In 2014, Ashers, a bakery run by Christians in Northern Ireland, refused to ice a cake that said Support Gay Marriage.

A picture of Bert and Ernie, the allegedly gay characters from Sesame Street was to be placed on the cake.

The order was placed by Gareth Lee, gay activist. Ashers denied it knew he was gay but it is obvious it would have had a good idea that he was. The cake was to be enjoyed at an event marking the International Day against Homophobia.

The bakery agreed to fulfil the order and then later refused on the grounds that doing so contradicted its Christian belief that same sex marriage is wrong. Their attitude is that a bakery run by Christians amounts to a Christian bakery. 

It went to the court and the Equality Commission backed Lee.  They were found guilty of discrimination but this was later overturned.  This is what I posted to the Equality Commission during the debacle.


It is not true that baking the cake contradicted Christian beliefs. The bakery is just trying to get its bigotry condoned by the law. Surely these Christians believe in the right of separation of Church and state? Same sex marriage is about civil marriage. A Christian who believes same sex marriage is wrong can still agree with the right of the state to allow it.

The Church is lying when it says it defines marriage as a lifelong loving union involving sex between a man and a woman. The Church never had a problem with believing in Mary and Joseph being truly married though they never had sex though able. The Church marries couples on their deathbeds knowing that they will never have sex despite claiming that marriage and sex are inseparable. Traditionally, a marriage is only made a proper marriage when body fits body during sex. The Church says so but applies the principle inconsistently. The Church facilitates a huge number of those "marriages". The Church cannot say it wants to protect marriage when it does this particularly when the number of same sex marriages will be smaller than the sexless so-called marriages the Church allows and creates.

Condoning same sex marriage is not the same thing as condoning gay sex as some married couples never have sex. Even if you frown upon gay sex it does not mean you must condemn gay love and why can't the Christian or Catholic endorse sexless gay marriages?

The bakery was providing a secular service not a religious one. If it were a business that publishes fundamentalist Christian books, then it would be fair for it to refuse to print anything that advocated gay marriage but only if a disclaimer would be insufficient. Its secularism is a kind of verbal contract with the public.

The Christian claims to believe in the right to debate - the cake is not commanding people to support gay marriage or telling them what to think. It is asking people to think about it and consider supporting it but only if they think they should. In other words, if they think about it and decide it really is wrong then fine. Asking people to think about gay marriage in the hope that they will approve, contradicts nobody's belief except those who do not really believe in the right of free expression. People who are for same sex marriage and those who oppose it both have to ask people to think about whether they support it or not.

If the cake had magic power to compel people to support gay marriage the bakery would have a problem then. Or if there was some demon who could use the cake to exert a magical or occult influence over people to make them favour same sex marriage. The bakery certainly might think that there is such a power and that it comes from Satan. Satan supposedly is very powerful in the realm of temptation. Such a belief cannot be kept private. Nobody can be expected to collaborate with what they think may be down to a demon or evil spirit. Nobody would. If Ashers gets the right to refuse to bake same sex marriage cakes then the door is opened to people who say that such cakes invite evil influences from Satan. The principle that nobody must believe anything that may or will lead them to hurt others is violated. Belief in demons and temptation does harm if it is wrong. Without proof we cannot be expected to believe - not when other people may be affected.

It is interesting that Christians in secular nations managed to argue that having the crucifix plainly displayed in state schools did not violate the separation of Church and state as the crucifix was there for historical reasons and not to promote religious faith. If the crucifix was not a violation of the principles of secularism then the gay cake is not a violation of Christianity.

And we all have beliefs that we have to compromise. You may believe that your boss is a loon but that does not mean you have the right to ignore him all the time. Christians grow up! Same sex marriage even if wrong is not bad enough to warrant the Christians getting the legal right to refuse to acknowledge or respect it.

If the bakery were asked to make a cake that calls for rape or murder, it would have the right to refuse. But same sex marriage kills nobody and damages nobody and it is not the same thing. Conscience is no excuse. What about queerspace who wanted the cake baked? What about their conscience? If they want to protect same sex love with marriage and safeguard same sex relationships, surely their intentions are far better than those who want to stop these protections?

Those who say Ashers is condemning not gay people but gay sexual acts need to remember that condemning what a person does risks putting that person at the mercy of those who condemn the person because of the "bad" things they do. Most people especially when they regard something as seriously bad such as gay sex (remember the Bible God says it is detestable morally and the perpetrators need to be cruelly destroyed) do not and often cannot make the distinction. If we lived in a world where only a few Christians make the distinction then condemning gay sex would lead to people hating and attacking gay people. Think of the principle.

