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You may recall the case of the Colorado baker who was found to have illegally discriminated when he refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. (Warning: link is to a Fox News commentary for a reason)

Now a baking company in Northern Ireland has been advised by the Equality Commission that it illegally discriminated when refusing another cake order because of their "Christian values". The cake was not even a wedding confection! It was ordered for a civic event in Bangor Castle Town Hall, County Down, to mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia and hosted by the then Mayor of North Down. The graphic featured the words "Support Gay Marriage", a picture of Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street and the logo of Queerspace, a local organization. The order was taken and paid for at one branch of the Asher's Bakery whose staff referred it to the company head office. The Belfast Telegraph reports:

Daniel McArthur (24), general manager at Asher's Baking Company, the Newtownabbey company which has been running since 1992 and employs 62 people, said the firm had been founded by Christians, and the current directors are Christians.

“That means that we run our business according to Christian values and beliefs, according to what the Bible teaches. It means for example that we don’t open on Sundays, that we trade openly and honestly with people,” he said.

Mr McArthur said the company’s name was Biblical - as Asher was one of the 12 tribes of Israel.

“It was a tribe that had gifted bakers,” he said.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that has not legislated to allow same-sex marriage (term used because it is in the titles of the Acts passed at Westminster and Holyrood) as the responsibility now forms part of its Assembly's devolved powers. The Act creating Civil Partnerships was passed before devolution and is still in force. Before the new Acts, civil partnership and the signing ceremonies were invariably referred to as "marriage" and "weddings" although there were legal differences between the two institutions.

Apart from some "Directly Elected Mayors" (like Boris Johnson in London), the roles in most UK local authorities are ceremonial and the term is usually a year (like the Lord Mayor of [the City of] London, the "square mile"). Councillor Andrew Muir, who hosted the event, was the first openly gay Mayor in Northern Ireland. He is a member of the Alliance Party, a sister party of the British Liberal Democrats through the Liberal International (Student members of the British Lib Dems studying in Northern Ireland are considered members of Alliance Youth). Parties in Northern Ireland are separate from those for the rest of the UK although there used to be a formal arrangement with the old Unionist Party and the Conservatives as a joint group at Westminster.

Andrew Muir told the press:

"I was pleased that another bakery in Bangor was able to step in and produce this cake for the event I hosted as Mayor of North Down.

"We were able to ensure that this event went ahead despite the actions of Asher's Bakery and enjoyed a great afternoon celebrating the vibrant diversity Northern Ireland enjoys."

The Equality Commission asked Asher's for a response and proposal for recompense for their discrimination within 7 days. Their response appears to have been to contact one of the extremist Christian organizations that have sprung up in the UK along the lines of those in the USA. You will be familiar with their arguments. From Todd Starnes in the Fox commentary:
The plight of Jack Phillips and his family is something I write about in my new book, “God Less America.” His story of religious persecution is one of many that I document.

Nicolle Martin, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, called the ruling Orwellian and said they are considering an appeal.

“They are turning people of faith into religious refugees,” Martin told me. “Is this the society that we want to live in – where people of faith are driven out of business?”

Asher's Bakery have a slick, if drearily presented by the manager, video produced for them by "The Christian Institute" in which he compares the message on the cake to previous declined orders for pornographic images on cakes. (On the Belfast Telegraph page linked above). Sectarian politicians are echoing the arguments used in the USA but wrapping them in a veneer of reasonableness.
But the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said the Equality Commission had overstepped the mark and the complaint highlighted the need for a "conscience clause" to protect Christians and others who have deeply held beliefs.

DUP MP Nigel Dodds said: "The case re-opens the debate about how exactly religious belief is respected within the United Kingdom and the need for someone's conscience to be protected whilst ensuring that discrimination does not occur."

This theme of "persecuted Christians" is a running theme for the religious Right and one might have suspicions that two "Christian" bakeries on either side of the Atlantic invoked the same "religious freedom" reason for refusing to make a cake in a deliberate manner.

