehabilitation services for individuals who have sustained a traumatic brain injury, a spinal cord injury, or other physical disability. We are non-political and do not affiliate with any particular religious faith or denomination. We do, however, receive encouragement and local support from various faith based organizations in the Siouxland region, just as Opportunities Unlimited receives support from numerous business, philanthropic, family and personal concerns in support of our mission.
Pastor Gordon and his Church have maliciously decided to attack Opportunities Unlimited in a willful and reckless way by suggesting that our organization refused to sell a fund-raising coffee product to his Church because of an alleged anti-Christian bias. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Opportunities Unlimited’s mission is to support, rehabilitate, and champion individuals who live with disabilities due to a traumatic brain injury or other reason. As a non-profit organization, Opportunities Unlimited endorses no particular religious belief over another; nor does the organization act on a political agenda marriage, sexual preferences, or other subjects unrelated to our mission. As to the promotional sale of coffee beans, Opportunities Unlimited has never marketed customized labels for any church-affiliated organization, and the Cornerstone Church was treated no differently than any other group.
Pastor Gordon and his Church owe Opportunities Unlimited an immediate retraction and apology . If this is not forthcoming immediately, Opportunities Unlimited will take whatever action is necessary to assert its rights in this matter and to hold the Pastor and his organization responsible for their actionable defamatory and libelous statements.
Pastor Gordon responds:
As I’ve already clearly explained in my blog, despite the fact that Iowa code happens to forbid such behavior, I do fully support, on principle, Opportunities Unlimited and Jumpy Monkey Coffee’s ability to refuse to sell coffee beans to our local church, and in the process, embarrass and insult my lovely, kind, and gentle wife.
I also reserve the right to accurately and truthfully share our terrible experience with the fine people of our congregation, and other friends and allies across western Iowa. Religious discrimination, not unlike suppression of free speech (which sometimes takes the form of punishing those who publicly defend Christian values), are terrible and dangerous things we should all strive to avoid.
2nd Update: Just received a photo that contradicts the Opportunities Unlimited statement: