Thursday, October 27, 2016

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Not To Be Waved In Public

'Out of Asher his bread shall be fat and he shall yield royal dainties' ~ Book of Genesis ... just not for those who are gay.

Whatever view people may hold on the Ashers Bakery cake controversy, for the non-religious it is hard to ascribe any gravitas to the company's perspective having witnessed the descent of Daniel McArthur into religious fatuity after his firm lost its appeal against an earlier ruling which asserted as a right the expectation not to be discriminated against on grounds of sexuality. 

While his pregnant wife looked on with an expression that suggested listening to her husband sermonise was on a par with observing a rapture into Heaven (another bonkers idea that some have succumbed to over the aeons), McArthur went on a religious rant while pointing to the sky, proclaiming that:

we are thankful to God and his faithfulness to us through everything - he is still on the throne, he is the ruler of heaven and of earth and he is our God and we worship and we honour him.

Basically because God has the same prejudices that the bakers do.

Gareth Lee from Queer Space might have wanted to chance buying a cake from a person in such a state of asininity but it is by no means certain he would have risked eating it.

McArthur's performance seemed utterly surreal and reinforced the view of a Swedish guy I once had a drink with: treat religion as you would your genitalia – okay for your own amusement and personal use but not to be waved in public. 

In a more stable moment McArthur reflected that, "this ruling undermines democratic freedom, it undermines religious freedom and it undermines free speech." More lucid but not more logical. The guy is wholly devoid of the slightest comprehension that he is entitled to his religious belief and to both preach and practice it ... but on himself and not on those who don’t want it practiced on them. 

This is what the Appeal Court ruling undermines – the arrogant assumption that there is some god given right to practice religion on others.  As the BBC legal commentator, Joshua Rosenberg, tersely summed up:

if a business does supply a service, it must not discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation — which means it must not refuse to provide a gay person with goods that it would provide to others.

The North’s most senior judge, Declan Morgan, in his judgement rejected the kernel of the Ashers argument, saying "the fact that a baker provides a cake for a particular team or portrays witches on a Halloween cake does not indicate any support for either." Too right. What the bakery sought to do was prevent others not of their religious opinion expressing support for gay marriage. The suppression of the slogan "support gay marriage" was the real act of censorship in this case.  There is no doubt that a cake adorned with the words "ban gay marriage" would have been made.

When cut to the chase and stripped of pious cant this case was about Ashers wanting a right in the world of commerce to discriminate on the basis of religious opinion.  For that very reason Jim Wells of the DUP was correct to describe the verdict as an "awful decision" - truly awful for bigots like himself and awesome for those who think if there is a god, it created all people as equal.

24 comments :

Steve R said...

Ashers were set up, and slap it up them too. Imagine in this day and age whining and crying, trying to get special exemption from the Law for your bigotry.

Gerard. said...

I don't agree. You go into a business with a Christian ethos asking for something against their beliefs and hey presto you can get a refusal, and then compo. What ever happened to the management have a right to refuse? I think the young couple were admirable in how they stood up for their beliefs. Not much loyalty to beliefs now-a-days. I dont see how its ok to criticise Sinn Fein for selling out on their beliefs and then go on to criticising a young couple for standing up for theirs? I think Rosenberg got it right when he said its best not to do "bespoke" cakes as these religious shops do in Britain, in which case they still have a right to refuse to do a gay slogan?

DaithiD said...

"McArthur's performance seemed utterly surreal and reinforced the view of a Swedish guy I once had a drink with: treat religion as you would your genitalia – okay for your own amusement and personal use but not to be waved in public."

What were you doing to prompt this observation AM, given your avowed atheism im guessing it wasnt proselytizing?
This seems to be the correct verdict, but people need to be able to think in hierarchical terms. The bakers were wrong, but they dont deserve death threats or to loose their business over this.

AM said...

Steve,

they were set up in that Gareth Lee sought to both exploit and exposed their readiness to discriminate against people on the basis of religious prejudice.

DaithiD,

What was I doing? Thinking and reflecting on a witty comment by a Swedish guy.

They should not lose their business and any death threats against them are heinous and should be resolutely faced down.


