Has the Equality Commission Gone ‘Baking Mad’?

Peter Lynas is Director of the Evangelical Alliance in Northern Ireland. He writes here protesting against what he sees as “a fundamental attack on political and religious freedom”, arguing that the Equality Commission has lost all sense of perspective on the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion with regard to the Ashers case.

The Equality Commission has decided to take Asher’s Baking Company to court because it refused to make what has become known as ‘the gay cake’. The Christian run bakery declined to make a cake supporting gay marriage because it was against the directors’ religious beliefs.

The decision to take the family business to court is very worrying. Having taken further legal advice the Commission now claims Ashers are guilty of religious and political discrimination as well as the original claim on the grounds of sexual orientation.
This should concern everyone, not just Christians – it is a challenge to the very fabric of Northern Ireland society.

We are talking about the loss of religious and political freedom. This is an attempt to privatise religion and exclude it from the public square. The Commission is deciding which political and religious views are acceptable and which are not.
Asher’s have made clear that they did not know the sexual orientation of the person ordering the cake.

Even if the Equality Commission itself had ordered the cake they would have declined to make it. Asher’s were discriminating against an idea not a person. The law allows the first, while rightly preventing the second.

The Commission now appears to be arguing that views on gay marriage may be grounds for political discrimination. This is strange as the Commission itself supports gay marriage presumably making it a political organisation and no longer neutral on this issue. Many will see this as the Commission pursuing its own political agenda against a small family business.

Finally, it is reported that the Commission is accusing Asher’s of religious discrimination as their decision was motivated by their faith. There does not appear to be any suggestion they knew the religion of the person ordering the cake or discriminated on that basis.

Instead, the family who run the firm are being accused of discrimination because their stance was motivated by their faith. This is a clear attempt to remove faith from the workplace, and more broadly the public square. Surely we are all motivated by our faith or our beliefs?

Frankly all political parties here in NI and throughout the UK should see this case for what it has now become – a fundamental attack on political and religious freedom. Regardless of one’s views on gay marriage, this case should unite all who believe in civil and religious liberty.

Equality is important but it must be held in tension with rights and responsibilities and in the context of the much richer notion of justice. When equality becomes the sole lens through which a situation is viewed, distortions like the Asher case can occur.

Consideration should be given to merging the Equality Commission with the Human Rights Commission as in England and Wales.
This would ensure better balance and have the benefit of saving the public purse. For now, it is over to the courts to see if they will protect the civil and religious freedoms we all value so much.

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  • Comrade Stalin

    I think Peter, and the others, should be welcoming this case.

    There is a pretty good chance that the Equality Commission has overstepped itself and it will lose. If it does, the court judgement will enshrine in law the right of businesses to refuse specific aspects of their business.

    While I think the book should be thrown at anyone who refuses business to a person just because of their sexual orientation, gender, race etc, and while I think Asher’s are hypocrites and won’t get any more business from me as a consequence of their decision, I have some trouble with what is being pursued here. Would an atheist bakery get sued if it refused to bake a cake that said “Praise Jesus” ? Would a bakery run by Muslims get sued for refusing to bake a cake with a message promoting bacon ?

    Had, theoretically, the printer who made the infamous DUP flag leaflets been an Alliance supporter, would he have been liable to prosecution had he refused to accept the business ?

    I don’t see this as an “attack on Christianity”, which is the way that the well-funded backers of Asher’s stance want it to be seen. There is also a wider agenda at work here, namely that of figures mainly in the DUP (with some cheerleading from Catholic priests of all people) who want to portray themselves as victims in what they would claim is a Northern Ireland that is becoming increasingly hostile to their way of life.

    (let the flames commence)

  • honest joe

    I believe Ashers bakery did the right thing here. They stood by their principles and i fully support them. We all have the right to decide who we do business with and we must be freely able to make personal choices in life based on what we believe. The gays involved could easily have found another bakery willing to bake the cake. Well done Ashers. I support your right to FREE CHOICE.

  • Dec

    ‘This is an attempt to privatise religion and exclude it from the public square’
    Here’s hoping!
    Cue George Carlin’s ‘additional’ Commandment:
    Thou shalt keep thine religion to thyself!!!’

    ‘We all have the right to decide who we do business with’
    Actually, you don’t. And not even the the Evangelical Alliance are claiming that.

  • Hugh1

    First, this case is original to the US, not Ireland. Headlined in the Denver Post, where I live, “Denver and the West: Civil rights commission says Lakewood baker discriminated against gay couple.” By Zahira Torres. 05/30/2014. The legal concept resonates from the original, “small family bakery,” and “…We are talking about the loss of religious and political freedom.”

    The obvious problem is that once discrimination is enshrined in law, then your gay son or daughter can legally be discriminated against at will. Merely the dislike of gays for whatever reason will fall under the “religious” and the “small family business” exemption. Just think of how easy it would be to claim these exemptions, and by then, the damage is done.

    The worst, and the most depressing part of this story is the lack of concern for the gay person. How do you think that person feels? Do you think that it is OK to say to the gay person that his or her sexual orientation (yes, born that way) is so repulsive that you cannot accommodate the person like any other customer? If so, I question your morality, not your understanding of law. Exporting McDonalds is one thing, but buying into US discrimination is an entirely different matter. And it’s morally reprehensible.

