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DUP's proposal on 'gay cake' sad and indefensible

Harry Stephenson (Writeback, Dec 15) misses the point but inadvertently highlights the general problem as regards the 'gay cake' issue.

For the row is actually a microcosm of what has happened here over nearly 400 years. Protestants and Catholics refused to enter each other's place of worship because they didn't agree with the message. Protestants and Catholics refused to send their children to schools run by the other religion because they did not agree with their outlook. Protestants and Catholics refused to vote for members of the 'other tribe' because they were suspicious of their opinions. The segregation and sectarianism of the entire society is based upon centuries of "taking a stand".

Now, the DUP's Paul Givan wants to make matters worse, with his consultation paper on a "conscience clause" that would create a religious exemption in our equality legislation allowing businesses to refuse services to customers on the grounds of "strongly held religious convictions". But who defines "religious"? And which religions? Protestant or Catholic? And why only religious convictions? Why not atheist convictions? Why should religion be granted an opt out from the laws of the land?

Giving certain religious beliefs special preference is nothing new in the province but to enact that practice as a general law is tantamount to creating a theocratic dictatorship.

The proposed "conscience clause" could actually be used to strengthen the very sectarianism that Stephenson hypothesises. The Protestant baker could legally refuse to serve a Catholic on the grounds that he promotes an anti-Christian religion, and a Catholic baker could similarly refuse a Protestant. Stephenson's scenario would be enshrined in the very legal system that he mocks.

It is not surprising that the DUP thinks the way it does. What is sad is that so many others defend their stance and, in Orwellian fashion, turn in my opinion an act of intolerance by a bakery into its opposite.

BRIAN McCLINTON

Humanist Association of Northern Ireland

Belfast Telegraph

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