We have to bear in mind that Christians teach that their doctrines on morality are statements of fact. They say that deep down the homosexual knows gay sex is wrong. They say that God tells them that he wrote the law in everybody's heart. This dangerous doctrine implies that the conscience of the Christian or those who agree with Christian morality must come first for any conscience saying different is deluded. The Christian is subtly bringing in the principle that facts override opinions and nobody has the right to their facts for facts are facts no matter what you think of them. Turning opinions into facts is taking advantage of the forceful nature of facts.

We must be careful to distinguish ethical beliefs and religious beliefs. This can be difficult as there are often overlaps. Ethical beliefs no doubt come first. It is more important say for people of religion and none to agree that murder is wrong (ethical) than it is for them to agree that Jesus is God (religious). But if the law is to respect conscience, it should prioritise ethical beliefs and not religious beliefs. The ethical person does not upset or endanger others. The religious person might attack other religions by calling them hypocrites or whitened sepulchres and throw the money collectors out of their temples. The religious person might want a birthday cake worded, "The World is going to end soon. Enjoy your last ever birthday." It is dangerous to give special treatment to religious beliefs as new forms of religion, many of which are harmful or eccentric, are appearing. Whatever legal advantages are given to Christians will be demanded by them too and they are just as much entitled to those advantages as mainstream faiths are.

You can safely assume people have certain beliefs about ethics. But you never know if they really believe in God or the Bible. They may say they do but there are advantages for them in doing so. The law cannot know if they believe. So ethical rights trump religious rights.

The bakery might say it is forced to renounce its beliefs. No. It is forced to obey the law. The law cannot make anybody sincerely renounce their beliefs. If those who run Ashers were philosophy teachers, they would have to mark and give good marks where justified to an essay that attacks their Christian faith. You keep your feelings and beliefs out of the job.

The law's job is to facilitate marriage - not to check if the couple really intend to marry or if they can marry. Thus the state should permit same sex marriage.

The main thing about conscience is that it should be about obeying the law of the land for the common good. For example, if the law commands registrars to perform same sex marriages - even if they think it is wrong - then the registrars should obey. Conscience cannot be an excuse for disobedience. Obeying the law takes precedence over any other moral difficulties the person may have with obeying the law. We all have to compromise our consciences and the law. For example, you pay your taxes though they might be used to wage an unfair war. We all compromise so why can't registrars and doctors who are anti-abortion? The law has the right to make registrars and doctors do things they claim are wrong - period!

I believe Christians condemning gay and lesbian activities as a grave sin are insulting the love exhibited by same sex couples living together. They don't want it protected by marriage law. I don't know why we are so tolerant of such condemnations. In some ways, condemning love is worse than condemning skin colour. That is the reason after all racism is so bad - it lacks love.

Should the Christian car salesperson refuse to sell a car to a same sex couple because they are going to use it to drive to the wedding? What about airlines, should they refuse to sell tickets to same sex couples going on a honeymoon? Should banks refuse their money because it's used to support their marriage? The notion that the bakery has the right to refuse making cakes promoting same sex marriage and same sex wedding cakes establishes an ethic that gets out of control rather quickly and easily. I do not doubt that the bigoted anti-idolatry Jesus would side with the bakery. When he was a carpenter, he surely thought he had the right to refuse to carve a wooden image for people who wanted to worship it instead of God.

It is said that if Ashers is found guilty of discrimination for refusing to ice the cake with the message there will be an avalanche of cases regarding discrimination and which will force people to violate their conscience. In brief, every one of them can be avoided with a disclaimer.

+Should a Muslim printer be taken to court for declining to print cartoons of the Muslim Prophet, Muhammad, when his religion forbids such depictions?

Well printing cartoons is not essential to anybody's well-being while same sex marriage is. The person who won't print the cartoons is not as bad as the person who won't print anything endorsing gay rights.

Do out the disclaimer and print the cartoons man! If you go to court it is because you will not use a disclaimer and it is not because you religious beliefs are on trial.

+Should an atheist web designer who is asked by Christians to create a website promoting the notion that the Bible is correct in science and so God made the world a few thousand years ago be allowed to decline?

Yes because atheists need to be challenged so that they can improve the case against religion. The atheist should be confident enough to publish the website without fear. He knows the truth will out anyway. And he knows that the website will actually put many off religion.

+Must Christian film companies be compelled to produce erotic films?

No - it is up to each company what kind of films they want to make.

+Should a printing company run by Catholics be allowed to refuse to print leaflets promoting abortion?

