It was over a year ago that I wrote my “Concerning Ashers Bakers” blog: “… Christian bakers (Ashers) in Northern Ireland that refused to bake a cake for a gay organization that would include an inscription promoting gay marriage. The bakers were told by the Equality commission they needed to comply with the request otherwise they would be breaking discrimination laws. Ashers refused and were taken to court. Two days ago the court ruled to the effect that Ashers had indeed broken the law …”
I have to confess, I hadn’t expected to return to the story, much as I sympathized with the bakers’ stand, although I knew this was not going to be the end of the matter, both from the point of view that the Ashers were going to appeal against the decision and that I fully expected there will be stories of similar ilk in much the same way there have been prior to this ruling. I was also reticent to do so as I do not wish to be seen as anti-gay (which is far from the case) or my views should distract me away from my community activism.
But today there has been an important development that has been long awaited. According to one “neutral” report, “‘Gay cake’ appeal: Christian bakers Ashers lose appeal”, we learn “the Christian owners of a Northern Ireland bakery have lost their appeal against a ruling that their refusal to make a “gay cake” was discriminatory. Appeal court judges said that, under law, the bakers were not allowed to provide a service only to people who agreed with their religious beliefs”. Understandably, there has been a mixed reaction. Supporting the Ashers is the Christian Institute with their article: “BREAKING: Calls to change ‘oppressive’ equality law after Ashers lose ‘gay cake’ case”. Taking a more supportive of the decision line is Pink News in an article: “Christian bakers lose court appeal in ‘gay cake’ row”, a view most of their readers who have commented support.
None of the above will come as a surprise, including the judgment, given the way our culture is going, including the law on which the Appeal judges base their judgment. What may surprise some is veteran LBGT activist, Peter Tatchell, is supporting the Ashers. In his article today: “Ashers Bakery’s defeat is no win for the LGBT community – it sets a dangerous and authoritarian precedent”, he argues that: “Discrimination against LGBT people is wrong and is rightly unlawful. But in a democratic society, people should be able to discriminate against ideas they disagree with… Discrimination against LGBT people is wrong and is rightly unlawful. But in a democratic society, people should be able to discriminate against ideas they disagree with. I am saddened that the court did not reach the same conclusion”.
I reaffirm my support for the Ashers, for the dignified, principled and respectful (to gay folk) way they approached a difficult dilemma and regret they have been involved in costly litigation. It would have been so much easier to have just given in and go with the flow, for after all we all have to go along with things we disagree with, for that is the price to pay for living in a pluralistic society. I wonder what might have happened if Charlie Hebdo had asked a Muslim baker to inscribe a cake with a cartoon of the prophet Mohammad, or if a far right group approached my “Hope Not Hate” printer friend asking if she would print a leaflet promoting their racist ideology. I recognise there may be other perspectives to consider and as is generally the case we may not know all the facts. Maybe the customer was genuinely surprised and upset that what was in his view a perfectly reasonable request was rejected, and without any prior warning.
Yet I continue to be sad that society is moving in a direction where religious freedom is curbed and the good guys are gagged or worse whereas the bad guys put on pedestals, all in the interest of political correctness and equality (whatever that means). In my grumpiness, I see many more worthwhile avenues for the Equality Commission to pursue, concerning discrimination, in my work among the marginalized rather than hound good people who genuinely wish to honour the Almighty. All I can add is – I agree with Peter!