The Icing on the Cake
March 25, 2015

This week a very important decision which could have serious repercussions for many businesses within the services industry will be made by a judge in Belfast. 

Ashers Bakery, a business owned and run by a Christian family from Northern Ireland, who employ around sixty people, are in court to defend their right to refuse to provide products which are contrary to their Christian beliefs to any potential clients.

The case has arisen in the wake of the company refusing to supply a cake decorated with the words “Support Gay Marriage”  to a customer.  The  family-run business has never been guilty of discriminating against anyone from the Homosexual, Lesbian or trans-gender community. They have always been willing to serve anyone regardless of their race, ethnicity, color, political affiliation or sexual orientation.  However they have refused to decorate cakes with anything which would be contrary to their Christian beliefs, for example, swear words, immoral slogans or what they regard as obscene artwork.

Because they applied this principle to a gay couple who wanted the words ‘Support Gay marriage’ printed on their cake, the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland have taken a court case against them. They are accused of discriminating against the couple on the basis of their sexual orientation.

Ashers made it clear that they would be willing to bake the cake for the customer but would not decorate it with the requested slogan. They wanted to make it clear that they were not in any way refusing to serve people from the Gay community. What they were seeking to do was to uphold their Christian beliefs and principles in the running of their business.

The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, which is a public funded body  has made it clear that they are in favor of same-sex marriage and against any conscience clause being added to Northern Ireland equality legislation. A considerable amount of Northern Ireland tax-payers money has already been spent to bring this case against this Christian business.

Last week a leading human rights lawyer, Mr Aidan O’Neill QC indicated some of the repercussions for other businesses if the ECNI case was upheld.  Other businesses, both in Northern Ireland and in the rest of the UK , would be forced to promote all sorts of messages however offensive to their firmly held beliefs. For example,

  • A Muslim printer would no longer, by law, be able to refuse to print cartoons of the prophet Mohammed
  • An atheist web designer would not be able to refuse to design a website which presented as scientific fact the teaching that God made the world in six literal days.
  • A Christian film company could not refuse to produce a pornographic film.
  • A Christian baker could not refuse an order to make a cake celebrating Satanism
  • A T-Shirt company  owned by Lesbians could not refuse to decline an order for a T Shirt with a message describing gay marriage as an ‘Abomination’

Should the judge rule in favor of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland this will, in effect, mean that the law is now able to force citizens to say things that they don’t believe and with which they firmly disagree.  Is the civil right to disagree with something now to be taken away from us ?  Would a similar business run by homosexuals be taken to court by the ECNI for refusing to fulfill an order to bake a cake with the words “Homosexuality is a Sin and an Abomination in God’s Eyes” printed on it? 

Surely this Christian business, like all businesses in the service industry, whilst not discriminating against who they serve or do business with, have the right to use discrimination in what they produce and to refuse to manufacture anything that is contrary to their strongly held beliefs and convictions (religious or otherwise).

To many  Evangelical Christians this case is seen as further evidence that our society in general and government bodies in particular are putting increasing pressure on those who hold firmly to the teaching of the Bible and refuse to compromise their beliefs. 

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