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Ruling on Ashers fair despite bakery's protestations

IF I was a baker in Nazi Germany and a member of that party asked me to bake a cake with the message that 'Jews were an inferior race', I hope that I would have refused and taken the consequences.

Fionola Meredith has got it into her head that a Christian baker being asked to bake a cake with a gay marriage message is similar. But clearly it isn't.

Anti-Semitism is disgusting and dehumanising and, in retrospect, most of us would say that we should have resisted it, if necessary by breaking the law. Thinking that gay marriage is worth such a stand of conscience goes much further than mere disagreement.

I was a teacher and read political essays. I gave high marks to many with which I disagreed and did not think I was endorsing their opinion, but I would have refused to mark an essay that was blatantly bigoted, racist, sexist or homophobic.

Ashers bakery refused the request to bake the cake, even though putting the message on it in no way implied that they endorsed it, any more than when they do Halloween icings, or than I did when writing complimentary comments on an essay.

Fionola (and Patrick Stewart) completely misses this crucial difference. To refuse in these two cases goes much further than a mere difference of opinion. She refers to a gay man's home being smashed up and, indeed, homophobia is rife in this province. But how can she miss the connection between persistent Christian slurs on gays and the active homophobia in the wider society?

The judge ruled that Ashers discriminated on grounds of sexual orientation as well as religious belief and political opinion. That seems to me to be a fair assumption, in spite of their claim to the contrary.

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Director, Humanist Association of NI