Bigot: ‘Thou shalt not have your cake!’
A CHRISTIAN-run bakery in Northern Ireland is facing legal action after refusing to produce a cake carrying a picture of the Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie and the slogan “support gay marriage”.
Ashers Baking Co, based in Newtownabbey terminated the order saying that it went against the directors’ religious beliefs. Proprietors insisted that producing the cake with the slogan and a picture of the puppets arm in arm printed onto the icing, would amount to endorsing the campaign for the introduction of gay marriage in the province, and go against their religious convictions.
But the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland has now written to the firm insisting that are in breach of the law. It claimed that refusing to print the cake amounted to discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation against the man who placed the order.
A letter signed by the legal office orders the firm to remedy “illegal discrimination” within seven days or be taken to court by the commission.
According to the BBC, the bakery, which was founded in Newtownabbey in 1992, is run by the McArthur family. The directors, who are Christians, operate six shops in Northern Ireland and employ 62 people.
The firm’s 24-year-old general manager, Daniel McArthur, said marriage in Northern Ireland “still is defined as being a union between one man and one woman” and said his company was taking “a stand”.
The company declined an order from a gay rights activist, asking for cake featuring the Sesame Street puppets and also wanted the cake to feature the logo of a Belfast-based campaign group called “Queerspace”.
The customer placed the order in Ashers’ Belfast branch a number of weeks ago, and it was then passed to their head office.
The directors and myself looked at it and considered it and thought that this order was at odds with our beliefs. It certainly was at odds with what the Bible teaches, and on the following Monday we rang the customer to let him know that we couldn’t take his order.
McArthur added that his firm offered the customer a full refund, which was collected shortly after the order was refused.
We thought that was the end of it, but approximately six weeks later we received a letter from the Equality Commission. The Equality Commission’s letter said that we had discriminated against the customer on the grounds of his sexual orientation.
It asked us to propose how we would recompense the customer for this discrimination. It also said it would pursue legal proceedings if we didn’t respond within a seven-day time period.
The general manager said he was “very surprised” by the watchdog’s letter and his firm asked the Christian Institute for advice on how to deal with the case.
The institute is supporting the bakery’s stance and is now providing legal assistance.
I feel if we don’t take a stand on this here case, then how can we stand up against it, further down the line?
The general manager added that it was not the first time his company had refused customers’ cake orders.
In the past, we’ve declined several orders which have contained pornographic images and offensive, foul language.
I would like the outcome of this to be that, any Christians running a business could be allowed to follow their Christian beliefs and principles in the day-to-day running of their business and that they are allowed to make decisions based on that.
However, Gavin Boyd, a gay rights campaigner with the Rainbow Project in Northern Ireland, supported the customer’s discrimination complaint.
It is because of sexual orientation that the company decided not to print this. The law is really clear. You cannot pick and choose which sides of the law apply to you.
If you are a company that is trading out there in the market place and someone comes to you, you can’t pick and choose whether or not to fulfil that order based on their sexual orientation.
In a statement, the watchdog said:
The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland provides advice and can provide assistance to people who complain to us that they have suffered unlawful discrimination. In this case the commission has granted assistance to the complainant, and has written to the company concerned on his behalf. The commission will consider any response before taking further action.”
Northern Ireland is now the only part of the UK which has not passed a law to introduce same-sex marriage.
Hat tip: Andy Brown and Angela K