UK: Christian bakery ‘gay cake’ row taken to PMQs
In the first question during today’s broadcast of Prime Minister’s Questions, David Cameron was called on to respond to the case of the bakery which may face legal action after refusing to bake a pro-equal marriage cake.
Asher’s Baking Company, a Christian-owned bakery in Northern Ireland, refused the request of a gay rights activist for a cake showing the message ‘Support Gay Marriage’, above an image of Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie. The Equality Commission has since stated that this act broke anti-discrimination laws.
Alluding to this, Ulster Unionist MP Gregory Campbell said: “The Northern Ireland Equality Commission is threatening legal action against a family-owned bakery because they wouldn’t print a political message on a cake. The requested message was completely at variance with the company’s Christian values.”
He asked David Cameron: “Does the Prime Minister agree that so-called ‘equality’ is now being viewed by many as an oppressive threat to religious freedom, and does he further agree that such freedoms should be protected by the introduction of a ‘conscience clause’?”
Mr Cameron claimed that he was “not aware of the specific case that the honourable gentleman raises”, but that he would “go away and have a look at it”.
Nevertheless, he said: “I do think a commitment to equality, in terms of racial equality, in terms of equality to those of different sexes, equality in terms of people who have disabilities, or indeed tolerance and equality of people with different sexualities – all of that is a very important part of being British.”
Some viewers were amazed that Cameron had apparently not heard of the issue:
PM seems to be (deliberately?) particularly off ball this week. Denies knowledge of gay cake story and of allegations re Tory whips. #pmqs
— Political Animal (@politic_animal) July 9, 2014
— Prof Chris Ashford (@lawandsexuality) July 9, 2014
@jameschappers suspect an entire unit at No10 devoted to cutting bits out of the paper so he can deny any knowledge when questioned.
— Robert Hutton (@RobDotHutton) July 9, 2014
Viewer responses to David Cameron’s answer were mixed. Some criticised the PM’s handling of the question:
Did Cameron really use the word "British" in the matter of the Northern Irish gay cake flap? #pmqs
— Simon HB (@norock) July 9, 2014
Not sure prosecuting a bakery for refusing to bake a gay marriage cake is "all about being British" #pmqs
— Tony Grew (@ayestotheright) July 9, 2014
— The G-Man (@_TheGMan) July 9, 2014
Others praised him for taking a seemingly strong line in favour of equality, particularly if he did not know the details of the case:
— Jane Merrick (@janemerrick23) July 9, 2014
— Colin Morrison (@colmo_ni) July 9, 2014
Speaking after PMQs, Mr Campbell said: “It is disappointing that the prime minister would not comment on the need for religious freedom to be protected through the introduction of a conscience clause. ”
He added: “Tolerance needs to be a two-way street, but this case highlights that currently those who cannot support a particular political campaign may find themselves forced before the courts. That is totally unacceptable.”
More: Bert & Ernie, Christian values, David Cameron, Discrimination, Employment, equal marriage, Equality, gay cake, Gregory Campbell, Northern Ireland, PMQs, Prime Minister's Questions, tolerance, ulster unionist