Frankly, Asher's case done not stand a snowball's hope in one of their ovens, let alone Hell but the mission of the Christian Institute is to be martyrs in the cause. They have already lost in a similar case of a bed and breakfast owners' refusal to allow a gay couple a double bedded room. They supported the couple called Bull up to the Supreme Court and lost:

Lady Hale, deputy president of the Supreme Court, said: "Sexual orientation is a core component of a person's identity which requires fulfilment through relationships with others of the same orientation."

Mike Judge, from the Christian Institute, said after the hearing: "What this case shows is that the powers of political correctness have reached all the way to the top of the judicial tree, so much so that even the Supreme Court dare not say anything against gay rights."

(Note the theme "this is Political Correctness gone mad" is a constant refrain from the conservative right in the UK as a response to any progress.)

The commentary by the BBC's Religious Affairs correspondent on that case pointed out that was then the latest in a run of defeats:

Defeat in court has been compounded in some cases by the remarks of senior judges, making clear that their job is no longer to enforce morality, and that religious beliefs will not be given more weight than secular values.
Interesting comparison:

UK:   Established church, Supreme Court rules against Bulls.
USA: "No established church" in Constitution, Supreme Court rules for Hobby Lobby.

Originally posted to Lib Dem FoP on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 08:40 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  "Religious beliefs given no more weight than (17+ / 0-)

    secular values"

    And this is a bad thing how?

    "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 09:03:50 AM PDT

  •  A perfect example of how the same English words (6+ / 0-)

    carry different meanings in the USA and the UK...

    Democratic Unionist Party
    •  Two nations divided by a common language. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AJayne, BYw

      Variously attributed to George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde and Winston Churchill :-)

      I ride the wild horse .

      by BelgianBastard on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 02:48:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  they are pro-union (with Britain) (0+ / 0-)

      and compete in elections, very successfully somehow....

      so democratic (if a little conservative, shall we say!)

      what is the doubt? Are all democrats necessarily similar to the current Democratic party?

      •  Not at all (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        AJayne, Dirtandiron

        It's just that "Democratic" in the U.S. means the leftmost of the two major parties. And "Unionist" is hardly ever used, but means pretty much exclusively members of trade unions.

        “Republicans...think American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people... And they admire of Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.” Harry S. Truman

        by fenway49 on Wed Jul 09, 2014 at 05:49:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  It never WAS .... (7+ / 0-)
    making clear that their job is no longer to enforce morality, and that religious beliefs will not be given more weight than secular values.
    Their job was always "to enforce the laws" and to "administer justice" ... hopefully at the same time.

    And as for weighting values:   well, since the Enlightenment started,  a lot of us have been of the opinion that maybe religious values ought to be given a little LESS weight than reasonable ones.

    •  It still is to some extent (0+ / 0-)

      There are still laws in both countries which impinge more on morality than harm - pornography and drug laws being examples.

      The Christian ferverts have been in full sulk mode since they failed to even get permission to bring private prosecutions about "Jerry Springer - the Opera" after its theatre runs and its showing on BBC TV in the early 2000s. The senior lawyers representing another group "Christian Voice" made some arguments that are even more familiar to Americans and were equally robustly rejected by a series of judges. They wanted permission to prosecute for "blasphemous libel" which was then still law and only applied to Christianity.

      Speaking in court Michael Gledhill QC, appearing for Mr Green [Director of Christian Voice], said: "This is not just about protecting the rights of a section of the Christian population.

      "It is about protecting the constitution of the nation which is built on the Christian faith."

      David Pannick QC, representing Mr Thompson [the then BBC Director General], said Judge Tubbs had acted within her powers and "made the only decision she could lawfully have made".

      While religious beliefs were integral to British society, "so is freedom of expression, especially to matters of social and moral importance," said Mr Pannick.

      One of the more amusing aspects of the protest and reports in the right wing press was the claim about the number of times certain swear words (f..k and c..t) were repeated. They multiplied the number of times they appeared in the show by the number in the chorus singing them!

