The owner of Bedlam Coffee who kicked out a group of anti-abortion activists is speaking out, saying that religion had nothing to do with his actions.
“This wasn’t about Christianity. I’m not anti-Christian,” Ben Borgman told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson. “I’m anti-people who print garbage and spread it around the city. If you want to hand out stuff, you put it in an adult’s hand. You don’t leave it wrapped up like a toy for a child to find. That’s what it’s all about.”
Borgman argues there’s a lot more to the story than what is on the viral video that shows him telling the group to leave.
The incident has been framed as a case of religious discrimination. The Washington State Human Rights Commission is sending Borgman a letter explaining state anti-discrimination law. Borgman says that some people have even said to him “Good job for kicking out Christians.” But he’s quick to put an end to that rhetoric, he says.
“This whole ‘thrown out for being Christian’ thing, that is so wrong,” he said. “I have Christian friends who choose to preach education and support as opposition to abortion. They do not choose to confront people, and picket funerals, and bomb clinics. There are a lot better ways to get this message to women without scaring them or horrifying them.”
There is no evidence to suggest that this particular group has ever picketed funerals or taken other dramatic actions. Borgman argues their rhetoric is the same as other such activists and he does not view them as Christians because “Christians don’t go around spreading hate.”
Borgman explains Bedlam Coffee incident
Last week, the group of Christian anti-abortion activists went into Bedlam Coffee in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood. When Borgman realized who they were, he kicked them out. The group has been spending time in Seattle spreading stickers, fliers, and has even left origami butterflies in parks. The stickers and fliers utilize gay pride rainbow colors, and some include graphic images of aborted fetuses. Borgman said he saw them placing stickers on newspaper boxes in front of his coffee shop.
“The butterfly ones were particularly offensive, because they were left in parks and children were probably the first people to find them,” Borgman said. “When you opened them up, they read on the inside, ‘You are not safe,’ in big, giant, scary letters; ‘You are not safe.’ There were people in this city that thought it was a terrorist attack … at the very least they littered in a park.”
The group took video of Borgman as he loudly told them to leave his coffee shop using offensive language and crudely speaking about Jesus Christ. He told them he was a gay man and was offended by their material. It has gone viral.
“That video has blocks and pieces missing from it,” Borgman said. “Like me clearly saying that free speech is for the sidewalk, not a private establishment. That didn’t make it. Also not on the video was me entering the room and saying, ‘I’m sorry, I have to ask you to leave.’ The way it looks on video is I came in and immediately started screaming … they conveniently left out that I started polite and asked them to leave. They challenged me telling them to leave.”
“The rest happened because I wanted them to feel just as disgusted as I felt looking at that poster,” he said. “I do believe I made them feel, at least, close to as disgusted.”
You can view the posters here, but be warned, they are graphic and can be offensive.
Coffee shop vs florist
The incident has been likened to the Richland florist who refused to serve a gay couple. Borgman weighed in on that case, too, while talking to Dori.
“I don’t think she should have to (serve customers she doesn’t want to),” Borgman said. “I don’t think anybody should bake a cake or sell flowers to anybody they don’t want to. And apparently that is not what I’m supposed to think … my only real reaction to that is: Why would you want to force somebody, that doesn’t want to make you something, to make you a wedding cake? It doesn’t seem like they are going to make it really well. They are not going to give you their best work.”
Borgman said that members of the anti-abortion group have been back into Bedlam Coffee since the incident. He said that he will serve them. The reason he kicked them out was because it was clear who they were and what they were doing.
“I probably would not throw them out,” Borgman said. “If they held a meeting here to organize their action in the park, yes, I would throw them out. Not because they are Christian; not because they are any kind of protected class. Because they are a group of people spreading hate in my city.”
“If I have any regrets, it’s that I gave these people exactly what they wanted,” he said. “I was exactly the guy they needed to set off so they would have a video and they can stand around and say, ‘Look at what victims we are.’”