The issue under discussion was the fruit cake - if I may be facetious and trust that the gays have a sense of humour too: they would need to, having to put up with the sour faced bible thumpers they must encounter in their lives – that Ashers the bakers refused to sell to a member of the gay community because the gay insignia the buyer requested was not in line with the Christian beliefs or prejudices of the owners. What better publicity for the promoters of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia than to have this happen. But there you go, god works in mysterious ways.
Defending the company stance Ashers general manager Daniel McArthur said marriage in Northern Ireland "still is defined as being a union between one man and one woman" and that his company was taking:
a stand ... The directors and myself looked at it and considered it and thought that this order was at odds with our beliefs ... It certainly was at odds with what the Bible teaches.Apart from this being what sounds like a statement of intent to wage aggressive religion, the bible teaches lots of things including rape, child murder, and genocide so it is a good thing that much of what society values today is at odds with that scurrilous piece of man made literature. Particularly so, the Old Testament where murderous old god is one compelling reason for his non existence outside of the minds of those who can only fear rather than love him. People need protected from what the bible teaches, not have the law shaped so that it might be easier inflicted upon them.
Ashers now faces a legal action initiated by the Equality Commission. The Christian Institute, a firm upholder of a wide range of reactionary perspectives is backing the bakers. The battle lines are being drawn as the crusaders for Christ stand at the ready to smite down a few gay devils insisting on their rights. We can only hope the crusade does not reach that other high point of Christian love, The Inquisition. History is awash with lessons that men recruiting god to their cause can work in mysterious ways too.
The general principle the Christians seem to be defending is one expressed by Mr McArthur:
I would like the outcome of this to be that, any Christians running a business could be allowed to follow their Christian beliefs and principles in the day-to-day running of their business and that they are allowed to make decisions based on that.
Nigel Dodds and Tim Bartlett were ardently going along with this side of specious reasoning. Republicans have long talked about the unity of Catholic and Protestants but this acidic alliance is not quite what they had in mind. Bartlett seemed a nasty piece of Christian work, having decided to disengage from working with gay groups until they give into Christian prejudice. He argued that religious belief is protected by the law and was not on a par with a mere footballing opinion in response to Gavin Boyd's more sensible contentions, and insisted that others 'respect my right not to be coerced, not to be forced to do something against my conscience in society".
Fine, if his conscience is not someone else's cross. Christians are allowed freedom of conscience: they can think whatever they want. They simply seem unable to abide by a simple rule that enables everybody to get by: practice your religion on yourself but not on anybody else. People who don’t practice the Christian religion have a right in the public sphere not to have it practiced on them, whether in chemists, hotels or bakeries.
Ultimately, the law should protect but never prioritise religious opinion. Such protection is enshrined in law because religious belief has been violently suppressed throughout the ages usually by some other religious belief. The protection of religion by the law is not meant to deny others protection from religion.
The Equality Commission is now screening its own take on Love/Hate, with Nidge and Tim pitted against Bert and Ernie.