  • honest joe

    Hi Dec. get someone to go into any bakery and order a cake with wording supporting the awful slaughter of the Shankill bomb. or congratulating PIRA on a successful bombing or order one supporting the carnage of bloody sunday. will these bakeries be prosecuted for saying NO WAY. yet all of the above have their supporters who see these actions as justified. Good Luck ASHERS

  • terence patrick hewett

    All of these cases in the US or Britain are cases of deliberate entrapment and should be treated as such.

  • Dec

    Yes Joe, those sample events you list are entirely on a par with the support of Gay marriage. However if you’re still labouring under the misapprehension that a business owner can decide who they do business with (ie discriminate) then try opening a business and put a sign with ‘No Muslims’ in the window and see what happens.

  • honest joe

    I own a business in belfast and I DO decide who i do business with.

  • chrisjones2

    If you look at adverts for housing in Tower Hamlets in London you will see lots with

    Males only
    Only Moslem tenants accepted
    Bangladeshi’s Only

    Thats illegal too

  • chrisjones2

    There are two competing rights here and there is no easy answer but this society is soaked in discrimination and some it is so subtle

    My local newsagent has two newspaper racks.One for Prod/English papers and another other for Catholic /Irish.Still at least they do sell both.I recently stopped at a country garage for petrol. Absentmindedly I asked did they stock The TImes.The owner snarled at me “We don’t sell English papers”

    Sad isnt it.

  • Superfluous

    I will never shop in Ashers again (they have a shop beside my house in Carnmoney) – but I think they have the right to refuse to make something they don’t want to make. It’s obviously a borderline case, but in a free society (where you are rightly free to be gay) I don’t believe we should push our values onto others.Yes they are bigoted idiots, but I’m not sure there should be a legal method to punish being an idiot – hopefully the market will punish them for it (as people like me stay away).

  • Guest

    If I ask them to do an Ireland cake with Green White and Orange cake or union jack cake and they denied me service based on my religious or political persuasion, they would be WRONG guilty of discrimination. So why is it ok to do this for sexual orientation. I am both disguised and perplexed at the responses and wonder how big a part to play religion has, not only in this issue but our whole society is dictated by religion. Religious people are not free you are enslaved to rules that were written a thousand years after your saviour (some say within the last six hundred years). Stop using it to justify your predjudice. If Jesus was a baker do you think he would refuse a lgbt person service…? read your bible (im sure you have one) learn about tolerance.

  • Superfluous

    Aye, but the question is if people should be free to be idiots if they want to be – we’ve reached a point where ‘live and let live’ is king, and as much as they can’t tell me what I am allowed to do with my penis I surely can’t force them to do something they don’t want to do with their hands.

  • Dec

    Presumably you’re living the dream then: own your own business, arbitrarily decide who can and cannot purchase your services, spend core business hours posting your musings on internet threads.

  • honest joe

    I wouldnt say im living the dream! Business is at its lowest for 20 years and i have trimmed my business as required. i only buy products from specific companies and individuals as all businesses do. i believe in civil liberties for EVERYONE and that means EVERYONE. its a pity the world is in such a mess. And i think uts going to get a lot messier.

  • honest joe

    Market forces will prevail.

  • chrisjones2

    So you intend to discriminate against them on grounds of their beliefs?

  • Barneyt

    I was looking for a “like” option here 🙂

  • barnshee

    Asher`s just need a BIG note in the window

    “Conditions of contract for supply- Please note that we will not provide cake inscriptions (or whatever the word for cake writing is) which MAY offend.
    Please note the proprietor`s decision is final”

    You bring your order-see our terms and conditions Should you not wish to abide by our advertised terms -go elsewhere

    I smell an ambush

  • Tacapall

    Yes we should all have the right to choose who we do business with but that freedom of choice should come at a price. If you refuse to do business with others because you dont agree with their sexuality, colour of their skin, race, religion, nationality then that business should not benefit from any government contracts, public money in the form of grants, advertising on the airwaves, newspapers etc as obviously your business caters only for your own kind of tribe. If businesses want access to the biggest markets and access to public funds then they should be open for business to everyone regardless of the owners own beliefs.

  • Barneyt

    My gut tells me that a family run business should be able to reject particular customisations. If you list everything from gay marriage to views on global warming, I guarantee each of us would find something we think should not be entertained and the manufacturer would be well within their rights to refuse.

    The issue here could be to do with the product and how easy it is to customise and bespoke. If there was a prolonged lifecycle from inception to the sales channel and the fabrication of the object was much more complicated, then such a requestchange would go up for discussion and would receive approvalrejection internally. The issue would never come to light.

    Here is the nub I think. I guess they produce cakes showing conventional couples, in a standard embrace or engagement. Most of us are trained to accept that as the norm and those with a 30 and under mentality can see outside of that box. They have form is producing wedding cakes? Lets accept that.

    Its now legal and accepted amongst those that know that love and families come in all shapes, colours and sizes, for same sex couples to wed. Its a valid relationship in law and increasingly in society. Now I dont know what the nature of the request was, but I am guessing they asked for a cake showing two men in a similar pose and embrace that the coventional image would show. On the basis they are prepared to deliver a hetro cake and not a homo cake, then they are discriminating.

    Other things I dont know.

    Would they refuse a to make a “lesbian” cake or it it just the sodomy thing thats getting in their way?

    Does the bible suggest that woman on woman activity is forbidden?

    Would they create a cake with a depiction of the reproductive process? If they entertain images of being walked up the ailse, then…would they produce an image of being taken up……

    In this case, there is enough scope to examine discrimination and to determine if the shop owners are being forced into doing something against their core beliefs. Of course, it does raise the question, can you hold a core belief and act upon it if its in direct conflict with the law of the land? They opens up a hornets nest.

