BELFAST — The Christian owners of a bakery in Northern Ireland have decided to appeal a ruling declaring them guilty of discrimination for declining to print the phrase “Support Gay Marriage” on a cake.
As previously reported, in May of last year, Ashers Baking Company in Newtonabbey—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.
Karen McArthur, the mother of manager Daniel McArthur, 24, initially accepted the order as she didn’t want the man to feel embarrassed. But as the matter was discussed with other family members, it was agreed upon that they could not go through with putting the message on the cake in good conscience before God. Daniel McArthur told reporters that the company contacted the customer and offered a refund, explaining that same-sex “marriage” is against their Christian beliefs.
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.
Last November, the Commission ordered the bakery to pay compensation or face legal action. As the McArthur’s refused, the case moved forward in court. The family gave testimony on the stand as to why they could not fulfill Lee’s order.
“We felt as Christians we could not in conscience put it on a cake. We believe the business is being given to us by God and how we use it is on our shoulders,” Daniel McArthur explained. “Our Christian faith is [of] the utmost importance to us. It is how we run our entire lives and bring our families up. Before God, it is not something we could do.”
Asher’s Bakery has stated that it is willing to serve homosexuals in general—one would not know about another’s sexual behavior unless they had requested a cake for such reasons—but should not be forced to decorate cakes with messages that urge others to “support gay marriage” in violation of their faith.
But on May 19, Judge Isobel Brownlie ruled against the McArthurs, declaring them “guilty of unlawful discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation,” and ordered the bakers to pay a fine equating to nearly $800 U.S. dollars. She stated that because the bakery was not a religious organization, it wasn’t entitled to an exemption from the law.
“This is direct discrimination for which there can be no justification,” Brownlie said. “The defendants are not a religious organization. They are conducting a business for profit and, notwithstanding their genuine religious beliefs, there are no exceptions available under the 2006 regulations which apply to this case.”
On Friday, the McArthur’s announced that they have decided to appeal the ruling.
“After much careful and prayerful consideration given to legal advice, we have decided to appeal the judgement handed down last Tuesday,” they wrote in a statement. “We continue to insist that we have done nothing wrong as we have discriminated against no individual but rather acted according to what the Bible teaches regarding marriage.”
“As many other people have already noted, Christian beliefs seem to have been trampled over in this judgment and we believe this only has negative effects for our society,” the McArthur’s continued. “Our hope and prayer would be that an appeal will allow us and other Christians to live out their faith in Jesus Christ in every part of their lives, including their workplace.”
The Christian Institute notes that a recent ComRes poll found that 90 percent of voters in Northern Ireland believe that laws “should be used to protect people from discrimination and not to force people to say something they oppose.”
“In the same poll, nearly four out of five (79 percent) believe a Muslim printer should not be taken to court for refusing to print cartoons of Mohammed,” Director Simon Calvert told Christian Today. “And almost three quarters (74 percent) believe a printing company run by Roman Catholics should not be forced by legal action to produce adverts calling for abortion to be legalized.”
“But this is what awaits us if this judgment is allowed to stand,” he said.