Belfast Telegraph

Gay cake: Important to defend gay rights

By Paul Rowlandson

The Ashers Bakery case is straightforward - in spite of the bluster from those who are outraged that their "right" to discriminate against LGBT people might be infringed. It is the question of whether a business can discriminate against a customer on grounds of sexual orientation.

I was surprised to find Mark Brotherston, Northern Ireland's most prominent Conservative Party representative, misinterpreting the Ashers case (DebateNI, November 12). It was his party at Westminster that introduced and passed Equality and Equal Marriage legislation in England.

As Mark Brotherston admits (but appears to fail to see the significance of), businesses are not allowed by law to discriminate against people based on race, gender or sexual orientation. Ashers were not "being obliged to support causes with which they disagree". They were asked to bake a cake.

He argues that: "You might not agree with Ashers' views about gay marriage, but they are sincerely held and they are entitled to hold them." This is a very dangerous position to adopt.

The fact that certain religious views are sincerely held does not give those who hold them the right to act on them.

Exodus 22:18 tells us: "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Throughout Europe, hundreds of thousands of elderly women were burned at the stake because Bible-worshippers sincerely held that view.

Matthew 19:12 recommends that Christian men should castrate themselves. Not many Bible-worshippers act on that.

The condemnation of homosexuality shows that those who hold such hostile beliefs care more about isolated biblical texts than they do about their gay and lesbian neighbours. Their worship of the Bible in a literalist sense has trumped what is the essential message of Christianity: love thy neighbour.

The Ashers' case will be decided in the courts. The Equality Commission is, as I understand it, seeking to ensure that the law is upheld and that gay and lesbian people are not subject to discrimination by businesses, contrary to law.

  • Paul Rowlandson is a committee member of Changing Attitude Ireland, which works for the inclusion and affirmation of LGBT people in the churches here

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