    The use of religion is too close to the law as it stands (and I dont want to get into a debate about Moses, his tablets and the law today). We need to remove the bible from the swearing in process in favour of a different contract, to tell the truth and whole through so help me court of the land. If we accept the bible in this mode, does it not mean we have to accept other aspects of the bible…which I believe would perhaps protect our wee bakers.

  • Chris Browne

    “We are talking about the loss of religious and political freedom. This is an attempt to privatise religion and exclude it from the public square. The Commission is deciding which political and religious views are acceptable and which are not.”

    1) Perhaps the secularisation of politics and commerce in NI wouldn’t be the worst thing.

    2) Should we see gay marriage as a political issue that one would take a stance on, for or against? Personally, I consider the right to marriage for all to be a human right. If this were a cake with a nationalist or unionist agenda, I would understand Asher’s wishing to steer clear. But on an issue such as this, I think that the waters are muddier and I am uncomfortable about the stance they have taken.

  • Peter Lynas

    Everyone has a set of beliefs or a worldview – neutrality or secularisation is a myth. Secularism is just a new religion – one in which what each individual says, goes.
    Marriage is a human right as it happens but there are limitations on who you can marry – a close relative, someone under 16, someone of the same sex in NI and 150+ other countries, or more than one person at the same time.
    The Commission have made this a political issue. The legislation was designed to prevent political ideas being used as a cover for sectarian discrimination. That is not the case here, so it seems to me they are stretching the boundaries of the legislation.

  • Lorcs

    Speaking as a heterosexual atheist who supports gay marriage, I think Asher’s are well within their rights here. They haven’t discriminated against the complainant because he is a homosexual. They have refused to accept his business because he wants them to provide something that goes against their religious beliefs.

    If I went to order the same cake, and they refused, they wouldn’t be discriminating against my sexuality, how does that fact that the person is homosexual make a difference?

    They may be discriminating against me on the basis of my political views, but for me, the person’s right to hold a political view does not trump the companies owners/directors right to maintain their religious beliefs.

  • honest joe

    I can assure you that my self grown business has never received gov or grant money. I got to where i am through hard work and a lot of sleepless nights. i dont support loyalism or republicanism. not black extremists nor islamic fanatics. BECAUSE I CHOOSE NOT TO. simple. the right to choose. I shop where i want and buy what i want from who i want. Pretty soon it will be illegal to breath. sic.

  • NMS

    I just wonder where all those so worried about the icing on their cake, feel about the awkward position in which this poor gay male finds himself? http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/benjy-the-bull-facing-the-slaughterhouse-as-he-is-gay-30725727.html

    Is it time to set up a rest home for gay bulls?

  • mark finn

    If they refuse an innocent message on a cake because its ‘gay’ and the law prmits it
    what is the point in having equality law in the first place? When they’re looking to fill a vacancy and a gay man or woman is best qualified for the job should ‘christen conscience’ allow them to refuse that person employment? ‘Gays Not Welcome’ in the job description, not a problem it says so in the bible haha.
    Go down this road and you can effectively discriminate against anyone for anything you wish.
    ‘I Love God’ sorry gods an ass and dosnt exist get out of my shop you backward weirdo plus you’re ginger we hate gingers the most and we’ll be seeking compensation for the hurt you’ve caused our ‘family run business’.

  • mark finn

    How does that work exactly joe? Do you ask customers to fill a check-list before you decide if they’re worthy of your product.
    You wouldnt want anyone who has beliefs different to yours pulling the wool over your eyes. Thats not very honest of them.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I doubt it will be illegal to breathe.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Actually this wasn’t deliberate entrapment. I’m informed that the guy who ordered the cake had no idea it would be rejected. The staff in the bakery also didn’t know it would be rejected, and initially accepted the order before contacting the customer some time later to inform him that it would not be fulfilled.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Peter,

    In what way would you characterize secularism a religion ? In the absence of secularism, how do you think we could do better to accommodate the fact that there are a wide variety of religious views in society ?

  • mark finn

    Not sad at all. Selling English based newspapers may not be profitable for his her business.

  • mark finn

    Aye two wrongs make a right.

  • mark finn

    And how would you feel if those specific companies and any others decided they don’t like your type and refused to trade with you? That means your business is fucked. Have a nice day.

  • honest joe

    Dont hold your breath. LOL. long time ago you were taxed on the size of your windows. Daylight robbery mean anything?

  • honest joe

    NO. i just believe that EVERYONE should have free choice to serve or buy from whom they choose. No big thing really. sorry meant to add. I support Ashers stance.

  • honest joe

    WOW! That brought the tone if the debate into the sewers. Swearing doesnt add to the debate. Surely you know that. People and companies do business with me and have done so cause i pay for what i get. ON TIME. I treat them with respect and they do like wise. PS. my shortest serving staff member has been working with me for 4 years. i must be doing something right. only ever work on saturday if it cant be avoided and NEVER WORK ON SUNDAY. AMEN

  • mark finn

    Your free choice to buy from whoever you want will soon hit a brick wall if the seller has the right to discriminate.

  • mark finn

    So if your sources refused to trade with you because your gay you’d just accept you no longer have a business?
    Its the old saying business is business not personal.

  • mark finn

    ps we don’t serve or employ homos.

  • mark finn

    No because they have a liscense to trade and everyone should be treated equally regardless of your own personal beliefs.

