Ash­ers rul­ing tells us we need to show more tol­er­ance

Belfast Telegraph - - REVIEW -

The vast ma­jor­ity of rea­son­able peo­ple will re­joice that the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Ash­ers in the con­tro­ver­sial ‘gay cake’ is­sue. The case arose af­ter the bak­ery de­clined to ice a slo­gan sup­port­ing same­sex mar­riage on a cake or­dered by Gareth Lee, a mem­ber of the LGBT com­mu­nity.

The Supreme Court ruled that Ash­ers did not refuse to ful­fil the cus­tomer’s or­der be­cause of his sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion.

“They would have re­fused to make such a cake for any cus­tomer, ir­re­spec­tive of their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion,” it said.

“Their ob­jec­tion was to the mes­sage on the cake, not to the per­sonal ori­en­ta­tion of Mr Lee.”

This was a vic­tory not only for Ash­ers, but for every­one who val­ues free­dom of ex­pres­sion.

Busi­ness­peo­ple, in pro­vid­ing a ser­vice for a cus­tomer, are not com­pelled to prop­a­gate mes­sages or sym­bols with which they dis­agree.

Sig­nif­i­cantly, gay ac­tivist Peter Tatchell, who sup­ported Ash­ers, also wel­comed the Supreme Court’s de­ci­sion.

We should all be grate­ful for the po­lit­i­cal in­de­pen­dence of our Supreme Court, com­pared to the one in the US, where pol­i­tics plays a huge part in ap­point­ments.

One of the sad re­sults of the Ash­ers case was the un­gra­cious way in which mem­bers of the LGBT com­mu­nity ac­cepted the ver­dict.

It is par­tic­u­larly sad that, as a re­sult of the rul­ing, Mr Lee re- gards him­self as a “sec­ond-class cit­i­zen”.

I cer­tainly do not re­gard him or any other mem­ber of the LGBT com­mu­nity as sec­ond-class.

Some­times, this is in the eye of the be­holder, and there is noth­ing that I, or any­one else, can do to dis­suade him from tak­ing that point of view.

In gen­eral, the LGBT com­mu­nity did it­self no favours by its re­ac­tion to the re­sult of a costly case that, in the eyes of many peo­ple, should not have been brought in the first place. Though the young cou­ple at the heart of the case are com­mit­ted church-go­ers, it was not about com­mit­ted Chris­tians tak­ing on gay ac­tivists. It was about free­dom of thought and ex­pres­sion, which lie at the heart of our so­ci­ety.

For the past 17 years or so, when writ­ing this col­umn I have cov­ered many con­tro­ver­sies within the Churches about so­cial is­sues in­clud­ing abor­tion, and same-sex re­la­tion­ships, and I have con­stantly urged my read­ers to be tol­er­ant of other peo­ple’s points of view.

That is not to say that I agree with every­one else’s views, but I must have the broad mind­ed­ness to give them their right to hold that point of view, rightly or wrongly.

Take, for ex­am­ple, the con­tro­versy in the Pres­by­te­rian Church about ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity, which is caus­ing deep di­vi­sions that are far from be­ing healed.

I have no doubt that good peo­ple on each side of the ar­gu­ment are to­tally sin­cere in what they be­lieve, and that they base those be­liefs on their in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Scrip­ture.

Sadly, how­ever, this also de­vel­ops into per­sonal crit­i­cism, of which I have had my share.

Some of the most hurt­ful and bit­ter com­ments made against me have come from Chris­tians who show lit­tle con­cern for fel­low hu­man be­ings, which ought to be the hall­mark of peo­ple who claim to fol­low Christ.

The in­tol­er­ance, how­ever, is not con­fined to is­sues such as ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity and abor­tion.

There is still a deep in­tol­er­ance here about other peo­ple’s be­liefs, whether they are a mem­ber of a dif­fer­ent de­nom­i­na­tion or from a dif­fer­ent faith.

I have learned a lot from writ­ing about re­li­gion in this col­umn for so many years, but I still de­spair at our in­abil­ity to say to some­one else, ‘I think you may be wrong, but per­haps I am wrong too, or at least not to­tally right, so let’s try to learn from one an­other’.

One of my favourite hymns has the line, ‘There’s a wide­ness in God’s mercy, which is wider than the sea’.

This ap­plies not only within Chris­tian­ity, but also to other faiths and peo­ple of no faith.

In writ­ing a col­umn such as this, I have no idea where my words will go, or what re­ac­tion they will have, for good or ill, months or years af­ter­wards

How­ever, it has al­ways been a priv­i­lege to have this plat­form, and if my words have brought even a lit­tle more tol­er­ance, open­ness and kind­ness to some of my fel­low hu­man be­ings, my ef­forts have not been in vain.

Long road: the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Daniel McArthur and his wife Amy McArthur

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.