Why the Ashers Baking Co Ltd were always doomed, and (I’m sorry to say) deserved, to lose their court case
Yesterday, I was all fired up to take a strident pro-freedom of conscience stance on this case myself, putting me firmly into one of the two opposing camps battling it out in the comments following the various media coverages and blog posts. As I read the judgment, my heart was changed, and my entire stance changed by more-or-less 180 degrees.
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The facts of the case are as follows: An individual ordered a cake, decorated with the slogan “support gay marriage”, from a baking firm whose owners supported the contrary “oppose gay marriage” political lobby. The bakers then reneged on the contract, because, they admitted, they wished (to use the appropriate term) to “no platform” the plaintiff, for reasons of their own lately-discovered consciences. (I have sympathy with them on this.)
The plaintiff sued for discrimination on the grounds of his and their clashing political views. Political discrimination, uniquely in the United Kingdom, is unlawful in Northern Ireland, for particular historic reasons that apply only in those six counties of the United Kingdom. Incredibly, the defendants brazenly tried to deny their political discrimination in their pleadings!
The plaintiff also claimed that the defendants had discriminated against him on grounds of his so-called “sexual orientation”. “Sexual orientation” is a hypothesised biological attribute of an individual said to be the cause of homosexual behaviours. Christians who believe the bible should not believe that “sexual orientation” actually exists, or at very least should believe that it is not the cause of homosexual behaviour. That is because the bible teaches a markedly different hypothesis as to the cause of homosexual behaviour, which is no less “scientific” (i.e. empirically testable) than the much younger “sexual orientation” hypothesis, a social construct that masquerades as an independently measurable biological attribute of an individual human organism.
There was a trial, and the court found that the defendants had discriminated against the plaintiff on both grounds. A certain amount of sophistry went into the reasoning whereby “sexual orientation” discrimination was found to have occurred, alongside the glaringly obvious political discrimination practised by the defendants. Most of the online debate homes in upon this minor detail, ignoring that the defendants would have had to pay damages to the victim of discrimination, even if (as I believe) politics was the only reason for their discrimination. Other comment focuses upon obiter dicta about the bakers’ firm not having been a religious organisation, which might have mattered if the court had found only indirect discrimination, rather than direct.
The way this action was defended was all wrong. The defendants should have admitted liability for their blatant direct discrimination against the plaintiff on the grounds that his political beliefs (“support gay marriage”) were the opposite of theirs (“oppose gay marriage”), but denied discrimination on the grounds of his sexual orientation, which I regard as a quite bizarre finding of fact, as (apparently) does Alasdair Henderson, blogging here.
That would have left the court only with the task of deciding quantum of damages. The defendants could have made an offer to settle the claim out of court for a modest sum of money, on the basis only of political discrimination, not sexual orientation discrimination, which they denied.
This was always a case that the defendants couldn’t win. However, both sides wanted a trial, and publicity, each competing with the other to be the greater “victim”, in the court of public opinion, using trial by media. The Christian Institute paid for this ridiculous show trial.
The Christian Institute, and the Christian Legal Centre, the two main court case political activist groups, need to choose their battles, and how to fight them, more wisely. They could do a lot worse than contacting Gagged Dad, and offering to give him some help with his court case, A v Cornwall.
Neither The Christian Institute nor The Christian Legal Centre is willing to lift a finger to help Gadded Dad, the legally unrepresented claimant in A v Cornwall, and a guest blogger on this blog. Gagged Dad is a father who was told, almost two years ago to the day, that social services would try to ensure that his two year-old son never saw his dad again, because his dad had opposed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill in 2013, and supported calls for the repeal of The Abortion Act 1967.
Social Services has been true to its word. Gagged Dad’s son is almost five now. He was just over three and a half, when last he had a cuddle with his dad, observed by a court-appointed child psychologist. He has lost his dad, because his dad spoke against same sex marriage before it was even enacted in the mainland of the UK, and because his dad opposes abortion.
For legal reasons, Gagged Dad’s identity must remain a secret. But his son’s plight was discussed during my own recent election campaign in North Cornwall. I know Gagged Dad personally. None of those with money to squander on unwinnable “persecution” cases, will give this particular persecuted Christian the time of day. His son is illegitimate, because of Gagged Dad’s past sexual sin, six years or so ago. There is apparently more joy at The Christian Institute and The Christian Legal Centre over one just persecuted Christian who needs no repentance (is “squeaky clean” as Andrea Williams put it), than over ninety and nine sinners who repent. Both activist groups strain at gnats whilst swallowing camels. The Christian Institute has exploited the defendants in this case, who unlawfully set out to “no platform” that “gay cake”, with whom I have every sympathy, even though I can see where they went wrong.