Some wag posted the following image on Twitter in the wake of the Ashers 'gay cake' case in which Appeal court judges decided that the Northern Ireland bakers were not allowed to provide a service only to people who shared their religious beliefs.
I've written about the Ashers case before on the blog site and so it's good to see the courts standing up for common sense.
If you ask me, Ashers were trying to 'have their cake and eat it' at the same time.
Ian Hislop surprised me on Have I Got News For You (HIGNFY) recently because more often than not I agree with the editor of Private Eye who, by and large, speaks a lot of common sense.
But he went off the rails with some rather ill-judged comments about the Ashers bakery 'gay cake' row by inviting viewers to consider what would happen if someone went into a Muslim bakery and asked for a cake portraying an image of the Prophet Mohammed which would run counter to many Muslims religious beliefs.
Now this isn't really a good example of how the law on discrimination works at all because if someone sets up a business which is advertised as conforming to certain religious or other accepted norms, then they can't be expected to accept just any any request that a potential customer makes.
So a Halal restaurant could not be forced to serve a customer alcohol, nor could a Christian bookshop be expected to sell someone 'top shelf' magazines or works about the history of Judaism or Islam.
The difference in the Ashers bakery case is that they were not holding themselves out to be a religious business of any kind, probably because it's not always good idea to box yourself into such a small commercial corner depending on your target market, of course.
Instead Ashers were trying to 'have their cake and eat it" so to speak and they took the chap's order and accepted his money at the time, only to renege on baking the cake at a later date, possibly after communing with God.
So the answer is that if Ahsers want to wear their religious hearts on their sleeve and clarify their terms of business, they're free to do what they like so long as they don't say they refuse to serve Muslims, Jews and Catholics which would be against the law.
Otherwise the law is quite clear and applied with a bit of common sense there's no need for anyone to get their knickers in a terrible twist - including Private Eye and Ian Hislop.
God's Bakery (20/05/16)
God is apparently talking to the owners of a baking company in Northern Ireland which refused to complete a customer's order to make him a cake featuring the Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie adorned with the slogan "Support Gay Marriage".
The Guardian reported on the case yesterday before the judgement of the court was known, but the judge came down firmly on the side of the customer by deciding that a business that exists to make a profit can't pick and choose the people it is prepared to serve.
Now I agree with that because the next thing you know, people with 'sincere' beliefs, religious or otherwise, will be demanding the right to refuse to provide a service to other citizens whom they dislike or object to for some reason.
For example, I'm not crazy about people with fundamentalist religious beliefs although that wouldn't stop me helping them if they had an issue with equal pay.
So, I'm looking forward to rewarding the court judgment and hearing the result of Friday's same sex marriage referendum in Ireland although the judge in the God's bakery case did say:
"This is direct discrimination for which there can be no justification.”
Belfast high court to deliver verdict on Bert and Ernie 'gay cake' case
Ashers bakery, accused of discrimination after refusing to make cake with pro-gay marriage message, awaits judgment on declining business due to religious beliefs
The family which owns Ashers Baking Company: owner Colin McArthur, left, with wife Karen; and their son Daniel, the general manager, with his wife Amy and their children Robyn and Elia. The family is being supported by the Christian Institute in a landmark case after refusing to make a cake with a pro-gay marriage message. Photograph: Christian Institute/PA
By Henry McDonald - The Guardian
By Henry McDonald - The Guardian
A landmark court judgment involving a pro-gay marriage message on a celebration cake will be delivered in Belfast on Tuesday, determining whether the devoutly religious have the right to refuse to deal with the LBGT community.
Evangelical Christians across the world have rallied to the cause of Ashers bakery in Northern Ireland, whose owners refused to bake the cake because of their opposition to gay marriage.
Daniel McArthur and his wife Amy will be in Belfast high court to hear the verdict. The family-owned firm is accused of discriminating on the grounds of sexual orientation against Gareth Lee, a volunteer with the gay rights campaign group QueerSpace.
Lee asked Ashers, which is based in Belfast’s Royal Avenue, to bake the cake last year to mark the election of the first openly gay mayor in Northern Ireland, Andrew Muir. After the bakery reversed an earlier agreement to bake the cake, which was decorated with Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie and a pro-gay marriage message, Lee reported the firm to the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.
Before Tuesday’s ruling, McArthur, 25, defended the decision to decline the business on the grounds of the family’s Christian beliefs.
“Our faith is very important to us; it determines how we live, how we bring up our children, how we run our business, how we meet and how we engage with other people in society, so yes we can’t leave it out whenever we go to work in the morning.
“It’s been a difficult and exhausting time for us as a family but God has been faithful to us. And he has given us the strength to deal with this, and we know and trust in him that going forward he will continue to give us his strength,” he said.
During a three-day court hearing in March, Lee said Asher’s decision to hand back the £36.50 he had originally paid for the cake “made me feel I’m not worthy, a lesser person and to me that was wrong”. He is not expected to make any further statement after the judgement.
If the judge rules in favour of Lee, the controversy – which has profound implications for a conflicting set of rights: the right of the LGBT community not to be discriminated versus the right of Christians and people of other faiths to exercise their personal conscience in all walks of life including business – is set to continue.
The Democratic Unionist party, the largest political party in the power-sharing Northern Ireland executive, is proposing a local “freedom of conscience” bill, which would grant firms the right to refuse to accept business which they believe is counter to their religious convictions.
The DUP’s plans for such a bill will cause further turbulence in the Stormont assembly with Sinn Féin vowing to block any such law. Under the complex rules of the regional parliament, parties from either side of the sectarian divide can veto certain bills if they believe such legislation does not command cross-community support.
Moves to introduce gay marriage into Northern Ireland have in turn been blocked by the DUP and other unionists in the assembly. The region is the only part of the UK where gay marriage is not recognised in law, a situation which is likely to be subject to legal challenge, with potential plaintiffs arguing that such a ban is contrary to the European convention on human rights.
Meanwhile, opponents of gay marriage in the Irish Republic have used the Ashers’ case in their campaign for a no vote in Friday’s referendum. Ireland is holding a national plebiscite to make gay marriage legal.
The no campaign has warned that if there is a yes vote this week, there will be a deluge of legal cases similar to Ashers’ including newly married gay couples suing clergy and ministers for refusing to marry them in churches and other religious places across the Republic.