Something quite surprising has happened to Christian bakers in Northern Ireland who were found guilty of discrimination for declining to make a cake that included the message “support gay marriage” on it: The bakery’s profits have increased.
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According to the Belfast Telegraph, Ashers Bakery posted profits of £1.5 million in 2016 compared to £1.3 million in 2015, equivalent to a rise from to $1.41 million to $1.63 million. This means that the controversy over the cake refusal — one that was told by media outlets across the globe — didn’t have much of an impact on the bakery’s bottom line.
As Faithwire previously reported, the McArthur family, who own the company, landed in the crosshairs after declining to make the cake in 2014 for an LGBTQ activist named Gareth Lee. In addition to including the “support gay marriage” message, Lee reportedly also wanted the cake to have a logo for his organization QueerSpace and an image of Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie hugging.
When the McArthurs refused, Lee complained and Northern Ireland’s Equality Commission launched civil action against the bakery, with a judge ruling in May 2015 that the bakers discriminated against the activist based on sexual orientation, according to U.K.-based group Christian Concern.
The bakers were fined hundreds of dollars in damages for causing “injury to feelings,” as TheBlaze reported. But the bakers didn’t back down, appealing that ruling before losing their case last October when a judge backed the discrimination claim.
But the fight isn’t over. Bakery owners Daniel and Amy McArthur, a husband and wife who are represented by the U.K.’s Christian Institute, are pushing to appeal their case before the U.K. Supreme Court. Ashers’ loss thus far means that the company owes more than $163,000 in legal fees, as the Belfast Telegraph reported.
The Christian Institute announced on Wednesday that the Supreme Court has indeed listed a hearing for this upcoming October to consider possibly taking up the case. This signifies that the three-year battle is nowhere near over. If the Supreme Court takes up the case, arguments would likely take place immediately following that October decision.
“The fact that the Supreme Court is willing to hear arguments is very encouraging and reflects the importance of the issues and the high-profile nature of the case,” Daniel McArthur said in a statement issued on Tuesday night.
The McArthur’s and their attorneys have long argued that the case is about free speech and their deeply held religious convictions.
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“They could not in conscience provide a product with a message that was inconsistent with their deeply-held religious beliefs in circumstances where the evidence was clear that they believed that to do so would be sinful,” attorney David Scoffield said last year, according to the Belfast Telegraph. “Discrimination must be against the person, not against an idea or an object. A cake cannot have a political opinion or a religious belief, it is a person who can do so.”
The fact that Ashers Bakery posted an increase in profits from 2015 to 2016 is noteworthy, considering that some bakeries in the U.S. that have refused to make same-sex wedding cakes have sometimes faced resulting financial constraints amid protests.
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