The futility of prayer: bigoted bakers lose court battle

The futility of prayer: bigoted bakers lose court battle October 24, 2016

The headline above a report on the Christian Institute’s website says:

Ashers ‘hope and pray’ for Court ruling that protects conscience.

Well, their prayers – as prayers always do – fell on deaf ears, and the Court of Appeal in Belfast today ruled against the owners of Ashers Baking Company.
The McArthur family, owners of the bakery, had been taken to court accused of political and sexual orientation discrimination after they refused to make a cake with the campaign slogan ‘Support Gay Marriage’.
The Christian Institute, which supported Ashers, described the ruling as an “oppressive” use of Northern Ireland’s equality laws and demanded that the law be changed to protect “freedom of conscience”.
Deputy Director for Public Affairs at the Institute, Simon Calvert said:

Equality laws are there to protect people from discrimination, not to force people to associate themselves with a cause they oppose.
But those same laws have become a weapon in the hands of those who want to oppress anyone who dissents from the politically-correct norms of the moment. The law needs to change before more damage is done.

Handing down the judgment in Belfast, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan and two other senior judges upheld County Court Judge Isobel Brownlie’s previous ruling that the McArthur family discriminated against Gareth Lee.
The judges recognised that the family did not refuse the service because Lee was gay, but nonetheless ruled that refusing the order because of its slogan “was direct discrimination”.
The ruling states that Ashers can provide a “service to all or none but not to a selection of customers” adding:

What they may not do is provide a service that only reflects their own political or religious message in relation to sexual orientation.

After the judgment was delivered Ashers’ General Manager Daniel McArthur, above, spoke outside court of his family’s deep disappointment at losing their high-profile court action.

We’re extremely disappointed with today’s ruling. If equality law means people can be punished for politely refusing to support other people’s causes, then equality law needs to change.
This ruling undermines democratic freedom. It undermines religious freedom. It undermines free speech.

McArthur added:

We had served Mr Lee before and would be happy to serve him again. The judges accepted that we did not know Mr Lee was gay and that was not the reason we declined the order. We have always said  it was never about the customer, it was about the message. The court accepted that. But now we are being told we have to promote the message even though it’s against our conscience.
What we refused to do, was to be involved with promoting a political campaign to change marriage law.
Because we’re Christians we support the current law. And we felt that making this cake would have made us responsible for its message.
We wouldn’t decorate a cake with a pornographic picture or with swear words. We wouldn’t decorate a cake with a spiteful message about gay people.  Because to do so would be to endorse and promote what was said.

Calvert added:

The only reason Ashers Baking Company turned this order down is because to do otherwise, would be to involve themselves and their company in endorsing a highly political and controversial campaign to redefine marriage. This is something that as Bible-believing Christians, they simply could not do.
To essentially say ‘I’m sorry but whatever you think about the morality of any particular campaign you must get involved with it if asked’ is baffling and frankly oppressive.
What about the Muslim printer asked to produce cartoons of Mohammed? Or the Roman Catholic company asked to produce adverts with the slogan ‘Support abortion’?
Any company whose owners believe that their creative output says something about them and their values has been put at risk by this interpretation of the law. We’ll work with the family and their lawyers to see what options for appeal remain open.

The Attorney General for Northern Ireland, John Larkin QC, claimed that the laws used against the bakery fall foul of Northern Ireland’s constitutional law.

What cannot be disguised is that the defendants are being compelled, on pain of civil liability, to burn a pinch of incense at the altar of a god they do not worship.
The constitutional law of Northern Ireland, supplemented by the ECHR, resists such a compulsion.

Hat tip: AgentCormac and BarrieJohn

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  • AgentCormac

    The Christian Institute loses yet another case? They aren’t very good, are they?

  • I think the Paddy bakers were right to refuse to make that silly old cake. I’d refuse to make it too if I were a baker.

  • barriejohn

    What I don’t understand is why they wanted a representation of Donald Trump and Bill Clinton in one another’s arms on their cake. How odd.

  • barriejohn

    The ruling here was so clear that I fear that they will NEVER get it:
    The supplier may provide the particular service to all or to none but not to a selection of customers based on prohibited grounds. In the present case the appellants might elect not to provide a service that involves any religious or political message. What they may not do is provide a service that only reflects their own political or religious message in relation to sexual orientation.
    I have an awful feeling that the Christian Institute will be going to court again in the future, fighting the same battle!

  • barriejohn

    Take a look at some of the comments here:
    The gaylords are attempting to achieve a position in society whereby ANY criticism of them or their lifestyle is a hate crime
    The Zionists are doing precisely the same thing – they want any criticism of Israel to be seen as anti semitism and thus a hate crime
    This is the stick that has been used to beat the Labour party recently
    Looked at objectively – surely that will give these f—— more rights than you or I ?
    Or do I have that wrong?

    Hmmm…I’ll have to think about that one.

  • Laura Roberts

    @barriejohn: yup, the problem is, the law sometimes involves nuance, and many religious folks just don’t do nuance.

  • Daz

    I note that Bob The Bouncing Bombast is up in arms about it. Apparently ’cause God had some kids ripped to shreds, bigotry is fine and dandy. I’m not sure how the premise leads to the conclusion, but hey-ho. Fundy logic was ever thus.

