The Ashers Bakery Case
I wonder who might have predicted decades ago that the homosexual lobby would be the chief persecutors of Christians in the Western world. Who would have imagined that it would be homosexual advocacy groups who would most endanger freedom of speech and religion? And who might have thought that marriage would be the battleground, with bakers, florists, and photographers under pressure to conform to this world?
“Gay marriage” (I use inverted commas advisedly, because Christians do not recognize such a thing) is now legal in many nations, and the US Supreme Court will make a ruling on it this summer, although a large number of US states have already legalized it. Closer to my home, England and Wales legalized it in 2013, followed by Scotland in 2014. Of the countries that make up the United Kingdom, only Northern Ireland still does not permit homosexual couples to marry. And even closer to my home, the Republic of Ireland will vote on whether to permit “gay marriage” in a referendum in May, which many expect to pass. The word “permit” is foolish, however, because no jurisdiction can permit an impossibility—not only may two men or two women not marry, they cannot marry, and when they make some kind of commitment to one another, it is not marriage, whatever legislation, court rulings, or even revisionist dictionaries might say. Christ Himself defined marriage in Matthew 19, and He was only echoing what God declared in Genesis 2.
Already on the statute books are laws that prohibit discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation in the matter of supplying goods and services, that is, a business may not provide a service to the community that it does not also offer to homosexuals. And many would find such a law reasonable in theory. After all, if a homosexual wants to buy something, why refuse him? Would a mechanic refuse to fix a homosexual man’s car; would a butcher refuse to sell meat to a homosexual; or would a gardener refuse to mow a lesbian’s lawn?
But what if two men or two women enter a business and ask for “wedding invitations” to their “gay wedding”? What if two women ask for floral arrangements for their “lesbian wedding”? What if two men ask a photographer to capture the moments—including the “groom kissing the groom” moment—of their “wedding”? Or what if Mike and Steve ask for a “wedding” cake?
What does a Christian printer, florist, photographer, or baker do?
Last week, the famous “Gay Cake Case” reached the courts in Northern Ireland. Last May, Gareth Lee, a volunteer with the gay rights activist group QueerSpace entered Ashers Bakery in Northern Ireland. He requested a cake for a “pro-homosexual marriage” event to mark “International Day Against Homophobia” with the following stipulations: the QueerSpace logo, the Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie, and the words “Support Gay Marriage” written on the cake.
Ashers, a bakery run by the McArthur family, who are devout Christians, refused the order. The reason was not that Mr. Lee was homosexual—Ashers Bakery serves people from every walk of life. If a heterosexual had requested the cake, he/she also would have been refused. But the reason was that the message on the cake conflicts with the McArthurs’ deeply held Christian beliefs, that marriage is between one man and one woman.
Shortly thereafter, the McArthur family received a letter from the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland (ECNI) warning them that they are in breach of equality legislation and demanded that the McArthurs apologize and give assurance that they will not discriminate in the future. When the McArthurs refused, the ECNI, a publically funded body, advised them that they would pursue the case through the courts on behalf of Mr. Lee.
Many see the case as a watershed for religious liberty in Northern Ireland. If Ashers lose the case, other businesses will be forced by law to provide similar services against their consciences. One human rights lawyer argued that a Muslim printer might be forced to print cartoons of Mohammed, that a Roman Catholic firm might be forced to make a T-shirt with a pro-abortion slogan, or that an atheist web designer might be forced to make a creationist website.
Daniel McArthur, the general manager of Ashers Bakery Company, spoke at two events in Belfast organized by the Christian Institute, which is supporting the McArthurs with legal assistance. Daniel, a member of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Ireland, gave a moving testimony just two days before the beginning of the court case to an overflow crowd at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast—some 3,000 people filled the hall, while at least 1,000 more gathered outside singing hymns and showing solidarity with the McArthurs.1 Christians can learn from Daniel McArthur: he has been calm, articulate, and gentle throughout the case. He has not engaged in an angry tirade against the ECNI, but urged supporters to pray for their enemies, as Christ commands us (). “[Charity] doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil” ( ).
The case itself lasted three days, longer than originally expected, and it made headline news in Northern Ireland, with the Belfast Telegraph offering a running commentary. As of the writing of this article, judgment has been reserved. Many Christians await the judgment with great interest.
There are many cases like Ashers throughout the Western world, especially in America, where the homosexual lobby is extremely militant. A few examples are Baronelle Stutzman, a florist in Washington State; Jack Phillips in Denver, CO; and Melissa Klein in Oregon—each of whom has been sued recently, because they would not provide services for “gay weddings.” Each of them has lost, and has been ordered to pay “damages” to the aggrieved homosexuals. The state is seeking to use antidiscrimination law to force Christians to act against their conscience.
Although these trends are certainly troubling, we must not fear. Jesus never promised us freedom of religion, but He did promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church.
The Irrelevancy of Rob Bell
Rob Bell, former pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church, a mega-church in Grand Rapids, MI, displayed his irrelevancy on a recent episode of Oprah Winfrey’s “Super Soul Sunday,” where he and his wife Kristen discussed spirituality, and, among other things, “gay marriage.”
Bell said, “One of the oldest aches in the bones of humanity is loneliness. Loneliness is not good for the world. Whoever you are, gay or straight, it is totally normal, natural and healthy to want someone to go through life with. It’s central to our humanity. We want someone to go on the journey with.” When asked by Winfrey, when the church might finally accept “gay marriage,” Bell responded, “I think culture is already there and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense, when you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who are your brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles, and coworkers and neighbors, and they love each other and just want to go through life together.”
Letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense!
One day, Bell, who is now feted by the liberal media, will stand before the God, whose Word he has dismissed as 2,000-year-old letters. On that day, he will know with certainty that the Word of the Lord—and not the word of Bell—endures forever ().
A so-called pastor who dismisses the Word of God as irrelevant is himself irrelevant.
PCUSA Adopts Homosexual Marriage
The PCUSA, or Presbyterian Church (USA), which has been apostate even before she expelled J. Gresham Machen in the 1930s, has finally adopted “homosexual marriage.” The largest “Protestant” denomination in the USA agreed on March 17 of this year to change the definition of marriage. A vote by a majority of PCUSA presbyteries changed the definition of marriage found in the PCUSA’s constitution from being between “a man and a woman” to marriage being “a unique relationship between two people, traditionally a man and a woman.”2
One might ask: why end there? Why a relationship between only two people?
For on Valentine’s Day in Thailand three homosexual men “married” in the world’s first three-way “gay wedding” or “thrupple.” Reportedly, the three young men, called Art, Bell, and Joke—I kid you not!—entered into a relationship in a Buddhist ceremony. Although the relationship is not (yet) recognized under civil law, the three men insist that they love one another.
If marriage can be between two men, or two women, as the so-called “marriage equality” advocates insist, why cannot it also be between three men?
And why would Rob Bell or the PCUSA not recognize that as a valid, God-glorifying relationship?
We live in dark days. Iniquity abounds. But our God reigns.
1 Two short speeches by Daniel McArthur can be found on the Christian Institute website and elsewhere. See http://www.christian.org.uk/news/watch-ashers-daniel-mcarthur-speaks-tothousands/ (accessed 31 March 2015) and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OIMviO3eaE (accessed 31 March 2015).
2 The PCUSA must not be confused with the PCA, the Presbyterian Church in America, who issued a statement after the PCUSA’s announcement to clarify their position, which is the biblical position on marriage.