NEWTONABBEY, North Ireland — A Christian bakery in Northern Ireland may face legal action after it recently refused to bake a Bert and Ernie cake bearing the phrase “Support gay marriage.”
In May of this year, Ashers Baking Company in Newtonabbey—founded by Christians and named after Genesis 49:20—was approached by a same-sex “marriage” supporter to bake the cake, which also was to feature the logo for the homosexual advocacy group QueerSpace. According to the Belfast Telegraph, the cake was for an event in observance of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
The bakery, which has several locations throughout Northern Ireland, then sent the request to headquarters for review. General Manager Daniel McArthur, 24, told reporters that the company declined to bake the cake, explaining that same-sex “marriage” is against its Christian beliefs. Ashers Baking Company also offered a refund, which was accepted.
“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,” McArthur told BBC News. He outlined that his company has declined orders from other customers due to inappropriate content. “In the past, we’ve declined several orders which have contained pornographic images and offensive, foul language,” McArthur explained.
However, the customer, Gareth Lee, soon reported Ashers Baking Company to the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland, which in turn sent a warning to to McArthur, stating that he and his bakery had discriminated against Lee. Same-sex “marriage” is not legal in Northern Ireland, although laws have been passed throughout the rest of the UK.
“[The Commission] asked us to propose how we would recompense the customer for this discrimination,” McArthur explained. “It also said it would pursue legal proceedings if we didn’t respond within a seven-day time period.”
Ashers Baking Company has now obtained the legal assistance of the Christian Institute, based in Newcastle, England.
“All the McArthurs want is to run their bakery according to their Christian beliefs,” Director Colin Hart stated in a news release. “There won’t be many situations where they need to turn down an order but this is obviously one of them. No one should be forced to use their creative skills to promote a cause which goes against their consciences. Imbalanced equality laws are making it increasingly hard for people, especially Christians.”
He stated that forcing business owners to promote views contrary to their deeply-held convictions would never be allowed in any other situation.
“Imagine the uproar if the Equality Commission said that an environmentally-conscious baker had to produce a cake saying ‘Support fracking,’ or if they threatened a feminist bakery for refusing to print a ‘Sharia for UK’ cake,” Hart stated.
As previously reported, bakeries in the United States have likewise faced discrimination complaints and legal action for declining to make cakes for same-sex ceremonies. In December, an administrative law judge in Colorado ruled under the threat of fines that baker Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cake Shop in Lakewood must not refuse orders to make cakes for homosexual celebrations. However, unlike the North Ireland matter, Judge Robert N. Spencer declared that because the design of the cake was not known, the order did not amount to a free speech violation.
“Phillips was not asked to apply any message or symbol to the cake, or to construct the cake in any fashion that could be reasonably understood as advocating same-sex marriage,” he wrote. “For all Phillips knew at the time, Complainants might have wanted a nondescript cake that would have been suitable for consumption at any wedding. Therefore, Respondents’ claim that they refused to provide a cake because it would convey a message supporting same-sex marriage is specious.”
In Portland, Oregon, investigators concluded earlier this year that Christians Aaron and Melissa Klein of Sweet Cakes by Melissa discriminated against a lesbian when they declined to make a cake for her same-sex ceremony. The case is now in a conciliation phase to work toward a settlement, but if an agreement cannot be reached, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries has warned that “the bureau may bring formal charges and move the issue to BOLI’s Administrative Prosecution Unit.”
The Klein’s closed their bakery last year and moved all operations to their home, as they state that homosexuals used “mafia tactics” to force them out of business, sending threatening emails , harassing their vendors and ransacking their bakery truck as they packed to leave. But the couple vowed to continue to stand, giving glory to God in a note that they affixed to the bakery as they closed down in September.
“This fight is not over. We will continue to stand strong,” it read. “The Lord is good and we will continue to serve HIM with all our heart.”