      "Come to Sochi, visit the gay clubs and play with the bears" - NOT a Russian advertising slogan.

      by Lib Dem FoP on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 04:20:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What's with these wedding cake bakers (5+ / 0-)

    This subject came up time and time again during public testimony in Hawaii for the marriage equality law.

    All about what a violation of religious freedom it would be if a cake baker had to make a gay wedding cake.


    We were tweeting and listening to testimony and playing the drinking game that every time someone mentioned wedding cake bakers, we took a shot.  Pretty drunk by the time testimony was only a quarter through!

    •  Why should the baker have to sanction a wedding (0+ / 0-)

      against his beliefs when Hobby Lobby doesn't have to sanction birth control against theirs?

      Do corporations have more rights because they are Bigger People? Why don't Mom and Pop get to make the choices but a giant chain does?

      We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

      by nuclear winter solstice on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 07:00:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Obviously neither one should. n/t (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        nuclear winter solstice

        America, where a rising tide lifts all boats! Unless you don't have a boat...uh...then it lifts all who can swim! Er, if you can't swim? SHAME ON YOU!

        by Back In Blue on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 07:32:31 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Because RFRA does not apply to the states (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TexasTom, Noisy Democrat

        That said, I think the First Amendment is an issue if the cake or other item contains expressive content.

        For example, I'm pretty sure that in the US the government would not be able to penalize anyone for refusing to bake a cake with an inscription of "Support Gay Marriage" and I think that is the right decision.

        •  That is the Hobby Lobby fallacy (0+ / 0-)

          Whether under RFRA or First Amendment, if the bakery is incorporated and open to the public it should be bound by anti-discrimination law. If I get a birthday cake for my niece saying "Happy Birthday Jessica" the baker's not expressing personal sentiments. He's filling an order.

          Should bakeries be able to refuse to make wedding cakes for interracial couples, or interfaith couples, or couples getting married at city hall rather than a church to the baker's liking? Segregationists' desire not to seat black and white together in the same restaurant was just as much grounded, in their telling, in religious belief.

          “Republicans...think American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people... And they admire of Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.” Harry S. Truman

          by fenway49 on Wed Jul 09, 2014 at 05:55:29 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The difference in this case... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Noisy Democrat

   that the message on the cake is an explicitly political message:  "Support gay marriage".  In a comment above, I raised the comparison with forcing a gay baker to make a cake that says "Marriage = 1 Man + 1 Woman".  

            The conservative Christian requesting such a cake could argue that they prohibtion against religious discrimination means that the baker would be required by law to fill the order, while I'd argue that the First Amendment means that we can't compel the baker to bake a cake with a political message on it if the baker prefers not to.

            Needless to say, I think it is only a matter of time before conservatives start testing the law in exactly this manner.  So we might want to think carefully about some of the precedents that we are arguing for.

            My opinion is that it's discrimination if you refuse to bake a cake for a customer because of their sexual orientation, race, religion, or other class.  It's not discrimination to refuse to bake something with a message that you disagree with.

            If Democrats proclaim the the Earth is round and Republicans insist it is flat, we will shortly see a column in the Washington Post claiming the the earth is really a semi-circle.

            by TexasTom on Wed Jul 09, 2014 at 06:05:34 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  It's not about the baking, it's about the icing (0+ / 0-)

              on the cake.

              Asher explicitly made their refusal to fill a cake order a religiously based rejection of homosexuality.  A corporation apparently has a policy that a sector of people should not exist and should be denied equal service for any messages, however banal, that reflect support for that equality. So it's akin to a white supremacist bakery explicitly refusing to make a cake that says "Support Racial Equality" based on their white supremacist Christian Identity religious rejection of racial equality.  Or Asher bakery explicitly refusing to make a cake that says "Support Racial Equality" based on a Jim Crow expression of their Christian faith.  

              The problem is that it's not actually about an absolute kind of Christian biblical dogma, or they wouldn't be violating biblical teaching on uses of certain foods in combination, or wearing certain materials in combination.  It's about a vendor being licensed by the state to sell a product and service to the general public but explicitly refusing to vend that advertised product and service to one sector of the public because they believe the existence of those people are a religious abomination.