  • WindsorRocker

    They asked for a slogan “Support Gay Marriage” which actually isn’t valid under the law here yet so a good swathe of the above argument is on a false premise. But the point you are making is that homosexual relationships are defined as normal by western society in general. That may well be the case, but the bakery is question is a private business run by people who think otherwise. They should therefore be entitled to refuse to partake in making a product that they find is at odds with their beliefs.
    The sexual orientation of the customer is irrelevant here, it’s the content of the product they were asked to produce.
    The bakery have stated that in the past they have refused orders that had pornographic images on them and that when supplying other orders where the content does not offend their beliefs they have not taken into account the customer that they are serving.
    To me this is far wider than simply an attack on Christian belief, though there are those on either side of the argument who relish this in the context of that battle. This is about the free choice of private businesses to sell what they want. So to force people to make something just because their processes are capable of it is a denial.
    Shall the Equality Commission now demand that Spar shops up and down the country sell lottery tickets, alcohol and contraceptives because a customer demands it. Nonsense.
    Would the Equality Commission force a bakery on the Falls Road run by a nationalist to make a Union Jack cake. Would it force a bakery on the Shankill to make a tricolour cake? Madness, utter madness.

  • mark finn

    Providing customised items you must know you’ll get requests you will not agree with or find offensive.
    Id put anything on a cake as long no one was going to kill me or sue me for it.
    All this company has done is burn money that should be in their pocket and offened people they had no business offending.

  • babyface finlayson

    Well you don’t know that to be true so it is just hyperbole, and possibly libellous.
    As far as we know they will sell a gay person a scone the same as anyone else.

  • mark finn

    They wont bake a cake for a gay person I doubt they;d want one on the payroll.

  • WindsorRocker

    You may well, but you would have the right not to fulfil that order as a private business.
    This debate is not whether people think Ashers should have taken the order, but whether they had the right to refuse the order.
    They may well have burnt money but they had a right to do that. And what of their offence at having to produce such an image which they felt uncomfortable with.

  • Bryan Magee

    Is it necessary to get the lawyers in over such a trifle?

  • WindsorRocker

    Ask the Equality Commission, they are ones pursuing this.

  • mark finn

    In what sense are they private? Its a shop located in one the busiest streets in Ireland with strangers coming in of the street to buy and place orders.
    And the message this sends out for Belfast as a city doesn’t do us any favours either.

  • babyface finlayson

    For the sake of accuracy, I would say they will bake a cake or a gay person just not this particular cake.
    Or are they now refusing to serve gay people at all?
    As for employing gay people, how would we know?

  • Zig70

    It’s one of those lovely things. On one hand if this was a halal butcher refusing to give a gay man a pork sausage then it wouldn’t get a mention. Behind this though is the un-Christian Christians that hate homosexuals. I support the freedom of Christians to follow their faith but if they practice hate then they deserve the rebuke. I wouldn’t know which side to choose, neither probably. Both have a big dollop of intolerant bigots. The lgbt community has to secede that they can’t offer the same thing to society as the child producing heterosexuals and intolerance to opposing views makes them as bad as the Christians they look down their nose at.

  • mark finn

    I see no difference in objecting to a harmless pro gay message on a cake to objecting to actual gay people.
    If they know a person is gay why would they serve or employ that person if homosexuality offends them so much?
    Being gay in their eyes is the problem not the message on the cake. How would we know? Ask them until then we can only speculate.

  • babyface finlayson

    Speculating is exactly what you are doing. I would say there is a difference between serving someone who comes into your shop whose lifestyle you do not approve of and providing material promoting that lifestyle.
    You could do the first without compromising your principles but you might struggle with the second

  • mark finn

    What business is it of them what your lifestyle is? When they sell a cake its for the customer and doesn’t mean you approve of anything.
    How did the shop know it was for same sex marriage rather than a happy marriage? Must have been doing some speculating of their own or sticking their nose where it doesn’t belong.

  • honest joe

    Im not gay and IF my suppliers close down or refuse to supply me, Simplesssss. I get another suitable supplier. Thats the wonder of living in a free society.

  • babyface finlayson

    Its none of their business, but the point you made was that they would not serve gay people. I’m saying that you have no proof for that since to their way of thinking serving someone would not be the same as promoting their lifestyle.
    Has any gay person been refused service in any other situation that you know of?
    I’m sure we would have heard of it by now.
    It just appears you are accusing them of things without proof.

  • Shibboleth
  • WindsorRocker

    Private as in the owners own and get private funding for the business. There is no state involvement. You can’t force a business to make something it doesn’t want to.

  • WindsorRocker

    Surely employees are paid by the management to carry out the decisions of management. Ashers are paying those employees and clearly felt uncomfortable in paying their employees to product this product. So the directors have a right to direct their employees in the activities they do. He who pays the piper calls the tune.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hi Comrade, “secularism as a religion” is a wee bit of a simplification, “quasi-religious secularism” would be my preferred term, but the suggestion one well worth looking at. A disclaimer, I’m not with the “God Wills It” school, simply an objective commentator (for “objective”, see below).

    Certainly, many of those engaged in the project of secularism act along the same lines as those committed to any other faith/belief system. They affirm secularism as an article of faith, which, as a “simply given” truth, trumps the positions of any of its opponents. It is a universal system of belief, emulating from habits long encoded by our inheritance of equally unquestioning system of Christian belief among “all decent people” in the nineteenth century. Like these earlier parodies of religiosity, the control devise is social chastisement, outsider status and a requirement that one feels shame for questioning its unquestionable truths.

