The Christian Institute

News Release

Star Trek star boldly goes to aid of ‘gay cake’ bakers

The Christian Institute

Thursday 4 June 2015

For immediate use

  1. Star Trek’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard backs Ashers Baking Co’s refusal to make ‘gay cake’
  2. Bakers right not to ‘make it so’ says Sir Patrick Stewart

Actor Sir Patrick Stewart has given a timely boost to Ashers Baking Company ahead of their appeal against discrimination ruling.

Best known for his roles as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek and Professor Xavier in the X-Men films, Sir Patrick, also a renowned Shakespearean actor, told BBC Newsnight’s Evan Davis: “I found myself on the side of the bakers”.

Davis interviewed the actor about his support for human rights as part of the Newsnight episode broadcast on BBC2 last night (3 June 2015). He asked him:

“Who has the right there? The couple who say we want you to put ‘Yes to Gay Marriage’ on the cake, or the people who have to make the cake, who say we don’t want to put that on the cake?”

Sir Patrick, who is well known for his support for same-sex marriage and was incorrectly ‘outed’ as gay by The Guardian newspaper last year, told Davis that he had picked a “deliciously difficult subject” because he supported the stance taken by the McArthur family, the Christians who own and run the bakery.

Reflecting the arguments made in court on behalf of the family Sir Patrick said:

“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’. But I feel bad for them, that it cost them £600 or whatever.”

The McArthur family announced last week they will appeal against the court ruling that the firm had discriminated against a customer by refusing to decorate a cake with a slogan supporting same-sex marriage.

Belfast County Court ordered Ashers to pay £500 damages for “injury to feelings” after Judge Isobel Brownlie ruled the customer had been treated “less favourably” and the bakery had breached political and sexual orientation discrimination regulations.

In a statement made after consulting with their legal advisors the family said: “After much careful and prayerful consideration given to legal advice, we have decided to appeal the judgment handed down [on Tuesday 19 May].

“We continue to insist that we have done nothing wrong as we have discriminated against no individual but rather acted according to what the Bible teaches regarding marriage.

“As many other people have already noted, Christian beliefs seem to have been trampled over in this judgment and we believe this only has negative effects for our society.

“Our hope and prayer would be that an appeal will allow us and other Christians to live out their faith in Jesus Christ in every part of their lives, including their workplace.”

The case followed a decision in May 2014 by Ashers to decline an order placed at its Belfast store. A gay rights activist had requested a cake with the campaign slogan, ‘Support Gay Marriage’.

Ashers, owned by Colin and Karen McArthur, refused to make the cake because it carried a message contrary to the family’s firmly-held Christian beliefs. They were supported by their son Daniel, the General Manager of the company.

But the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI), which publicly backs same-sex marriage, launched a civil action against the family-run bakery. It claimed the family’s actions violated equality laws in Northern Ireland and alleged discrimination under two anti-discrimination statutes – The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (NI) 2006 and The Fair Employment and Treatment (NI) Order 1998.

The McArthurs are being supported by The Christian Institute which is funding their legal costs.

The case has raised key issues of public importance regarding the protection of rights to freedom of expression and freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Simon Calvert of The Christian Institute said: “I believe that most people think that this is a ruling that should be overturned.

“There has been such extraordinary support from people from all walks of life who are appalled by what has happened to the McArthur family. There is huge public support for an appeal and it is vitally important that the higher courts consider this issue.”

He added: “This court decision will have dramatic consequences if it stands.

“The leading human rights QC, Aidan O’Neill, has already spelled out what is possible as a result of the judge ruling against Ashers:

  1. Muslim printers sued for refusing a contract requiring the printing of cartoons of Mohammed
  2. An atheist web designer taken to court for refusing to design a website presenting as scientific fact the claim that God made the world in six days
  3. A Christian film company sued for refusing to produce a pornographic film
  4. Another Christian-run bakery fined for refusing to take an order to make a cake celebrating Satanism
  5. Legal proceedings against a T-shirt company owned by lesbians for declining to print T-shirts with a message describing gay marriage as an ‘abomination’
  6. A printing company run by Roman Catholics dragged through the courts for declining an order to produce adverts calling for abortion on demand to be legalised.”