Gerry,

the Orange Order claim a Christian ethos but should not be allowed to practice that ethos on people who don't want it practiced on them.

Management right to refuse is always limited otherwise we have signs proclaiming
"no blacks, dogs or Irish."

The young couple were not merely standing up for their beliefs but for the belief that they can inflict their belief on others via discriminatory practices. People providing a service should not be able to inflict their religious opinion on say a woman who walks into a chemist and asks for the morning after pill. Religious opinion should be treated like any other opinion and not be privileged.

The analogy with criticism of SF is a weak one. SF is not being criticised for abandoning its beliefs but for pretending not to have abandoned them and in so doing turning SF discourse into a Weapon of Mass Deception for the purpose of deceiving people into thinking the SF project is continuous rather than discontinuous. Hence the nonsense from Pat Sheehan that he is doing the same today as he was in 1972.

The young couple are fully entitled to stand up for their beliefs but not stand on somebody else in order to push them. They can bake as many cakes as they wish with the slogan "Ban Gay Marriage." But once they do that in commerce they should not be able to discriminate between the customers and deprive one of a bespoke service that they would provide to another. For that reason I agree with your "bespoke" products suggestion because that rules out discrimination which is the issue here.






DaithiD said...

Aaaaah, no wangs were exposed in the making of this annecdote!

Wolfsbane said...

AM, in another place I asked you, "Could you recommend a bakery on the Falls who would do me a nice butter sponge, iced with the flag of Israel and the words 'Support Israel's Right To Its Land'?"

I take it you would have no problem doing one for me if you were a baker?

Niall said...

They should have agreed to bake the cake but place a £50,000 price tag on it....they had every right to approach it like that...I'm surmising that they dont believe in witches too yet I wonder how many Halloween cakes they've baked?

Steve R said...

AM,

That's exactly what I meant.

AM said...

Wolfsbane,

the answer to this question is so obvious that it surprises me you even asked it. If you felt it was a tripwire you were wasting your time because it is not something I will trip over.

I am not a baker but we can infer from my current take on such matters what I would do were I a baker. Of course I would provide you with your cake. Not because I would be obligated to by the law (I doubt I would be obligated in that circumstance). But because I strongly endorse the principle of freedom of expression. If we metaphorically regard TPQ as your cake can you cite one occasion where you or anybody else has been prohibited from expressing support for Israel? If I assent to your pro-Israel message appearing on the blog I provide why would I dissent from the same message appearing on the cake I provide? It is your sentiment being expressed on the cake, not mine. Just as it is on the blog.

In both circumstances it is as wrong for Ashers to claim it is being compelled to support gay marriage as it would be for me to claim I am being compelled to support Israel on the basis of sentiments held by customers appearing on the product/service we provide.

Would I be happy to provide you with such a cake? No more than I am happy to provide you a platform to support Israeli war crimes. But happiness is not the issue, compliance is. Ashers was asked to comply with the principle of refraining from discriminating against people on the grounds of sexuality (which is protected by the law in the way that your Israel cake would not be).

Should Mormons opposed to their church's 2013 ruling on black and brown people be free to discriminate against such people on the basis of the Book Of Mormon stating that blackness and brownness were punishments from God for sinfulness?

Ashers want to deny a service to some people on the basis of something said in some book they read. Others reading a different book, say Mein Kampf, will think it their right to discriminate against Jews. Why should their opinion based on their reading of their books be afforded a status that would allow them to discriminate? Their religious or political opinion can have as much standing as their sporting opinion and no more.

Wolfsbane said...

AM, no, it was not a trick question. I assumed you would be consistent and hold that all had to produce lawful slogans that were deeply offensive to them. But I needed to hear you say it.

I appreciate your integrity, but oppose your conclusion. I hold to the freedom not to produce offense messages, be it by Christians,Muslim, Atheists or whoever. I would not dream of offending an Irish Nationalist or Republican by requesting he/she print, bake or otherwise produce a Unionist or Loyalist message.

I would be guilty of discrimination if I refused to print/bake a non-offensive message for an Irish Nationalist/Republican. Had Ashers refused to bake a 'Happy Birthday' cake for the gay man, then they would be guilty too. But they made it perfectly clear they had no problem with the man - just his particular message.