              Asher is not a person.  Though we seem to conflate individual human rights with for-profit corporate policies these days.  But if Asher wants to put up signs in their stores that say "Gays will go to hell" they can, they just can't refuse to sell publicly advertised products or services to us.

              Your comparisons about messages are exciting but not apropos.  Race and Sexual Identity are not an opinion.  "X Burning in Hell" is and so is "The Third Reich Will Rise Again" or a bizarre hope, anyway.  If Asher had refused to ice a cake with the phrase "Straight White Christian Men who represent Bigoted Corporate Bakeries Should Burn in Hell" then, I'd be with Asher.

              Lastly, I wonder how good their cakes actually are?  All this talk about cake makes me want to bake!

              "Out of Many, One Nation." This is the great promise of these United States of America -9.75 -6.87

              by Uncle Moji on Thu Jul 10, 2014 at 07:36:24 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Sorry, TexasTom, I posted my reply to the wrong (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              comment.  Sorry about that.  

              "Out of Many, One Nation." This is the great promise of these United States of America -9.75 -6.87

              by Uncle Moji on Thu Jul 10, 2014 at 07:39:34 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  Should that also apply if the cake says something (2+ / 0-)


            "All X will burn in Hell!"?

            You can substitute what you want for X - Jews, Gays, Italians, up to you.

            If I get a birthday cake for my niece saying "Happy Birthday Jessica" the baker's not expressing personal sentiments. He's filling an order.
            What about "Happy Birthday Jessica, The Third Reich Will Rise Again!"?
            •  In Germany, it'd be illegal (0+ / 0-)

              I think it comes down to whether the behavior in question is not only something that is against the baker's religion, but also illegal.

              So a baker refusing to make a cake that says "Let's assassinate the president!" is well within his rights since it's illegal to make threats against the President.  (Hi there, NSA and CIA! Hope you all are having a nice day today.)

              But it's not illegal to be gay unless you are in Uganda.  And since civil unions are legal in NI where this issue occurred, the baker's argument is not in the same category.

              The Cake is a lie. In Pie there is Truth. ~ Fordmandalay

              by catwho on Thu Jul 10, 2014 at 10:05:08 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  So you believe that someone should be able to go (0+ / 0-)

                to a baker who advertises an LGBT friendly business with pink ribbons etc. and order a cake that says "All f---ts should be castrated and executed" (a perfectly legal thing to say) and the baker should have no choice but to make and deliver the cake?

    •  "First off--you think a gay wedding is going to (0+ / 0-)

      have a SUPERMARKET cake?" - Jon Stewart

  •  Analysis of Domestic Refusal-to-Serve Proposals (7+ / 0-)

    For those interested in where litigation over these issues may be headed in the United States in the next few years, I recently wrote a law review article that (1) compares the push for religious exemptions that would allow businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples with the lack of a similar push during the heated debate over interracial marriage in the Civil Rights Era, (2) addresses the reasons for the discrepancy, and (3) argues that, if adopted, the exemptions currently being proposed would be vulnerable to challenge under the Equal Protection Clause:

    Interracial and Same-Sex Marriages: Similar Religious Objections, Very Different Responses

    On the equal protection issue, here's one of the key passages:

    In Windsor, the Court instructed that "discriminations of an unusual character" warrant "careful consideration," and it found that an "unusual deviation from the usual tradition" that "operate[d] to deprive same-sex couples" of customary benefits available to others was "strong evidence of a law having the purpose or effect of disapproval of that class." Exempting commercial business owners from the obligation to comply with antidiscrimination laws on religious grounds would not only be "unusual," it would be unique. Although many Americans had religious objections to interracial marriage in the 1960s,  and although some still do today, federal and state antidiscrimination laws have never included exemptions that would allow business owners to deny services based on those beliefs. Likewise, although the Bible quotes Jesus Christ explicitly condemning divorce and remarriage as adultery, and although such remarriages violate the current teachings of the largest Christian denomination in America, state laws prohibiting discrimination based on marital status do not contain exemptions allowing commercial businesses to refuse to facilitate the remarriages of divorced people. Only after same-sex couples were allowed to marry was there an effort to allow business owners to discriminate for religious reasons, and such an "unusual deviation from the usual tradition" would appear to be "strong evidence" under Windsor of an unconstitutional intent "to impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages."
  •  i think stickers like this are more effective (0+ / 0-)

    chasing off 10% of the customers and then another 20%
    because they have friends will just be bad business.

