A bakery in Northern Ireland may face court after refusing to bake a cake on the grounds that it would compromise their Christian beliefs. The cake, ordered to celebrate International Day against Homophobia and Tran phobia, was to feature a picture of Bert and Ernie and the logo of Belfast-based campaign group, Queer space.
The Equality Commission
Ashers Baking Company in Belfast is owned by devout Christians, the McArthur family who own a total of six bakeries in Northern Ireland. The store’s general manager, Daniel McArthur wrote online about the company’s decision not to supply the cake stating, “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.” Mr McArthur went on to say that the customer was given a full refund which was accepted and collected. However, six weeks after the order was refused, the bakery received a letter from the Equality Commission asking how they proposed to recompense the customers for the discrimination they experienced. The letter also stated that if a reply was not forthcoming within seven days, legal proceedings would commence.
Assistance from the Christian Institute
The McArthur family have turned to the Christian Institute for advice with regards to the matter and insist that they were right to refuse the order. Speaking to the BBC, Daniel McArthur revealed that this was not an isolated incident and said the bakery had, in the past, refused other designs that contradicted their Christian values. Mr McArthur said, “”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.”
Alliance Councillor, Andrew Muir said, “Businesses should not be able to pick and choose who they serve. There would not be any debate if the cake had depicted an anti-racism or anti-ageism slogan, nor should it require intervention from the Equality Commission for this cake for Anti-Homophobia Day. It is ridiculous for this bakery to suggest that they would have to endorse the campaign.” Mr Muir, who hosted the event in honour of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobiaand declared, “For Northern Ireland to prosper and overcome our divisions we need a new society where businesses are willing to cater for all, regardless of religious views, political opinion, disability, race, age, sexual orientation, marital status, gender and other backgrounds.”
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has voiced concerns that Christians’ views are being ignored with cases such as these and wants there to be a clear distinction between discrimination and the right to maintain personal religious beliefs. Nigel Dodd’s, a DUP MP told the BBC, “The case re-opens the debate about how exactly religious belief is respected within the United Kingdom and the need for someone’s conscience to be protected whilst ensuring that discrimination does not occur.”
A Legal Matter
The Equality Commission issued a statement saying, “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 watchdog insists it will wait until Ashers Baking Company replies to their correspondence before taking any further action.
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