Many gays and socialists can see the threat to liberty the courts have delivered by their foolish decision. I'm surprised any thinking person sees it otherwise.

As for TPQ, it is a forum for exploring controversial issues, so one would expect hostile ideas get a hearing. But should it be forced to do so? NO.

goot said...

the gaylords are having their cake and eating it on this emasculated island.

Niall said...

Goot,
Do you recall on another blog that you believed in censorship at certain times!!!!

AM said...

Wolfsbane,

holding to the freedom not to produce "offensive" messages helps create a culture which suffocates freedom of expression as it prioritises the right not to be offended above the right to expression. There is no general right to have your opinion protected from offence. It would be a disaster for pluralism and intellectual freedom were such to exist.

In the world of commerce none of us can exercise our preferences unhindered. There are many employers who would be deeply offended at having to provide health and safety but the right of the customer trumps the rights of the provider in many circumstances. It is no different for Ashers. It has to provide a non-discriminatory service which it failed to do.

Had Ashers refused to bake a 'Happy Birthday' cake for the gay man, then they would be guilty too.

As the judicial decision concluded, that is the wrong comparison. That very defence by Ashers was rejected and in my view rightly so. Would they have baked a cake "ban gay Marriage". That is where the real comparison lies and which teases out the issue of discrimination and which, I guess, is why Ashers don't want it focussed on, preferring instead the pseudo comparison.

In the sphere of the interpersonal I too would not just walk into any bakery and cause them discomfort. Would I insist that, say, Brian Kennaway or Chris Hudson for example (Protestant Christian clergy I know and am friendly with) bake me a cake in their bakeries (nether are bakers) adorned with a slogan that they found offensive? No. That is my choice. In making that choice I am opting not to exercise my right. They can't make that decision for me. We all have rights but we do not always decide it is right at a particular time to assert them. Gareth Lee asserted his right and Ashers had no right to deny him. Ashers might have a privilege rather than a right to decline them but that is determined by the latitude afforded them by the individual customer. It is not a right they are free to exercise in society.

I don't see many socialists and gays opposed to the decision on the basis that it is a threat to civil liberties. But then again I haven't looked too hard. Peter Tatchell was pretty poor in his reasoning. But given that there are those on the left who back theocrats against freedom of expression I am sure there have been some who have behaved as you suggest.

There was only one phrase that was sought out for suppression here. That was "Support Gay Marriage." The suppression of that phrase, not the venting of it, constitutes the threat to civil liberties .

... foolish decision. I'm surprised any thinking person sees it otherwise.

Isn't this part of the problem? The religious just can't see how thinking people can't agree with them and because of that seek to Impose their correct "thinking" on those they deem to have blemished thinking. Thinking people can't be thinking if they don't really think that park swings should be chained up on Sundays or that religion should be taught as science in school, or that the world is only 6000 years old.

The societal privileging of religious opinion is being pushed back steadily. It is a most welcome development. The religious must be allowed their opinion just as the soccer supporters club must be allowed its opinion.

goot said...

niall, in a world of incessant disinformation, lies and bullshit, censorship is an absolute PERSONAL right and neccessity. i encourage everyone to censor the msm as much as possible in their lives. and im not down with gay bullies picking on christians. is this all the gaylords have to whinge about in a world falling apart. pathetic. and no im not anti gay, im anti gaylord.

Niall said...

Goot,
Is it really a personal right and necessity? By not reading or listening to msm (I take it that is Main Stream Media) you are not censoring, you've simply chosen just not to listen....their message still goes out.....maybe it's your terminology....what is a Gaylord?

goot said...

answer...christian cake maker harrassers. forget personal rights and neccessities. this is an order. i am ordering u niall now to stop watching telly, listening to radio reading newspapers for one week. happy halloween old bean. im looking forward to hearing from the new you in one week. its autumn. watch the trees. listen to the river. smell the fading flowers. touch the earth. see the stars. and above all else, obey this order. over and out.

Steve R said...

If you don't like a Law, campaign to get it changed. If your argument is really that strong then it should not really be that difficult.

Ashers disagreed with a message so refused to supply a good that they would ordinarily have supplied. In doing this, they discriminated against people who support that message.