    David Ehrenfeld, in “The Arrogance of Humanism” identifies (quoting an excellent review) ” how thought systems based on logical positivism, infinite progress and ‘social salvation’ (as I’d define popular secularism – Seaan) are but a new flourishing of old religious and dogmatic human ideas, all the more infections since their terrifying results have only the best intentions in mind”

    And on another stream of the equality issue, all secularism is a pretty serious power discourse. Secularism is the “gold standard” everything else is evaluated against because its the “objective truth.” As the historian F.S.L. Lyons said, ever since Freud pointed out the existence of unconscious motivation the claim of total objectivity has become entirely untenable.

    But I’m afraid I have no answers as to how we may regulate complex and contending religiosities other than by developing an egalitarian polycultural tolerance that would perhaps function better than the old winner takes all top down model through which secularism articulates itself.

  • Comrade Stalin

    You’re not making a hell of a lot of sense Joe.

  • Comrade Stalin

    That’s a load of old horse.

    To me secularism is the idea that you keep the church out of the state and the law. How is that an article of faith or a quasi-religion ?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hey,Comrade, I think we probably agree on quite a lot of points! I can certainly see where you are coming from. Me too! I don’t want anyone telling me what limits there are on what I can examine, nor do I want to be governed by those of a narrow mind set with answers to everything, but secularism in general has developed itself into just as controlling as system, with its own ways of boxing in thought, its own faith based evaluations, and most importantly, a hierarchy of the acceptability of ideas.

    The way the state applies its brand of secularism, it’s just as constrictive as the Spanish Inquisition, because the same unadventerous narrow minds, needing total re-assurance from a system of “final solutions” to the thinking problem are at simply running the show again, as they always will be in any canonical top down system of thought.

    Its a bit like the word freedom, the word means quite different things to quite different people, and when most voters hear a politician mouth the word, they think often “that’s what I think”, vote and we all ahve to live with the fruits of such gross misunderstandings.

    Now, from your other postings, I think you mean something quite different from what I mean when you use the term “secularism” (ie: as you say above, the absence of particular versions of Religion in State and Law) but I still think that even this has its own limitations.

    Me, I think that the state and law as they stand in our secular society are simply quasi religious systems where people want to find re-assurence, as in the demand on recent threads that Maíria’s case was fully tested in law, so we would have an “objective standard”, whereas I think that religious, secular, or whatever, the state and its laws are something entirely fallible, something “made by fools like you and me” (sorry, Joyce Kilmer). I don’t believe in theocracies, and an ancestor was executed by the triumphant Covenanters for questioning their version of God’s will, so I know where this leads. But the secular “theocracies” of Marxism or the Democratic Will have their own martyrs too!

    And I still think that I’d prefer my old horse to the more popular flogged to death horse version of state secularisms, though. Have you tried post-modernism yet……….

  • Scots Anorak

    The Equality Commission does have an agenda, or a set of them, even though in this case it’s one that I personally support.

    I wrote to it several years ago pointing out that advertising jobs and services for speakers of “Ulster Scots” was potentially discriminatory, as Ulster Scots is simply not differentiated enough from the largest dialect of Scots in Scotland to merit the geographical qualifier. It would be equivalent, in my view, to advertising jobs and services for speakers of “Ulster English” in areas where it could not possibly have any relevance to the employer’s needs. In fact, one could even argue that it’s worse, since the tradition of writing Scots in Scotland is so much stronger and the standard of candidates likely to be correspondingly higher.

    The result of all my efforts was that the Equality Commission refused to support me, failed adequately to explain why it would not do so — apparently common practice at the time, as it was later censured for similar behaviour in other cases — and, when I complained, stopped answering my correspondence.

  • Gaygael

    This is handy banshee and really goes to the heart of this case the black circle is where QueerSpace meets.
    Which bakery is the closest? Surprise surprise it’s ashers. And that’s the whole point of this.
    I should be able to to access goods facilities and services anywhere. When the guys at QueerSpace decided to get a celebratory cake, they went to the nearest bakery.
    With this conscience bull, in practice would mean they would have to ring every bakery in advance, find out if the owners we fundamentalists Christians, or the staff were before placing the order. This is just ridiculous.

    It used to be like that for lgbt people. We could be refused services and discriminated against on the basis of our sexual orientation or gender identity. Not anymore and ends are not going back.

    I listed in the other thread some concerns about ashers. They have never identified as a Christian bakery until now. If they are extremist evangelicals (I imagine this is pretty accurate) do the apply the same scrutiny to every wedding cake that is ordered? Do the ensure that these cakes are only for first marriages, as ashers and the family do not recognise divorce and second marriages?
    They don’t. They only apply this test of christain principles because the cake was overtly in relation to a sexual orientation issue. They applied a different application on the basis of sexual orientation and therefore they may have acted in a discriminatory fashion.

    So christain, they pay minimum wage, despite opening a 7th shop. So Christian they are happy to supply tesco which trades their goods on a Sunday. I think this is deliberately manipulated by the christain institute. They tried to unpick this law through the bills and the bnb case.
    Now they are trying through this.

    I hope they get their ass handed to them.

  • babyface finlayson

    Q. “Was it a trifle or a merangue?”
    A. “No you’re not wrang,it was a trifle!”

  • fergalf

    The bakery is not refusing to serve gays, it is refusing to serve gay cakes to people of any sexuality. There is huge distinction and thus Ashers are in the right here.

  • Comrade Stalin

    This seems like an extremely long reply to what should be a very simple point. It is impossible for a society to simultaneously reflect all of the competing religious faiths encompassed with it. Therefore the only way to be fair is to reflect none of them. That isn’t an article of faith or a religion, it’s just logic.