  • jay

    How does this differ from a Jewish deli owner refusing to make a ham sandwich?

  • chrsbol

    I live in the Jewish area of Manchester and can assure you, there aren’t any Jewish delis that sell or stock ham. I imagine if one took some ham in the shop and asked for a sandwich to be made up they would be within their rights to refuse.

  • L.Long

    Couldn’t they declare themselves a ‘xtian club’.
    And when xtian customers come in they have to present a church card and pay a joining fee? Then they can sell only to ‘proper’ xtians and tell gays to piss off!
    Of course they may not get many customers, and go broke but they will be able to be bigots!!

  • Lesser Man

    Would Mr Lee have been so brave as to put his Cake order into a Muslim Halal Bakery. No. And it would not have gone to Court. He should have made his own cake.
    He’s caused more hate against himself.

  • andym

    AC:My first thoughts too. It’s like a kiss of death having them on your side.
    Jay: The deli is refusing to serve everyone with ham. If they sold ham to gentiles, but not to people they thought were Jewish, as I understand it, they’d then be in breach.
    The problem the bakery had is that they weren’t refusing to decorate with any political or religious slogans, just this one.

  • barriejohn

    @andym: I think you have it right. They can refuse to produce slogans but they can’t say: “We’ll do his slogan, but not yours”, if what is requested is legal.
    Daz: I couldn’t resist a peep.
    As I’m typing this, news is coming through of a Christian bakery in N. Ireland which has been unjustly attacked by a court for not promoting a particularly vile form of perversion. It is easy to be angry at the wickedness of the judges and, of course, at the “person” who took the case in the first place; but, we need to place the judgement in God’s hands, He will deal with these opponents of the Gospel.
    Even if they don’t face His wrath in this life, then they will do so in Hell, when they will have all eternity to bitterly reproach themselves for their folly. One hopes, of course, that they will come to repentance and faith in Christ before that dreadful day when they face God and pay for their vile crimes.

    No he doesn’t; he’s savouring the moment!

  • AgentCormac

    @ barriejohn
    ‘No he doesn’t; he’s savouring the moment!’
    He always does. There’s something decidedly perverse about the way he relishes the suffering he believes his ever-so-loving magic friend will inflict on those who stand in the way of Bob The Saved.

  • 1859

    It is pure and simple discrimination. Every shop owner has the right to refuse to sell their goods or services to everyone or to no one. But they do not have the right to select who they serve or sell to. And this is what the law clearly states. For example. A white supremacist opens a shop selling ‘Pretzel Sausages’ but refuses to serve a black customer because of their skin colour – racial discrimination. A bakery refuses to serve a gay customer because of her/his sexual orientation – gender discrimination. Selective discrimination is, and must remain, illegal. And Bob can go and screw himself with a cucumber.

  • John

    I am not 100% happy about the outcome of this case.
    It seems that we have ended with an element of coercion.
    The couple who run the bakery have either allowed themselves to be used or have volunteered themselves to be used by the litigious Christian Institute.
    Similar bodies in the USA and zionist-supporting groups around the world are also opting to deploy “lawfare” in order to get round reasonable laws in an effort to achieve changes in the law which they cannot otherwise achieve legally or politically.
    The whole lot of them – including the presumably impressionable McArthurs – are clearly enemies of democracy and of humanity.
    I am glad they lost the case as the outcome reaffirms our democracy and the rule of law in our society.

  • “What they may not do is provide a service that only reflects their own political or religious message in relation to sexual orientation.”
    Therefore, a gay baker could refuse to bake a gay cake? Or a straight baker who says he is gay could refuse? Will the government now require a demonstration of straightness or gayness in cake cases?
    If 1/10th of the effort put into cake equality was put into airlifting homosexuals out of Muslim nations, where they face something slightly more inconvenient than loss of a cake, I’d prefer it.

  • Daz

    The cake is relatively unimportant. The very public demonstration that such discrimination is illegal and that “because God says so” doesn’t constitute a get-out clause is what is important.

  • barriejohn

    AgentCormac: Exactly, and I’ve seen it so many times. All that bogus wringing of the hands and wailing that “The times are getting more and more evil; the Coming of the Lord must be very near”. But did you notice his reference to the “person” (sic) who complained in the first case. Gay people don’t even merit enough respect to be referred to as people. I’m surprised that he gets away with posting what he does sometimes.

  • Laura Roberts

    @TrevorBlake: “Therefore, a gay baker could refuse to bake a gay cake? Or a straight baker who says he is gay could refuse? Will the government now require a demonstration of straightness or gayness in cake cases?”
    As I understand it, the political views of the shop keeper don’t enter into it. It’s a question of the services the business says it provides (to everyone). A gay baker (or straight baker pretending to be gay) whose business does not include wedding cakes could refuse to make a gay wedding cake. A baker whose policy is not to put messages on cakes can refuse to make one with “Happy Birthday” on it. However, a baker who does offer to put messages on cakes cannot refuse “Gay love is awesome” but could refuse messages that violate the law.
    That’s my (admittedly callow) understanding of how the law works.