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Religious Tolerance logo

2014: Northern Ireland:

"Freedom to discriminate" court case
involving a cake celebrating gay marriage.
Bakery loses court case.

A disagreement over whether this is a case based
on freedom of conscience or sexual orientation.

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Part 3 of four parts

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Lesbian brides  

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This topic is continued here from the previous essay

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2015-MAR-26 to 28: Testimonly at the Belfast County Court hearing:

David Scoffield, the lawyer defending the bakery owners, testified:

"This is a freedom of conscience case. The evidence from the defendants is that they seek to live at all times in accordance with the teachings of the Bible. The religious beliefs form the very core of who they are. ... The defendants neither knew nor cared about Mr Lee’s sexual orientation or his religious beliefs, if any, or his political opinions. The issue was the content of the cake, not the content of his character. ..." 3

"[It is] plainly not a sexual orientation case [but a] freedom of conscience case. ... If a heterosexual couple had placed the same order they would have got the same response"

The reason why the order was [later] declined was because of the content [of the message] and had nothing to do with a feature of the person making the order, or those with which he was associated," 6

Gareth Lee, the bakery customer who had ordered the cake, testified that he assumed the bakery's rejection was:

"... because of my sexuality. It is not very pleasant to be considered not worthy of service because somebody else says they are Christian. It does not make me feel good in any respect. It made me feel I am not worthy; that I am a lesser person and to me that is wrong."

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Karen McArthur had accepted the order and the money to pay for the cake even though she had no intention of making it. In court, she explained why she did not immediately refuse his order:

"I did not want to embarrass him or have a confrontation in the bakery." 4

Daniel McArthur, 25, the general manager of Ashers Bakery, said that their refusal to fulfill the order was because he and his parents believe gay marriage to be:

"... contrary to the Bible. ... Before God, we felt this was something we could not do. We were not doing this in defiance of the law. Our Christian faith is of the utmost importance, it is how we live our lives."

The McArthurs apparently took the same position as Clerk Kim Davis in Rowan County, Kentucky. She felt that when she signed a couple's wedding license application, she was personally approving the resulting marriage. She also is a conservative Christian. Gay marriage conflicted with her interpretation of the Bible. Most legal authorities interpret her signature as merely a certification that the couple applying for a license met all the legal requirements of marriage in the state. She went to jail for a few days and became a conservative Christian hero fighing for the religious freedom to discriminate.

Gareth Lee's lawyer, Robin Allen, noted that one of the company's leaflets indicated that the bakery sold Halloween cakes. He said:

"Witches are hardly consistent with promoting Christian beliefs." 11

He urged the judge to decide the case on the law:

"... and not as politicians, clergymen, clergywomen, editorials, bloggers or any of the general public say you should do so." 12

He said that the case was about commerce and discrimination:

"If any members of the McArthur family were unwilling to print what they had a contract with Mr Lee to print on the icing of the cake, we know there are over 50 people employed by their organization of no obvious Christian scruples about the message on the cake."

Daniel McArthur had allegedly stated in a press interview that only five of their total bakery staff of 62 are church-going Christians.

Gareth Lee arranged with another bakery to produce the cake. A picture is available online 13 and is shown in the video in the previous essay.

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2015-MAY-19: The Court issues its ruling:

District Judge Isobel Brownlie ruled that Ashers Bakery was guilty of:

"... direct discrimination for which there can be no justification."

She noted that the company was:

"... conducting a business for profit.”

Thus, they had no religious exemptions from the country's human rights/nondiscrimination law. She wrote:

"They are in a business supplying services to all. The law requires them to do just that."

Regardless of their:

"... genuine and deeply held religious beliefs. ... They must have known or had the perception that the plaintiff was gay ...They must have known that the plaintiff supported gay marriage or associated with others who supported gay marriage." 9

The company was required to pay Lee £500 which is equivalent to almost US$800. He promised to donate the money to a charity. They were also require to cover Lee's legal fees which would have probably been massive, compared to the amount of the fine. Fortunately for them, many concerned Christians gave the couple gifts of money to help pay for the legal expenses.

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2015-MAY-19: After the Court found Ashers Bakery guilty:

Daniel McArthur, co-owner of the bakery, said:

"We will not be closing down. We have not done anything wrong. ... We’ve always been happy to serve any customers that come into our shops." 10

Joseph Patrick McCormick, writing for Pink News, said that the owners were:

"... extremely disappointed [with the court decision. They had a] problem with the message [on the cake], not with the customer. The ruling suggests that all business owners will have to be willing to promote any cause or campaign, no matter how much they disagree with it." 10

The defendants later decided to appeal the decision by District Judge Isobel Brownlie of Belfast County Court to the Court of Appeals.

By coincidence, four days later, on MAY-23, the Republic of Ireland voters approved a plebescite to legalize gay marriages throughout the rest of the island.

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The appeal of the case is discussed in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
  1. Photograph Lisafx, downloaded from - Gay Marriage Ceremony - Rings Photo
  2. "About Us," Queer Space, 2015, at:
  3. Henry McDonald, "‘Gay cake’ order taken to avoid embarrassment, court told," The Guardian, 2015-MAR-27, at:
  4. Gerry Moriarty, "Bakers ‘felt as Christians’ they could not write pro-gay slogan," The Irish Times, 2015-MAR-27, at:
  5. "Belfast bakers lose appeal in discrimination case after refusing to bake ‘gay marriage’ cake," Life Site News, 2016-OCT-25, at:
  6. Gerry Moriarty, "Waterfront rally in support of Ashers bakery draws thousands," The Irish Times, 2015-MAR-24, at:
  7. The Christian Institute's web site is at:
  8. "Man sues bakery over refusal to make ‘same-sex marriage’ cake," The Irish Times, 2015-MAR-26, at:
  9. "Judge Fines Bakery For Refusing To Make This Cake," Think Progress, 2015-MAY-19, at:
  10. Joseph Patrick McCorick, "Ashers Bakery owner: We have not done anything wrong and will not close," Pink News, 2015-MAY-19. at:
  11. Gerry Moriarty, "Bakers ‘felt as Christians’ they could not write pro-gay slogan," The Irish Times, 2015-MAR-27, at:
  12. "Man sues bakery over refusal to make ‘same-sex marriage’ cake," The Irish Times, 2015-MAR-26, at:
  13. "Judge Fines Bakery For Refusing To Make This Cake," Think Progress, 2015-MAY-19, at:

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How you may have arrived here:

Home > Religious Freedom > Freedom to Discriminate > N. Ireland > here

Home > Imp. > Rel. Freedom > Freedom to Discriminate > N. Ireland > here

Home > Rel. Info. > Rel Freedom > Freedom to Discriminate > N. Ireland > here

Home > Human rights > Rel. Freedom > Freedom to Discriminate > N. Ireland > here

Home>Hot rel. topics>Homosexuality/Bisexuality>Discriminate>N. Ireland > here

Home > "Hot" religious topics > Homosexuality/Bisexuality > Media > N. Ireland > here

 Home > Transgender topics > N. Ireland > here

 Home > "Hot" topics > Transgender topics > N. Ireland > here

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Copyright © 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2016-OCT-26
Latest update : 2016-OCT-31
Author: B.A. Robinson

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