  •  I can't get a prompt to republish - can someone... (0+ / 0-)

    I can't get a prompt to republish - can someone queue to Shamrock Americans?

  •  You need the picture! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AJayne, Lib Dem FoP

    I don't know how to post the image here, but I'll put up the link to TPM.  The cake has Bert and Ernie on it!  The bakery is rejecting Sesame Street.

    Reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled. Richard Feynman

    by mwk on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 03:56:27 PM PDT

    •  Copyright (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It is on both the BBC and Belfast Telegraph links but I do not have the copyright to use those images, hence my outline description in the diary.

      Thank you for the suggestion nevertheless.

      "Come to Sochi, visit the gay clubs and play with the bears" - NOT a Russian advertising slogan.

      by Lib Dem FoP on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 07:35:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Catholic Crisis (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fenway49, Dirtandiron

    Over at Crisis, a RW Catholic  magazine, they run a similar denial of service story about a photographer.  The Crisis?
    The local gay community passed out word and they all started boycotting the studio.  That was the crisis.

    It boils down to this:  they can do something to gays, women, minorities, whomever.

    But if those groups do the exact same thing back to them, then they claim THEY are the ones being (inappropriately) attacked.

    Apparently, according to most who publish on Crisis, there can be no such thing as a Catholic bigot.  

    A lot of the religious groups seem to do this. They  underlying belief that they and their group are special according to GOD and so their group deserves special treatment from everyone else.

    “Everyone is ignorant, only on different subjects.” ― Will Rogers

    by MugWumpBlues on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 09:55:49 PM PDT

    •  One of my best moments (0+ / 0-)

      was in the 1970s when I foiled a plan by a RW Christian group called "Festival of Light" to hold a rally in London and forced them to move the date. They had been giving out the date but forgot they needed permission to assemble in Hyde Park from the Royal Parks authority. Guess who booked the park space. :-)

      Their position on pornography was somewhat undermined by them coming out of an "investigation" by Lord Longford into pornography and the "permissive society". Frank Pakenham (his family name) was an earnest even well meaning figure if politically incredibly naive (I later stood with one of his sons in a local council election) Roman Catholic hereditary peer. The committee seemed to forget that the definition of pornography was an item that "depraved or corrupted". Since his committee's work involved touring the strip clubs and porn cinemas in central London, as well as viewing large amounts of printed nudity etc; they must have been the most depraved and corrupted group of people in the country.

      Many of the same characters went on to organize protests against Monty Python's Life of Brian. There's a great BBC play that re-enacts the TV discussion between John Cleese and Michael Palin on one side and Malcom Muggeridge and a bishop on the other. The "Christian" side end up completely alienating their most vociferous supporters when they admit they missed the first 20 minutes of the film.


      "Come to Sochi, visit the gay clubs and play with the bears" - NOT a Russian advertising slogan.

      by Lib Dem FoP on Wed Jul 09, 2014 at 04:02:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The Religious Reich's cake stunt exported from US (0+ / 0-)

    They'll try to get their own crafted genocide bill, nefariously called the KILL THE GAYS Bill, imported from Uganda/Nigeria/Congo/Bruni into the West soon. Because "religious freedumb."

  •  Great point on Northern Ireland (0+ / 0-)

    The parliament existed when Civil Unions were passed, but it was suspended as a result of disagreements. Now, NI looks to be the only part of the British Isles without gay marriage (even the Republic will hold a referendum on it).

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