    I’ve seen other similar efforts among some people to try to categorize atheism as a kind of religion. It isn’t.

    secularism in general has developed itself into just as controlling as system,

    How is secularism a system ? What is it controlling ?

    its own faith based evaluations

    What faith based evaluations ?

    , and most importantly, a hierarchy of the acceptability of ideas.

    What hierarchy ?

    The way the state applies its brand of secularism, it’s just as constrictive as the Spanish Inquisition, because the same unadventerous narrow minds, needing total re-assurance from a system of “final solutions” to the thinking problem are at simply running the show again, as they always will be in any canonical top down system of thought.

    What in heaven’s name are you talking about ?

  • Abucs

    Joe, the English governmental decision that Christians who did not have a certain acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle were not suitable to foster children does put us further down that insane path.

  • Abucs

    The problem is the ‘progressives’ have become their own tribe and they are banning all other viewpoints by use of government and courts. We’ve seen in NI what happens when a segment of the population lose respect for government and courts. The Director is correct. While this ‘progressive’ ideology looks to gain and maintain absolute ascendency, this will not end well.

  • Tacapall

    Abucs democracy is supposed to be based around the concept of majority rule not religious belief and if thats not acceptable for some then im afraid there is no other alternative but to impose that majority viewpoint on the minority who refuse to accept democracy via the courts. The director and the owners of Ashers are entitled to his/their own personal religious beliefs but those personal religious beliefs should not be imposed on others. Its interesting that the DUP can on the one hand argue for freedom of choice to refuse who you do business on the basis of belief but condemn others for exercising that same right. Is freedom of choice only for the rich and powerful ? –

    http://cifwatch.com/2011/07/09/scottish-mps-blast-west-dunbartonshire-councils-boycott-of-israel/

    UK MPs blast West Dunbartonshire Council’s boycott of Israel

    Sponsors: Bottomley, Peter Campbell, Gregory Dodds, Nigel Paisley, Ian Jnr Shannon, Jim

  • chrisjones2

    So why snarl at being asked? Or he may just be a bigot determined to live in a sectarian bubble and pretend England doesn’t exist

    Very Royston Vasey

  • chrisjones2

    Where did I suggest that? I was pointing out that this is pervasive in some areas

  • barnshee

    “The Equality Commission does have an agenda, or a set of them,”

    As well as agendas the EC has a host of comfortably upholstered posteriors polishing seats to pay. With the decline in “prod v mick” and gender allegations this sort of thing is a godsend to the AFM posteriors

  • Zeno3

    Ashers were set up by local activists and not even original thinking ones at that.

    Following are other cases involving wedding cake makers, florists and banquet halls who refused to allow their businesses to be used for the celebration of homosexual “marriages”:

    Just Cookies (Indiana): In 2012, owners of this cookie stand in the Indianapolis City Market refused to fill a special order by phone for “rainbow cookies” for a Purdue University-Indianapolis “gay” student group. Liberal activists charged “discrimination” under the city’s “sexual orientation” law and sought to pressure the market to drop its lease for Just Cookies. They failed, and the owners ultimately settled with the city (without paying damages) over violating the “gay”-affirming nondiscrimination code.

    Masterpiece Cakes (Colorado): The Colorado attorney general has filed a formal complaint against this bakery for refusing – on religious grounds – to make a “gay” wedding cake.

    Victoria’s Cake Cottage (Iowa): Owner Victoria Childress refuses to provide a wedding cake for a homosexual couple out of “convictions for their lifestyle.”

    Fleur Cakes (Oregon): Another Oregon bakery joins Sweet Cakes in refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

    Arlene’s Flowers (Washington): As the liberal Think Progress reports: “Washington florist Barronelle Stutzman refused to provide the flowers for the wedding of a same-sex couple who had long frequented her shop because of her ‘relationship with Jesus Christ.’ She now faces two lawsuits:one from the couple, and one from the state attorney generalfor violating state law.”

    Liberty Ridge Farm (New York): The business refuses to allow its property to be rented out for a lesbian “wedding.”

    All Occasion Party Place (Texas): A Fort Worth venue refuses, out of the owners’ loyalty to their religious beliefs, to rent out a banquet hall for a homosexual “wedding” reception.

    Craig James fired by Fox Sports Southwest after GOP debate tape shows him expressing Christian beliefs in opposition to homosexual “marriage” (September 2013): In a 2012 Republican primary debate for U.S. senator in Texas, former football star Craig James in answering a question said homosexuality is a choice and that homosexuals will have to answer to the Lord for the sin of homosexual “marriage.” The existence of that debate video apparently was enough to get James fired within weeks of being hired by Fox Sports Southwest as a college football analyst. A Fox spokesman told the Dallas Morning News, “We just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements would play in our human resources department. … He couldn’t say those things here.” James says he was fired over his religious beliefs, and his case has parallels with Allstate’s 2005 firing of Matt Barber (see below).

    Should a Christian T-shirt maker be forced to make “gay pride” apparel? Hands On Originals says no (Kentucky): A Christian-owned T-shirt company (Hands On Originals) ran afoul of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission when it refused to print “gay pride” designs for a local homosexual group, the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO). If the case cannot be settled, the next phase is a “public hearing” in which the government commission represents GLSO against Hands On, which is being defended by Alliance Defending Freedom. ADF attorney Jim Campbell says, “Americans in the marketplace should not be subject to legal attacks simply for abiding by their beliefs. … The Constitution prohibits the government from forcing business owners to promote messages they disagree with.” Another local T-shirt company donated 500 T-shirts to GLSO with the “gay pride” message they wanted – showing that the homosexual activist group could easily have sought out and ordered them from a company whose owners are not opposed to celebrating homosexual relationships.

