Belfast Telegraph

Gay cake case: The issue for Ashers is about the message on the cake - not the person purchasing the cake

Mayor Andrew Muir cutting a Sesame Street Bert and Ernie 'Support Gay Marriage' cake
Mayor Andrew Muir cutting a Sesame Street Bert and Ernie 'Support Gay Marriage' cake
Nelson McCausland

By Nelson McCausland

I support equality and I support human rights. However, I also believe in religious liberty and I believe that the recent decision by the Equality Commission to pursue Ashers Bakery through the courts is both dangerous and daft.

It has become known as "the case of the gay cake" and arises from an incident where a "gay rights" activist ordered a cake with the message "Support Gay Marriage".

The owners of the bakery declined the order and refunded the money to the customer.

It later emerged that the cake was to be used at a Queerspace event hosted by Alliance councillor Andrew Muir, who was then mayor of North Down Borough Council.

However, gay rights activists were not prepared to respect the views of those who owned the company and were not prepared to let the matter rest.

They took the issue to the Equality Commission and Councillor Muir said: "Businesses should not be able to pick and choose who they serve."

Then, last week, the Equality Commission served legal papers on the family who own the business and the Commission intends to take them to court.

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Ashers is run by the McArthur family, who are evangelical Christians. The firm's general manager, Daniel McArthur, explained: "The directors and myself looked at it and considered it and thought that this order was at odds with our beliefs. It certainly was at odds with what the Bible teaches." Daniel and his family are Christians and believe in what the Bible teaches.

Moreover, it was not the first time they had declined an order because of their beliefs. Daniel said: "In the past, we've declined several orders which have contained pornographic images and offensive, foul language."

At first, the Equality Commission seemed to be saying that this was a case of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

However, the fact is that Ashers did not discriminate against a customer on the basis of his sexuality, in this case homosexuality.

If a heterosexual customer had come into the shop and ordered a cake with the same message, he or she would also have been refused.

Indeed, the firm has made clear that it did not even inquire about the sexuality of the customer. The issue for Ashers is about the message on the cake - not the person purchasing the cake.

Now the Equality Commission is widening the case out, claiming that Ashers is also guilty of religious and political discrimination.

That seems to be an attempt by them to bolster up a case that has no foundation and to give it some semblance of credibility.

Nevertheless, what is clear is that the "equality zealots" are determined to pursue their case and to hound this family through the courts, accusing them of discrimination.

If Ashers is guilty of any discrimination, then it is discrimination against the idea of "homosexual marriage".

But since when did it become a crime to have a Christian worldview and to discriminate between what one believes to be right and what one believes to be wrong?

Does the Equality Commission want to abolish freedom of conscience? Does it want to prevent people living out their faith in their daily lives?

There has been widespread criticism and condemnation of the Equality Commission, from a wide range of religious organisations and churches, as well as a number of politicians and even some extremely secular commentators. But the Equality Commission seems undeterred.

Sadly, the commission has started down a road to some sort of Stalinist state, where the great "man-made god of equality" rules, where the Thought Police rule the day and where freedom of conscience is abolished. Is that the sort of society we want?

There is a Bible verse with which the McArthur family will be very familiar and it says: "We must obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29).

That is where the family stand and I for one commend them.

Nelson McCausland MLA is chair of the Assembly's culture, arts and leisure committee

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