The Law is for EVERYONE. Asking for your religious beliefs to exempt you from the Law is madness, I mean, where would you stop discriminating? Asians? Blacks? Gingers? lol

goot said...

as a partial ginger, il stop at ginger. fuck the law.

Wolfsbane said...

AM said
'holding to the freedom not to produce "offensive" messages helps create a culture which suffocates freedom of expression as it prioritises the right not to be offended above the right to expression. There is no general right to have your opinion protected from offence. It would be a disaster for pluralism and intellectual freedom were such to exist.'

OK, we must all be open to be offended, but should you have to participate in promoting what you find offensive? NO.

'In the world of commerce none of us can exercise our preferences unhindered. There are many employers who would be deeply offended at having to provide health and safety but the right of the customer trumps the rights of the provider in many circumstances. It is no different for Ashers. It has to provide a non-discriminatory service which it failed to do.'

It discriminated against ideas, not a person. Had a heterosexual asked for that cake slogan, they too would have been refused. No personal discrimination involved.

'>Had Ashers refused to bake a 'Happy Birthday' cake for the gay man, then they would be guilty too.<
As the judicial decision concluded, that is the wrong comparison. That very defence by Ashers was rejected and in my view rightly so. Would they have baked a cake "ban gay Marriage". That is where the real comparison lies and which teases out the issue of discrimination and which, I guess, is why Ashers don't want it focussed on, preferring instead the pseudo comparison.'

Not a pseudo-comparison at all. Do you hold that a gay be forced to produce a cake/leaflet with the slogan 'Re-criminalize Homosexuality' just because he would do one 'Don't Recriminalize Homosexuality'?

'There was only one phrase that was sought out for suppression here. That was "Support Gay Marriage." The suppression of that phrase, not the venting of it, constitutes the threat to civil liberties .'

So 'Re-Criminalize Homosexuality' must be produced if demanded?

Wolfsbane said...

AM said:
'>... foolish decision. I'm surprised any thinking person sees it otherwise.<
Isn't this part of the problem? The religious just can't see how thinking people can't agree with them and because of that seek to Impose their correct "thinking" on those they deem to have blemished thinking. Thinking people can't be thinking if they don't really think that park swings should be chained up on Sundays or that religion should be taught as science in school, or that the world is only 6000 years old.'

I can see how those things would be rejected by atheists - and some by Christians like me - but how one cannot see the direct threat to liberty of conscience remains beyond me.

'The societal privileging of religious opinion is being pushed back steadily. It is a most welcome development.'

I agree with removal of all privileges - but this is a removal of rights for all, to give privilege to all. The removal of freedom of conscience in exchange for the right to have your view imposed on others. A very bad deal!

However, if the case stands, it will open up media to the promotion of Christian evangelism and teaching. We will be able to take ads in media that carry church notices, etc, and use them to evangelise many who would not have heard much Evangelical truth before.

Ads like:

'Good News for all mankind! God promises to forgive and receive all who repent of their sins and trust in His Son. No sort sinner need despair:
1 Corinthians 6:9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.'

Do you accept that will be our right to have such published?

AM said...

Wolfsbane,

There is no threat to liberty of conscience. Ashers can believe whatever they want. There is a threat and there always has been a threat to the liberty of acting out your conscience against others who do not want it inflicted upon them. A baker having read Mein Kampf might in all good conscience decide not to provide a service to a Jewish person. The law in preventing the shopkeeper from doing so is not threatening his freedom of conscience but his freedom of action. I do not imagine you feel the Mein Kampf reader should be free to exercise his freedom of conscience against the Jewish person. I think neither the bible reader or the MK reader should have absolute freedom of conscience to target whoever they choose.

If you agree with the removal of all privilege, then you do not legally privilege a conscientious interpretation of the bible above a conscientious interpretation of MK. You are free to do so privately but it has no force in law.

The verdict does not change in the slightest what you can put in the media. Your “good news for all mankind ...” is not censored. Not all media outlets are obligated to carry it but they are obligated not to refuse to carry it solely because you are a Christian. The media may decline to carry it because it has no news value but might well carry it in an opinion piece from you which overall is considered good copy.

