The taxpayer-funded Equality Commission in the United Kingdom has won a discrimination case against a Christian-run bakery company, because its owners declined to promote homosexuality with their products.
But now major media in the U.K. worry it’s a bad precedent because of the impact on religious and other rights.
Wrote the Belfast Telegraph: “The state demands that all bakers in the land must be in favor of same-sex marriage. Or at least they must be willing, if requested, to pipe out their support for it in pink icing on the top of a cake.
“Butchers and candlestick-makers, regardless of their religious opinions, will also be forced to comply, or face prosecution, or give up their businesses entirely,” the commentary said. “By the same legislative logic, a Muslim printer could be compelled to produce Hebdo-style cartoon images of the prophet Muhammad. The lesbian owner of a clothing company could be forced to make T-shirts saying gay people will burn in Hell.
“When will this warped totalitarian fairy tale end?”
Meanwhile, in the United States, Christians already are being punished and fined for their adherence to the biblical standard for marriage, as WND’s Big List of Christian Coercion shows.
The list details dozens of cases in which bakers, florists and photographers have been fined, censured, threatened and intimidated by various branches of government for their refusal to endorse and support homosexuality.
The issue will come to a head this summer with the expected ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court on marriage. Same-sex marriage already has been imposed on nearly three dozen states where voters rejected it.
The owners of Ashers Baking Co. were found by Judge Isobel Brownlie to have violated discrimination laws by refusing to promote homosexuality with their products.
Represented by the Christian Institute in Britain, the bakery is considering an appeal.
The government-funded Equality Commission for Northern Ireland spent tens of thousands of public dollars prosecuting the case..
Ashers General Manager Daniel McArthur said: “We’ve said from the start that our issue was with the message on the cake, not the customer and we didn’t know what the sexual orientation of Mr. Lee was, and it wasn’t relevant either. We’ve always been happy to serve any customers that come into our shops.
“The ruling suggests that all business owners will have to be willing to promote any cause or campaign no matter how much they disagree with it. Or as the Equality Commission has suggested, they should perhaps just close down, and that can’t be right.”
Christian Institute Deputy Director Simon Calvert said: “We are extremely disappointed at today’s ruling against the McArthur family and Ashers Baking Company. It will also sadden all those who value freedom of conscience and freedom of speech.”
It was only a few days earlier that WND reported two homosexual men appeared in a video ad criticizing the attempt to redefine marriage in Ireland.
Homosexuals Keith Mills and Paddy Manning both say that would be a terrible mistake.
“There are many people who feel the same way as I do, but they’re afraid to speak out because of the extraordinary bullying that’s coming from the yes campaign. We shouldn’t bow to that intimidation,” said Manning in the video.
Mills said: “If gay couples want constitutional protection, put civil partnerships in the constitution. But don’t redefine marriage.”
The Ashers case developed when the company was asked in May 2014 by a homosexual activist for a cake with the slogan “Support Gay Marriage.”
Owners Colin and Karen McArthur declined, citing their faith. They were then accused of violating the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (NI) 2006 and The Fair Employment and Treatment (NI) Order 1998.
Daniel McArthur, whose parents are the company’s principals, said the ruling suggests “all business owners must be willing to promote anything – no matter how much they disagree with it.”
See his comments:
The Belfast Telegraph said the Ashers case is “about silencing and punishing those who refuse to sign up to a clearly flawed ‘equality’ agenda. This is an agenda that cannot distinguish between actual discrimination – which is always wrong, and rightly punishable by law – and the vital exercise of freedom of conscience.”
The London Telegraph said, “Either a higher court needs to look at this again or parliament should revisit the law.”
The commentary continued: “Why should they also be required to make a statement they do not agree with? Indeed, should freedom of conscience always be trumped by anti-discrimination rights?”
“This case raises profound and worrying questions about the balance between gay and religious rights,” said The London Daily Mail. “Indeed, it highlights the argument for a conscience clause, protecting believers from being forced to go against the teachings of their faith.”
The paper said the “most disturbing question is why the province’s taxpayer-funded Equality Commission chose to pursue this spiteful prosecution, in a case that could so easily have been allowed to blow over with minimum offense to anyone’s feelings.”
The London Express said: “Surely the indignant gay couple could have respected the bakery’s stance and gone somewhere else for their gay gateau and no harm would have been done. … Since when is it a crime for a private company to turn down work? Since now apparently.”
The Institute reported Fionola Meredith, a Belfast Telegraph columnist who has spoken in support of Ashers before, also said: “If Ashers had refused to serve Gareth Lee, the LGBT activist who ordered the cake, because he was gay, then that would have been a clear act of discrimination, and the bakery’s owners would have deserved to be prosecuted and fined.
“But that’s not what happened. The message, not the customer, was the problem for Ashers.”