Christian bakery legal team refused service by photography company ‘on moral grounds’
The Christian lobbying group that bankrolled the bakers in the ‘gay cake’ row has been denied service by a photography business, after arguing for the right of private companies to deny service.
The Christian Institute, a lobbying group that has long opposed LGBT+ equality, had booked a photographer through website Perfocal to cover Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling, placing a £267 order for a package to provide photography services outside the hearing.
Perfocal says it was not clear what the client was when it took the booking. After the details of the case emerged on the day, however, the company opted to refund the Christian Institute and not provide the photos.
The Christian Institute funded Northern Ireland’s Ashers Baking Company’s legal battle to appeal a conviction for discrimination after the bakery refused to bake a cake bearing the slogan ‘Support Gay Marriage’ for a gay customer, citing religious beliefs.
The UK’s Supreme Court sided with Ashers on Wednesday, finding that its actions did not constitute homophobic discrimination, and cited the bakery’s right to “freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”
It has now emerged that the Christian Institute is facing refusal of service itself, while going to court to advocate for the right to refuse service.
In a statement to PinkNews, Perfocal.com founder Tony Xu explained: “It’s been accepted in the highest court in the UK that private companies can accept bookings and then, if they feel that it goes against their morals, refuse that booking if it offends their sensibilities and it not be counted as discriminatory.
“We appreciate that this looks like tit for tat, and it is.”
He added: “We had no idea what the case was when the booking was made—we simply see the basic information, date, time, location.
“When our photographer on the ground learned what it was while doing the job, they felt immediately uncomfortable with the situation, as many members of the public are, but remained professional.
“As soon as I found out though, I realised this was an opportunity to highlight exactly why this kind of result is damaging.
“This isn’t just about standing up against discrimination, I hope our stance serves as an example of exactly where this kind of judgement could lead us. Where does it end?”
Xu emphasised in a blog on the Perfocal website: “We are proud to have been booked for many religious ceremonies, including Christian, Jewish and Muslim celebrations. We’ve also been booked often for same-sex weddings, including high-profile individuals.
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“In short, we welcome customers from all backgrounds.”
He also clarified that the photographer was paid in full for the session by Perfocal.
PinkNews asked the Christian Institute whether it supports Perfocal’s freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
The Christian Institute did not immediately respond to a request for comment.