  • LordSummerisle

    At the risk of sounding like an historical cliché, “Let them eat cake”. This whole situation is absurd.

  • Gaygael

    Yawn off. Can we just. Scotch this rumour that ashers we set up.

    Who knew that ashers was run by fundamentalist extremists until now? Do they advertise it on their website? In their seven stores? Pe itch their products?

    Nope. None of the above. And in fact, here is an interview in z2010 where the studiously fail to mention their supposed Christianity. http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/business/opinion/big-interview/a-fabulous-baker-boy-28572333.html

    Next. Ashers pay min wage. Very. Christian when you are opening your seventh shop. Bet Jesus would be proud, and not thinking of any Pharisees at all.

    They also provide good to tesco. A chain which opens on Sundays. Very Christian. And also donated to London pride. Does that fit with their extremist Christian principles? But hey, ashers were making good dollar, so why give a feck?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hey, Comrade, my stock in trade is convoluted replies. The measure of any reply must be a serious attempt to actually answer points, and yes I’m going off at tangents, so apologies. But you are in turn being rather disingenuous when you try and present secularism as a simple arbiter between contending irrationalities. For a start, secularism as we’re using it is a reification. It in itself has no volition of its own, being a state of mind among people. I’m just as much to blame as you in using it in this way here.

    While secularism cannot have volition, individual secularists have aims agendas and a quite defined system of beliefs. Social ethics are usually evaluated from rational, scientific and entirely humanist considerations, but the secularist assumption that these are completely objective systems of value is highly questionable. From the immediate pre-first world war period this rationalist/scientific world image has been critiqued as a limiting system of thought, and perhaps Michel Foucault might be a good place to start here. Foucault’s work explains how the claim to objectivity of secular assumptions, the very statement that secular thought can be purged of those subjectivities that it claims makes religion unfit for social power is itself a power discourse that compromises at root its claim of value free objectivity.



    And yes, I’m being provocative calling it a “religion”, but my intention is to draw attention to the obvious similarities where the claims for secular governance shadow similar, earlier religious claims to final, unquestionable truths. In the case of secularism the “final truths” are framed in humanist terms rather than in conventionally religious terms. So while secularism may not be a “religion” per se, it shares enough residual characteristics with the religions it claims to have separated its value systems from to make the competing claim to reliable values just as suspect.

    And as with committed religious devotees, committed secularists have considerable trouble noticing that their core values themselves remain open to question. 

I’m not arguing this from a Religion vs Secular standpoint, but from a general critique of the entire somewhat discredited modernist project of progressivism of which secularism is simply a facet.

    
The best thing I can do here is to suggest you read David Ehrenfeld’s “The Arrogance of Humanism”. The alternative is for me to start unpacking the assumptions of objectivity and rationality in humanism at some length and I’m all too aware that I’ve already written about 400 words.

  • carl marks

    Although i think Ashers decision is contemptible, i also think that taking them to court is a waste of public money, what would be interesting is to look to see if their Christian belief,s go further than being anti gay, for example are their workers paid a living wage and not the minimum wage, are they contracted with decent conditions or on zero hour contracts through agencies, do they vet their workers as regards sexuality,religion, gender etc, is the workplace a neutral place regards religious belief.s would i as a atheist feel comfortable working there!

  • carl marks

    I think that you will find that it is not the Christian beliefs of people that make them not suitable for adoption but those who are Homophobic and would try to force a sexulity they approve off on a child if the childs sexulity did not suit them which is quite rightly unacceptable, but you know this as we have had this discussion before.

  • Zeno3

    “Yawn off. Can we just. Scotch this rumour that ashers we set up.”

    American Gay activists have been targeting businesses like this for years. Maybe that is just a rumour as well?
    The rest of your post is a rather pathetic and name calling attempt to blacken their (Ashers) name. They pay minimum wage? Most Retainers are the same. They supply Tesco and Tesco open on Sunday? So what? You are really scraping the barrel there to find fault.
    The Gay activists pursuing this frivolous action are doing the community no favours. They need to get over themselves.
    In case there is any confusion. I support Gay Marriage and Gay Rights and I do socialise with some Gay People occasionally and they are embarrassed by this nonsense.

  • Gaygael

    Hey Zeno. You entirely miss the point. It was the closest bakery. Lgbt people should not have to be scouring and skulking around navigating which businesses may or may not serve them. That is the whole point of this.

    I was pointing out the inconsistency with ashers. They have NEVER ascribed themselves as this version of Christians until now. They gave an interview in 2010 and failed to mention it. They don’t mention it on their website. Or their promotional literature or any materials. They didn’t withdraw supply to tesco, when tesco supported pride. One could be forgiven for thinking they are just a regular business. And that’s what the orderers of the cake did.

    The second point is that what is defined as ‘christain business’ and how we enforce that. Can they refuse women who are not accompanied by men? Refuse to employ staff that wear mixed fabrics? Now make wedding cakes for anyone on their second wedding?

    Where else does this exemption then go? Is it just for Christians? Or all faiths? And who gets beaten by it? Just the gays, it seems, until we start having Christians refusing to serve others of other faiths. It then becomes untenable and ridiculous.

  • Gaygael

    And Lgbt people are a diverse community. Most of them support full equality for themselves and non discrimination.