As for it being an ad paid for by yourself in a newspaper, I see no reason not to carry it. It would be newspapers getting money for nothing. I personally would welcome it being carried because it sounds so deranged that it would prompt hilarity and ridicule of what it suggests.

In private life people are free to refrain from promoting what they find offensive. In the world of commerce there is no automatic, unmediated follow through on personal belief. Ashers were not asked to promote gay marriage or endorse it, no more than I am asked to endorse censorship if TPQ features a piece from someone advocating censorship. Gareth Lee was promoting Gay Marriage, not Ashers. What Ashers did was discriminate against him by denying him a service they would have granted to others opposed to gay marriage.

It discriminated against ideas, not a person.

Artificial distinction. It was the person they refused the service to on the basis of not liking his ideas. The person, not the idea, walked out of the shop without his cake. As such it was the person who was discriminated against. The idea benefited greatly from the actions of Ashers given the publicity it got.

If a gay baker was requested by a Christian to provide a cake with the slogan 'Re-criminalize Homosexuality' in his business where he was already baking cakes with the slogan “Criminalise Christianity”, then he should face a charge of discrimination. He would be discriminating against people of the Christian faith solely because of their Christian beliefs. A Gay person has no more right to discriminate than a Christian has. The problem for too many Christians is that their should be no gay rights at all.

Wolfsbane said...

AM

Again, it was not a person that was being rejected but a message. They would have baked him any cake that did not have an offensive slogan; and they would have refused a straight man asking for the same cake as Lee. Message, not Man.

'The verdict does not change in the slightest what you can put in the media.'

I'm surprised if that is so! I had always laboured under the impression that, say, the Irish News would not have been obliged to accept an ad promoting 'Ulster is British' or 'No Pope Here'. Are you sure they would have been obliged to publish those? I know in Boris' London, the transport authority refused to accept an ad saying "Not Gay! Ex-Gay, Post-Gay and Proud. Get over it!" Previously they had accepted one saying "Some people are gay. Get over it!"

'The problem for too many Christians is that their should be no gay rights at all.'

Some are indeed guilty of that. However, my niggle with gay marriage is the redefinition of marriage that involves. But I have no problem if the State wants to separate out 'marriage' into heterosexual and homosexual marriage. However, if it wants to use the same term for all sorts of folk, I believe it should be no problem for Christians. We will do our thing and let the rest do theirs. I just don't want to be made to say their thing is good.

I do believe it is time to open up the whole 'marriage' concept - since we are departing from the traditional understanding, let's leave it to every consenting adult to marry whom they wish (with mutual consent). Christian prohibitions on incest, polygamy, polyandry, etc. should have no place in a secular State.

Steve R said...

Wolfsbane,

I imagine most the problem with the Ashers court case is that they are trying to make a stand to enable their views on what constitutes 'marriage' be foisted upon everyone else.

There is a bit of a political storm going on down under at the minute, were we have the right wing crazy Catholic governing party doing it's utmost to stop marriage equality by all kinds of stupidity, namely, instigating a plebiscite at huge cost as a stalling tactic.

Who on earth would have thought 30 years ago the South would be the first to legalise it?

AM said...

Wolfsbane,

Argument by reiteration adds nothing to persuasiveness. Message, man or both, we have had our say. The readers can make up their mind if they bother to follow.

There is nothing I can see changing in the media for the reasons I have outlined. The media are not obligated to carry a message or an opinion. My understanding is: what they are obligated to do is where they do not carry the message/ad whatever they must not do so on the grounds of discrimination. Just like Ashers. The bakers were not obligated to provide the inscription per se. They could easily have avoided it by not providing a bespoke service. The primary obligation in the Ashers case was one of not discriminating rather than one of printing an inscription.

For greater clarity on the newspaper question put your question to the editor of one of the big dailies in Belfast. They might give you a more legally finessed perspective than me.

Christian prohibitions do have a place in a modern secular state. They can exist in a such a state but cannot be imposed on society. People should be free to abide by their religious opinion but not inflict it on others. If your conscience opposes the morning after pill then don’t take it. If you don't want to swing on Sunday then refrain from doing so but don't deny children the option. You are allowed that freedom. But you should desist from denying it to somebody else whose conscience allows them to reach a different conclusion.