NEWTONABBEY, North Ireland – A Christian bakery in Northern Ireland has been ordered to pay compensation or face legal action after an equality commission declared that it was guilty of committing “unlawful religious, political and sexual orientation discrimination” for declining to make a Bert and Ernie cake that bore the phrase “support gay marriage.”
As previously reported, 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.
Now, the Commission has released its official opinion, ordering the bakery to pay compensation or face legal action.
“This case raises issues of public importance regarding the extent to which suppliers of goods and services can refuse service on grounds of sexual orientation, religious belief and political opinion,” it said in a statement. “The Commission will be issuing a civil bill in this case and a decision as to whether or not discrimination has occurred will be a matter for the court.”
But the bakery said that although it “is willing to serve any customer regardless of their sexual lifestyle,” it does not believe that it should be forced to bake a cake that bears a statement that violates its deeply-held Christian convictions.
“We feel that the Equality Commission are pursuing us because of our beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman,” McArthur said in an update released by the Christian Institute. “It feels like a David and Goliath battle because on one hand we have the Equality Commission who are a public body, they’re funded by taxpayers’ money, they have massive resources at their disposal whereas we are a small family business and we have limited resources at our disposal.”
He stated that he will not bow to the demands of the commission.
“We’re continuing to hold to the stand that we took originally because we believe it’s biblical, we believe it’s what God would want us to do, and we also think that if we do cave in to the Equality Commission at this point it’ll put pressure on other citizens who are defending their view of traditional marriage,” McArthur said. “We don’t want to be forced to promote a cause which is against our biblical beliefs. We’ve had a lot of support from people who disagree with our stance on same-sex marriage. They think that we should have the freedom to decline an order that conflicts with our conscience.”