After a legal ruling deemed a bakery in Northern Ireland to have discriminated against a gay customer, the bakery’s owners have decided to appeal the decision, hoping to promote the place of faith in the public square. Ashers Baking Company, a bakery owned by a Christian family located in County Antrim, was charged with discriminating against a gay customer who ordered a cake with a pro-gay marriage theme: the bakery had declined to bake the customer a cake which included the slogan “support gay 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,” the McArthur family, owners of the bakery, said. “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.” In March, customer Gareth Lee filed a complaint with the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, which took the owners to court in May. Belfast judge Isobel Brownlie ruled May 19 that this case was discriminatory because “the defendants are not a religious organization. They conduct a business for profit.” Ashers paid ¬£500 ($760) to the customer, Gareth Lee, for “injury to feelings” over what was deemed unfair treatment based on political and sexual discrimination regulations. Lee, a gay rights activist, said the bakery’s decision to refund his cake purchase made him feel like “a lesser person.” The McArthur family said the pro-gay theme of the cake conflicted with their personal religious beliefs, assuring that the problem was not the customer, but the message on the product. Daniel McArthur, general manager of the bakery, said the ruling “suggests that all business owners will have to be willing to promote any cause or campaign, no matter how much they disagree with it.” The Christian Institute, a nondenominational charity located in the United Kingdom, is actively supporting the McArthur family. According to the Christian Institute’s website, this case “demonstrates the need for the law to reasonably accommodate family-run businesses with firmly-held beliefs,” and a spokesman, Simon Calvert, said the existing decision against the bakery “will have dramatic consequences if it stands.” The Christian Institute also noted the swell of public support for the McArthur family. The date of the appeal has not yet been released.
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