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Ashers bakery and the issue's legal complexities

Published 08/04/2015

In relation to the Ashers bakery case, your correspondent 'Mark' (Write Back, April 1) poses questions to supporters of the bakery's position. As I fall into that category, I welcome the opportunity to reply.

Mark asks: "What next?" and wonders, for example, if it is okay to refuse to make a Muslim child's birthday cake with the slogan: "Allah will protect you".

As far as I am aware, Allah means God, so I wouldn't think this would present a problem, but leaving that aside, other examples have been offered in the course of this dispute, including the right to compel a Catholic baker to produce a cake with a message supporting abortion.

Do we really want to go down the road of forcing people to suppress sincerely held beliefs purely in the interests of business?

A further complication arises in this particular case because, as I understand it, same-sex marriage remains illegal in Northern Ireland. Ashers was, in effect, being asked to produce a cake with a message supporting something outside the law as it stands.

That being the case, if the company was wrong to refuse to fulfil the order, what are the future implications for businesses which produce products containing messages requested by the public?

In my view, all of this merely serves to highlight the ill-judged decision of the Equality Commission to take a case against the bakery. It also illustrates the difficulty of trying to frame legislation - however well-intentioned - to cover such complex issues.

Against this background, surely the best way forward, if refused service, is to simply take one's business elsewhere, rather than force the seller to set his/her beliefs aside during business hours.



Belfast Telegraph

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