N. Ireland is currently in the midst of a legal case that is set to be a landmark case between equality rights and religious beliefs. The case centres on a cake, one that Asher’s bakery refused to bake because the purchaser asked for the slogan “support gay marriage” to be on the top of the cake. The bakery initially accepted the order and took the payment, even though the person who took the order knew they would not agree to make the cake because of their religious convictions. The purchaser, Gareth Lee, was later contacted and told by the bakery that they were not going to make the cake due to their personal religious beliefs.
The McArthur family who own and run Asher’s bakery state that they do not support gay marriage as it goes against their religious beliefs based on the teachings of the bible. They could “not stand before God” and make the cake with a slogan that supports gay marriage. It is clear from reports that the McArthur family take their faith very strongly and endeavour to live their life by the teachings of the bible, which they clearly hold as the source of truth about God and Christ and are earnest in their conviction that they wish to uphold the will of God. For them taking a stance to not make a cake that was in support of gay marriage is, they believe, aligned with the will of God and they argue on the basis of freedom of conscience that they should not be forced by equality legislation to make a cake with a statement that goes against their religious belief. In addition they have had the support of many Christians across the province who are just as convinced that to support to gay marriage is in some way an affront to God and the Christ. They feel in fact that they are ones being discriminated against on the basis of their religious beliefs.
So what is really going on here?
Is the McArthur’s stance a true representation of the will of God or Christ?
Or is it a distorted man made belief that is nothing more than homophobia dressed up in religious beliefs?
Is there any substance to the claims that supporting gay marriage goes against the will of God?
Should religious beliefs usurp equality legislation?
Is it more important to give credence to individual religious belief, even if it leads to discriminating against others than to legislation which recognises the inherent equality of all irrespective of religious belief ?
This case is a great example of man using God to substantiate his own prejudices and beliefs and what can happen when actions are based on beliefs that do not come from the living source of Love that God is. Whilst the bible contains many wisdom teachings it is not the infallible word of God that many Christians hold it to be but a man-made collection of edited writings that require judicious discernment to know what is truly representative of God and inspired by Him and what is not.
God is love first and foremost, and we connect to that source of love within our own hearts. That source of love knows without a shadow of doubt that all people are not just equal, but equal sons of God whose essence is also love. Jesus said ‘ the Kingdom of God is within’ and it is by connecting with this source of love within that we can come to feel and know what is true truth and what are bastardised teachings devoid of the Love of God. When this love is felt and known there can be no doubt that God loves gay people exactly the same as every other human being, and if two gay people love each other and want to show their commitment to each other in marriage then so be it….and so yes, it could be said that God supports gay marriage. Now there’s a slogan for a cake! It does not matter to God whether people who get married are heterosexual or homosexual and therefore those who use God to argue for their beliefs of discrimination against gay people are taking his name in vain and misrepresenting the all encompassing love of God.
To imagine for one second that the omnipotent source of love, loves all except those who are gay or who support gay marriage is absurdly ridiculous to say the least. Any religious belief which supports any form of segregation or separation of humanity by gender, sexuality, religious belief or nationality is not coming from God but playing into the hands of those who want to keep humanity at war with itself. The love of God is a unifying power that recognises the equality of all irrespective of religious belief, gender, sexuality or nationality and thus equality legislation is more in keeping with the love of God than those religious beliefs that are anti-gay and which in fact are nothing more than forms of bigoted religious discrimination devoid of the love of the God.
I have read that the defence is making the point that this is not about the person that ordered the cake but about the cake itself and the slogan on it in order to not be seen as discriminating. But the request for the cake did not manifest out of thin air, it came from a person, a person who is gay and who supports gay marriage. To say it is about the cake and not the person is to pretend that the cake request somehow came into being on its own – which it clearly did not – it came from a person, a person who supports gay marriage. The bakery has no problem making cakes at Halloween with witches on them even though I suspect witches are not consistent with their religious beliefs – so why single out people who support gay marriage? If the slogan was “hate all Jews” or Catholics or Christians or any other group of people then the bakery could rightly justify refusing to bake a cake that supported hate – but the message here is for one of love and acceptance of our fellow humankind who are gay and who wish to express their commitment to love through marriage. It could be said that refusing to bake the cake is analogous to baking one that says “hate all gays”, in the message that it sends out to the world.
If the McArthurs and Asher’s bakery win this case then it is a sad day for humanity and equality. It opens the door to all kinds of discrimination based on nothing more than man-made prejudices that have nothing to do with the love of God. Gay people could be refused services across this land and further afield – barred from hotels, pubs, restaurants, bed and breakfast, shops and churches – the potential list is endless. Will we see signs up ‘no gays allowed’ in windows of restaurants or bed and breakfasts? Ironically placed by Christians who in the name of Christ are doing the opposite of what the Christ would do – which is to welcome and love all with open arms.
Conviction in ones beliefs is not enough to say they must be recognised or that they can usurp equality – radical Muslims believe they are acting in the will of Allah to kill the cartoonists in Paris or fly into the twin towers in New York or to behead people in cold blood – does that mean they too are excused on the basis of religious belief? That may sound crazy …..but if Ashers win this case then we are opening the door to all kinds of craziness founded upon religious belief. We can all see and know the actions of radical Muslims are evil and in no way representative of the love of God – but they are at one end of a spectrum and at the other end we have the refusal to make a cake that supports gay marriage dressed up as freedom of conscience and ‘Christian beliefs’ by people who truly feel they are acting according to God’s will. But a Christian who does not recognise the equality of his fellow brother, be that brother gay, and his right to marriage the same as heterosexual people is coming from the same source that tells a radical Muslim to kill – it is just wrapped up in niceness, earnestness and sincerity. Of course radical muslims are a minority and are not representative of the way of the true religion of Islam which is loving and peaceful and is just used here as an example of how religious beliefs can be used to justify heinous crimes – and it applies to anyone who uses any religion to justify persecution or discrimination of any kind of another. However, in this example, the evil of the radical Muslim is easy to see, but what about evil that comes wrapped in niceness, earnestness and sincere religious belief? Is it even more harming as it can fool many well meaning people into thinking it is ok? Yet it is not ok – it is not ok to deny anyone the right to love, and if they so desire, to marry a consensual adult of their choosing. Refusing to bake the cake with ‘support gay marriage’ is just the thin edge of the wedge that at the deep end has others killing and maiming in the name of God.
If we all lived according to the love of God that resides within we would not even need equality legislation for it would be part and parcel of our way of living to know and recognise the equality of all, to extend the love of God to all. As Jesus said, ‘by their fruits ye shall know them’ – it is by our lived actions, by how we treat our neighbours, our customers, our clients and so forth that we can be known to express the love of God or not. Thus any form of discrimination, separation, segregation, feeling superior or judgement does not come from God – refusing to bake a cake that says ‘support gay marriage’ is just a form of homophobic religious discrimination and needs to be called out as such. It has nothing to do with the love of God that recognises the equality of all and is therefore also a serious misrepresentation of the divine – something that religious institutions in particular have excelled at for aeons!
God, the Heavenly Father of All loves ALL and it is our call to love as he Loves, to know that we are a one humanity, all divine expressions of the one source of all, all innately equal and to accord each other the respect, love and kindness we would like to receive. The more we live this for ourselves, the more we are able to be it for others.
So how will this particular cake crumble? Will religious beliefs that are misguided and misrepresentative of God, designed to perpetuate the separation of humanity, take precedence over the equality of all that we all innately know in our inner hearts is right and true?