Ashers Baking Company judgement
A very difficult decision
Last week, a court in Béal Feirste ruled against the Ashers Baking Company in their decision to not fulfill an order from a customer who wanted a cake made to support gay marriage. The court ruled that it did not have the right or freedom to discriminate against customers and it had to accept all requests from customers.
The decision is a difficult one for many reasons. There is a part of me for it and part of me against it. It is a case of equality trumping liberty. Both are noble values but some times liberty has to be restricted to ensure equality.
This is what the case boiled down to. The judge ruled that no company has a right to discriminate against customers regardless of the political or other views of the customers.
Ashers Baking Company is owned by a Christian family. The name of the company comes from the Bible – the Asher were an Israeli tribe that had many bakers.
This company with a Christian ethos did not want to make a cake that was against their religious belief that marriage is only between a woman and a man. They politely declined the order as it conflicted with their belief.
The man who placed the order for the cake felt discriminated against and took a case against them.
The matter went through the courts and in the end it was decided that the company was in the wrong and cannot discriminate.
So, personal freedoms are not allowed to discriminate. This is the nub of the issue. While it seems bad that personal choice and freedom should be restricted, there is another issue that needs to be thought of.
The context of the case
Ashers Baking Company is a Christian-owned company in the northeast of Ireland which has a large number of conservative Christians, particularly from Protestant churches. Some, but not all, of the people are very bigoted in many ways. Some dislike Catholics, Muslims, Travellers, foreigners, Irish people, homosexuals and probably others. They should not be offered a legal protection that would allow them to discriminate based on whatever bigotry they happen to believe in.
In the long run, the effect of this ruling will probably do this conservative and bigoted society lots of good in making people more tolerant and accepting of differences. This is the context that must be thought of when reflecting on this decision.