Jewish columnist: Ashers case won’t only affect Christians

A columnist writing in The Jewish Chronicle has warned that the ruling against Ashers Baking Company will not only have ramifications for Christians.

Historian Geoffrey Alderman said: “Sooner or later this will involve British Jewry”, as he advocated the importance of tolerance in a democracy.

Ashers, a Christian-run bakery in Northern Ireland, last month lost a discrimination case after they declined to produce a cake with a pro-gay marriage message.

Protect

Commenting that the introduction of same-sex marriage in England “necessarily involved an assault on religious beliefs and religious rights”, Alderman said British Jews could soon be affected.

Alderman, a Jewish academic, said he had “watched in horror” at actions against Christians in the UK in recent years because of their opposition to same-sex marriage.

He also said he would support a Muslim printer refusing to produce pictures of Mohammed and a homosexual baker turning down an order for a cake with the slogan “Reject Gay Marriage”.

“In a liberal democracy the right to live one’s life in accordance with deeply held, non-violent beliefs needs to be protected – whether or not you or I happen to agree with them”, he concluded.

Difference

Further criticism of the ruling came from barrister Alasdair Henderson, writing on the UK Human Rights Blog.

He questioned the sexual orientation aspect of the decision, saying Judge Brownlie “conflates support for same-sex marriage with a homosexual orientation, when they are clearly different things”.

Henderson also remarked: “As it stands, this judgment leaves little or no room for freedom of conscience in business.”

Conscientious objection

“Many people may have been happy with baking the cake, even if they personally opposed gay marriage, but the McArthurs weren’t.

“Unless the judge doubted their sincerity (which she didn’t), there is no reason for her to have completely dismissed their conscientious objection”, he commented.

Earlier this week stage and screen actor Sir Patrick Stewart said he believed Ashers should have the right to turn down the order, despite being a supporter of same-sex marriage himself.

Support

Speaking on the BBC’s Newsnight, Sir Patrick noted: “It was not because this was a gay couple that they objected, it was not because they were going to be celebrating some kind of marriage or agreement between them.

“It was the actual words on the cake that they objected to, because they found them offensive.

“And I would support their right to say ‘no this is personally offensive to my beliefs, I will not do it’.”

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