No. The leaflets are only putting forward a point of view that the reader is free to accept or reject. It is not the printer's responsibility if readers have an abortion after having received the leaflet. It is the readers responsibility to check out what the leaflet says. The company serves the public not the Catholic public.  The company has no right to refuse to create leaflets giving information on abortion for that does not imply you are telling anybody to abort.

A Catholic printing company exists for promoting Church teaching and must not be forced.

+Should a Catholic be forced to allow a reception for a same sex marriage in her hotel?

Yes - even if she thinks that it is impossible to be truthful and say it is a marriage it does not follow that allowing the reception is inconsistent with this. The reception is not the wedding. If same sex marriage is a lie it is not a big enough evil to warrant refusing to host the reception.


Other examples are: If bakers are allowed to refuse to give a gay couple the same treatment as any other couple looking for a cake where does it stop? What if a Catholic has to make a cake for a Catholic couple who are marrying in a registry office?  What if Mormons have to cater for a Catholic wedding?  Remember in these circumstances a sham wedding is believed to take place.

A lawyer has to defend a person who he knows is guilty. Even though ethics matters more than religion, the lawyer must still defend this person though he feels it is wrong. Ethical beliefs are to be taken far more seriously than religious beliefs but nevertheless even respect for ethical obligations as with the lawyer is not absolute.

If Ashers wins, then a postman who claims to be say Mormon can refuse to deliver a religious magazine to a Muslim on the grounds that helping another religion to teach error is a sin. The postman has to deliver the magazine because he has a functional relationship, not a religious relationship, with the Muslim.

It is interesting that Christians want conscience clauses to protect their opposition to some things and not others though they are against their religion too. For example, Catholic photographers will take photos at weddings of divorcees though divorce is said to be a sin and they expect the law to protect their refusal to do the same for a gay couple's wedding. Muslim taxi men will drive you to work in the pork factory but not to the strip club. A Christian counsellor who regards atheism as the worst evil imaginable will not look for the right to refuse to help an atheist client.

The Bible if people would read it is clear that it contains revelations in God’s own words that demand that adulteresses and children be stoned to death. Jesus preached hellfire without any regard for how that would effect sensitive scrupulous souls. I find the Bible offensive. Ashers would have no problem if I refused to print it on that basis and was forced to. It would not give me the right to stand up and object in Church to such a blasphemy against human dignity smeared in blood and innocent blood being honoured as the only infallible and good book.

It seems safe to think that if the Equality Commission wins there will be more cases but not an avalanche.

It is clear that all the problems are caused by people of faith in religion. Even if religion should be respectfully given exemptions that allow it to discriminate against people, it does not follow that religion should exist. Better get out of it folks and let it die out. Problem solved! Something has to be forced on everybody. If it is not religion it is going to be secularism. The good thing about secularism is that it minimises the forcing or should do. There is enough to force over without religion contributing. If religion gets the right to force it will soon look for this right in nearly everything.

The secular state cannot allow a religious person to argue that they must discriminate against another for their conscience says they must. That would drag the state into the area of judging if the religious person is sincere. To judge that, you have to judge if a sane person would believe what the person claims to believe. That means examining if the belief could be true and if there is good evidence in its favour. It would destroy religious freedom and cripple the nation in court-cases because there are many different faiths all disagreeing with one another. It destroys the secular principle that people of religious belief or who say they believe (even if they don't) should not get special treatment under the law. It is clearly unfair for one person to suffer just because another claims to believe something.

The Equality Commission is right to oppose the bakery's refusal to bake the gay marriage cake.

Peter Tatchell has said that belief that homosexuality is okay should not be forced on Ashers but has admitted they are guilty of false advertising. They refused to make a cake when they indicated they would bake any cake.  That however shows they were guilty of LGBT discrimination despite his claim that it was not Lee they were against but the message he proposed for the cake.

I hope Ashers loses and loses big. They are bigots who can't see that a business does not have a religion and that human rights matter more than religious rights - religious rights being understood as rights of an allegedly real God having over you.



A business does not have a religion. He could have made the cake on the basis that it is up to the couple to decide if gay marriage is wrong and not marry. What the cake is for is not his responsibility. There was no message on it. What kind of person would say refuse to supply flowers to a gay wedding? Where does it stop? Would we praise a Protestant who runs a wine business who will not sell communion wine to Catholics for they will worship the wine at Mass?  Baking the cake endorses nobody's wedding.  It is baking a cake and realising that he is not in a position to judge if a marriage should or should not be or even if it will be.  The couple were refused the cake simply because they were gay.  He claimed he would be endorsing gay marriage but that is not true for the wedding had not happened yet.

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