    I point you anti suffrage women’s movement. Some women were against suffrage for women. Some Lgbt people opposed and oppose every move toward lgbt equality. That’s fine. I would suggest they are experiencing internalised homophobia.

  • Zeno3

    “Just the gays, it seems, until we start having Christians refusing to serve others of other faiths. It then becomes untenable and ridiculous.”

    They didn’t refuse to serve Gay people. Now you are just making stuff up to be offended.

  • Gaygael

    It’s the differential. If the cake had said support traditional marriage they would have made it. Different treatment on the basis of sexual orientation.

  • Zeno3

    If a Christian.Muslim,Jew,Hindu had ordered the cake they would still have refused to supply it. Therefore they are not discriminating against Gays.

  • Gaygael

    Ok let’s try a homophobia 101 lesson. This will hopefully help you understand the differential based on sexual orientation.

    Do kids get bullied at school for being or perceived to be heterosexual? No. Do kids get bullied at school for being or perceived to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Yes. Endemically so in our schools and exacerbated in faith schools.

    Do people get targeted in their homes for being or perceived to be heterosexual? No. Do people get temp retted in their homes for being or perceived to be gay, lesbian or bisexual? Yes they do.

    Do people get fired from work, denied promotion or refused a job for being or perceived to be heterosexual? No. Do people get fired from work, denied promotion or refused a job for being perceived to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Yes they do.

    Repeat ad nausea. I hope this gives you a clear picture if the difference based on sexual orientation. That is the key point here. Different treatment on the basis or perception of sexual orientation.

  • Zeno3

    All of those are clear cases of discrimination against gays. But since the bakery will not bake the cake for anyone they are not discriminating against the gay community. That is common sense 101. Now we have a situation were you want to use the law to force people to act against their religious beliefs. Who is persecuting who?

  • Gaygael

    A business is not a person. It is that simple?
    Do you support an exemption for Christians in equality laws? Just Christians? Other faith groups? Who all? Or just faith?
    As a gay bakery owner, will I be allowed exemptions?
    It becomes entirely untenable very quickly.

    This is all a cynical manipulation bush the Christian institue to try and unpick goods, facilities dan services legislation.
    They tried with the Bulls and the B&B case. They failed. They are now trying this one.

  • Zeno3

    “This is all a cynical manipulation bush the Christian institute to try and unpick goods,”

    The irony.

  • Gaygael

    You are still maintaining that this was deliberately manipulated by lgbt activists. It wasn’t. I have offered significant evidence against this but you refuse to accept it. I provided a map showing where QueerSpace meets on it’s bi monthly meetings and the bakeries within range. I know the guys involved and I ave been told that this is not deliberate.
    I linked an article to an interview about Ashers, where they fail to mention their faith, despite having ample opportunity to. You can check their website and promotional materials and literature and you will clearly see that they don’t advertise their faith.

    You have provided no evidence if favour of your initial observation. None. Nothing. You just wish to potray lgbt people as bullies. You are wrong in this instance and need to retract it.

    This story broke, via a daily telegraph journalist, after Ashers MD had time to do a video diary for the Christain Institue. Let’s be very clear on who is trying to manipulate this case.

    All the evidence points in one deirection. You can continually refuse to see it. That’s your choice. Don’t expect to not get challenged on it.

  • Zeno3

    “I know the guys involved and I ave been told that this is not deliberate. ”

    Just a happy coincidence then that they used the exact same tactic as activists in the USA have been using for years. What are the odds?

  • Gaygael

    Take me word for it or call me a liar. That are your choices. I have presented substantial evidence to support the case that ashers was not targeted. I vouch on it myself.

    This is the point of this. It’s quite a nasty shock as an lgbt person to experience discrimination. We get used to it not happening, and begin to think we can use any B&B, any solicitor, stay at a hotel, rent a community space, have a will written, get a cake baked, use a taxi firm, hire a painter or decorator, get materials printed, bold hands in a restaurant without being thrown out, adopt/foster children or even book a venue for a function.

    Then suddenly the goods, facilities and services legislation is gone and all of these can be denied to us because the owner or provider suddenly professes a version of faith which gives them an exemption.

    That’s the reality if we allow The Christian Institute to win this case.

  • Zeno3

    Everyone experiences discrimination of some sort. A well dressed businessman will even be targeted in a rough Pub or Club. Do you want the law to remove freedom of choice completely? Would a Gay Baker be forced to bake a cake with a message that was derogatory to Gays? Is that what you want? Because that is where it is going. Do you want a Jewish Baker to be forced to bake cakes extolling the virtues of eating pork, or one proclaiming the holocaust didn’t happen or, like me do you think it is fair enough for them to say no?

    This nonsense damages Gay Rights.

  • Gaygael

    It is not nonsense. I am presuming you are taking me at my word. I agree this is not the best example or the most cut and dried version of this case. I think the Bulls and the B&B was a much better one.

    Please do not say that everyone experiences discrimination. That is the call of the privileged trying to negate experiences of oppression.

    This message was not derogatory to anyone. It was a simple statement. The point is that some people of faith think that their interpretation of faith allows them special status and exemption. It doesn’t and shouldn’t.

    I don’t belive a business is LGBT, Christian, Muslim, female or whatever. It is a business. It should operate according to the law of the land. Other nake up of its directors, staff or management should have not bearing on whether it can be exempted from equality legislation. That is very straightforward.

  • David T

    I think the law says you can hold these sort of beliefs but you cannot act on them.