A prominent British gay rights campaigner criticized a Northern Ireland court Feb. 1 for charging a bakery who reportedly discriminated against a gay man.
Peter Tatchell defended Ashers Bakery for refusing to write “support gay marriage” on a cake because of their religious beliefs after customer Gareth Lee asked them to, The Guardian reports.
The Ashers were forced to pay Lee about $720 in compensation. Although Tatchell initially supported Lee, he said he changed his mind.
While he criticized the bakery, writing, “They claim to be Christians, yet Jesus never once condemned homosexuality, and discrimination is not a Christian value,” he believes the court did not have the right to punish them.
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“In my view, it is an infringement of freedom to require businesses to aid the promotion of ideas to which they conscientiously object. Discrimination against people should be unlawful, but not against ideas,” he said.
Indeed, the couple who own the bakery – the McArthurs – explained they did not intend to discriminate against the man, but defend their faith.
“It was clear we did not hate anyone. We didn’t want to discriminate against anyone. We did what we did because of our Christian beliefs. It’s done out of love for God, to obey Him,” Daniel McArthur said.
Tatchell thus states there’s no evidence Lee was discriminated against as an individual.
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“His cake request was refused not because he was gay, but because of the message he asked for. There is no evidence that his sexuality was the reason Ashers declined his order,” Tatchell explained.
He also believes the outcome of the case sets a “worrying precedent.”
“This raises the question: should Muslim printers be obliged to publish cartoons of Mohammed? Or Jewish ones publish the words of a Holocaust denier? Or gay bakers accept orders for cakes with homophobic slurs?,” he said.
“If the Ashers verdict stands it could, for example, encourage far-right extremists to demand that bakeries and other service providers facilitate the promotion of anti-migrant and anti-Muslim opinions. It would leave businesses unable to refuse to decorate cakes or print posters with bigoted messages.”
Tatchell even tweeted about the event, exclaiming, "I disagree with Ashers Bakery’s #Christian homophobia but I defend their right to not promote same-sex marriage"