A former Tory minister has said that in a “true democracy” people shouldn’t be forced to uphold something they don’t believe in, following news that a Christian bakery is facing legal action for refusing to produce a pro-gay marriage campaign cake.
Writing in the Daily Express, Ann Widdecombe said it “never occurred” to her that a baker might be at risk of not being able to operate if they have a conscientious objection to redefining marriage.
“If the baker had refused merely to bake a cake because the customer was gay then that would indeed have been both unpleasant and illegal but the refusal was specific to the message requested for the cake.
“Surely it is an elementary feature of true democracy that nobody should be obliged by law to affirm that which he or she does not believe”, she added.
Widdecombe highlighted the repeated reassurances given to Parliament that introducing gay marriage “would not cause discrimination against those who believed it wrong”.
“What price your assurances now, Mr Cameron?” she poses.
Marriage has not been redefined in Northern Ireland – the Assembly has voted three times in less than two years against same-sex marriage.
Widdecombe said: “In a free country the baker should be able to refuse to take part in what is effectively PR for gay marriage in the knowledge that any customers who do not like that decision are free to buy their morning loaf elsewhere.
“But then it is a long time since Britain and freedom were synonymous”, she concluded.
Ashers Baking Company in Northern Ireland hit the headlines this week after its Christian owners, the McArthur family, declined to produce a cake in support of gay marriage.
The manager of the business, Daniel McArthur, said they are happy to bake cakes for anyone, but could not fulfil that particular order as it clashed with the ethos of the business.
He said: “We are Christians and our Christianity reaches to every point of our lives, whether that’s at home or in the day-to-day running of the business.”