A Christian printer has declined to print business cards for a company promoting equality and diversity, saying he does not want to promote a cause which might impact negatively on Christians.
Nigel Williams, a small business owner in Southampton, said he could not fulfil a request from SEE Change Happen, because of its approach to diversity.
In an email exchange, Williams said that ‘diversity’ is now being “used (or misused) to marginalise (or indeed discriminate against) Christians in their workplaces and other parts of society if they do not subscribe to it”.
His stand has some similarities to that of Ashers Baking Company, the Northern Irish bakery which was dragged through the courts for refusing to bake a cake bearing a pro-gay marriage campaign slogan.
The incident began towards the end of last month when Williams received an email from Joanne Lockwood, a man who identifies as a woman.
Lockwood enquired about a possible order for a business venture promoting diversity.
Williams sent a reply, politely declining the request. He said he was “very happy” to print for Lockwood, but not for the company SEE Change Happen.
He said: “It is foundational to Christianity that every person must be respected, valued and loved because they are made in the image of God, irrespective of their economic status, religious belief, gender, sexuality, race etc etc…”
“Although I’m quite sure you have no intention of marginalising Christians it would weigh heavily upon me if through my own work I was to make pressure worse for fellow Christians”, he added.
‘Happy to print’
The Christian Institute is providing support to Williams. A spokesman said:
“For years we’ve warned of growing hostility towards people with mainstream Christian views. The terms ‘equality’, ‘diversity’ and ‘tolerance’ have been twisted out of all recognition in an attempt to marginalise, shame and punish Christian people.
“Nigel Williams made it crystal clear that he would be prepared to do work for Joanne Lockwood. Indeed, his email said: ‘I am very happy to print for you’.
“However, he was not prepared to do work for a business that actively promoted a cause which might impact negatively on those with a Christian faith.”
The spokesman added that the “chilling and unnecessary incident” has some similarities to the Ashers case.
Aidan O’Neill QC argued in 2015 that the Ashers case risked opening the floodgates for litigation in other cases, including a Muslim printer refusing a contract requiring the printing of cartoons of Mohammed.
Ashers Baking Company will go before the UK Supreme Court in the coming months. To learn more about the case, and keep track of developments, visit our dedicated Ashers page.