I was furious with the lunacy of the decision, in 2014, of a court in Northern Ireland to find that the McArthur family, owners of a bakery called “Ashers”, were guilty of discrimination for standing up for their Christian beliefs. The facts were simple: a man, who it is not difficult to see as having deliberately targeted the bakery precisely because it is run by Christians, tried to place an order for a cake, decorated with the message “Support Gay Marriage.” Now the Court of Appeal has made the same outrageous decision.

Asher’s says, as do many, including me and many of my friends, that the word “marriage” is defined in The Bible as a union between a man and a woman before God.

Let me be very clear, here, before some loony activist starts to generate lies about my position: I do not care about a person’s sexuality, I don’t care what they get up to in the privacy of their own home or surrounded by their close friends, I don’t even care if they go to swinging parties or orgies. I don’t care if they are promiscuous. I do care where those things impact on society as a whole and so, male or female, homosexual or lesbian, I don’t like any of that pushed in my face as if it’s acceptable in all circumstances. Yes, I’m a bit of a prude and I see nothing wrong in that.

I think it is important that same-sex couples are encouraged to enter into stable, enduring relationships. Therefore I think it is important that countries not only recognise and do not criminalise same-sex relationships but that they provide a legal basis for the union. I even think that it is important that these unions provide exactly the same benefits and responsibilities as marriage.

But I strongly disapprove of the use of the word “marriage” for same-sex unions. Insisting on using it is, in my view, specifically intended to be provocative towards those for whom marriage, in its strict sense, is a religious concept.

This week, the Court of Appeal in Belfast, Northern Ireland, dismissed the McArthurs’ appeal, saying specifically that the Court was aware that the refusal was not discriminatory against Gareth Lee who ordered the cake because he is homosexual but said that the refusal to apply the slogan was “direct discrimination.” But here’s the thing: same sex marriage is not legal in Northern Ireland. So the message was, the court accepted “political.” The court said “What they may not do is provide a service that only reflects their own political or religious message in relation to sexual orientation.”

That has to be patent nonsense. And the reason it has to be patent nonsense is because the Judges have contradicted their own reasoning: earlier in the judgment it says that the bakery can provide a”service to all or none but not to a selection of customers.”

If that is true of a bakery, then how much more must it be true of a Court? The Court has tried to limit the expression of political or religious messages where sexual orientation is concerned. Surely if it’s true for that, then it must be true for all kinds of discrimination.

What, then, if a representative of another religion comes along and demands a cake with the message “all Christians are scum?” Does his right to free speech and/or his right to his religious opinion over-ride the rights of the baker not to be forced to publish a message against his own kind? What if a Christian went into a Jewish or Muslim baker and demanded that a cake bear the message “Everything tastes better with bacon”? There would be outrage, and rightly so.

Bizarrely, the British Taxpayer is funding the private prosecution through Equality Commission for Northern Ireland. The McArthur family has support from a charity, The Christian Institute.

This ruling is bad law, no matter how one looks at it. At its worst, it approves direct harassment of Christians by homosexual activists (which may or may not be the case here but it sets a precedent) and at best it places legitimate religious beliefs, for all religions, in a position which denies their right to hold and live according to those beliefs. Perhaps those are the wrong way round in as which is best and worst. Maybe there is no best.

What is heartening is that the UK has, remarkably, unified, left and right, homosexual and heterosexual, religious and non-religious behind criticism of the decision. The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph, two un-natural bed-follows if ever there were any, agree and both use strong terms. Both talk of the danger to free speech, to personal freedom.

And in doing so they hide their light under a bushel: here’s why we must all demand that this odious decision must be overturned. The court was wrong when it said “icing the cake did not mean the bakers agreed with the message.”

So what is the baker to do, apply a disclaimer? Add icing that says “Asher’s Bakery is not responsible for the contents of this advertisement”?

The reason that media have to argue against the decision is a legal reason: the Court has been blinkered. It has failed to take judicial notice of basic law. In applying the message, the baker would be guilty of “publishing” it. In the absence of a disclaimer, it is deemed to be the publisher’s own words and any liability that flows from that, including libel, falls on the publisher. So, under the law as it currently stands in Northern Ireland, as a result of this decision, anyone who is in the business of putting up advertisements (for example a corner shop with postcards in the window) or a newspaper can be compelled to carry any message that anyone demands, even if it might be offensive or libellous .. or even simply badly spelled. As many of those commenting in The Guardian have said, no one should ever be forced to make a cake for someone else. Nor, established precedent has long held, to carry any form of advertisement or opinion that contradicts the rights of a publisher to publish or not publish as they wish.

The Court has set a dangerous precedent and it has opened doors that must remain firmly closed for the protection of society as a whole. It’s not about the rights of homosexuals, etc,. it’s about common rights.

A little bit of common sense wouldn’t go amiss, either.

The judges need some serious lessons in looking beyond the immediate case and recognising the implications of their decisions. After all, it’s only a matter of time until someone demands a cake with the message “Court of Appeal Judges are Morons,” or something. Let’s see how long it takes them to accuse the bakery that produces it of contempt of Court.

For a roundup of comments on the decision see http://www.christian.org.uk/news/sober-day-freedom-conscience-ashers-win….

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