THE WORKPLACE RELATIONS Commission (WRC) has ruled that a Co Dublin bakery did not discriminate against a man when refusing to bake a €700 cake with an anti-gay marriage message.
In May of last year, the man placed a cake order with the bakery with the words ‘BY THE GRACE OF THE GOOD LORD, I (name redacted), that in my honest opinion – “GAY MARRIAGE” IS A PERVERSION OF EQUALITY and the 34th Amendment to the Irish Constitution should be REPEALED’.
The man told the WRC hearing he was taking the action against the bakery under the Equal Status Act in response to a Belfast court case which had found that Ashers bakery had discriminated against a gay man when refusing to take an order a ‘Bert and Ernie’ cake with a pro-marriage equality message.
The man told the WRC hearing he placed the order for this cake both to test and “balance out” the Ashers bakery case.
He also told the hearing: “Why should the law favour people of a gay orientation and not deal with me the same way?” adding: “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”
The complainant stated that he is engaged in several litigation cases and has taken time off college to pursue these cases.
In response to the order, the bakery told the man it was extremely busy and had to close its order book for bespoke cakes.
As an alternative, it offered a “more simple version” of the order – that it would bake a cake but that an edible topping be made elsewhere, with a suggestion that an online search should be successful in this regard.
The man claimed the bakery had no intention of making a cake with the message he wanted and this amounted to unfair treatment and discrimination on religious grounds.
The complainant replied that the opening seven words, “By The Grace Of The Good Lord”, made it clear that he was expressing his religious beliefs.
The MD of the bakery wrote to the man to state that the company did not have the expertise to make the cake he requested and that its position was a commercial decision and it had offered an alternative solution he had chosen to ignore.
The letter concluded by stating that the complainant’s lengthy, oppressive and aggressive communications were a burden on the company’s resources and on staff morale. The complainant told the hearing he was not asking the bakery to endorse the cake message, just to make the cake.
He suggested that, if it wished, the bakery could have a disclaimer in the shop, or printed on the receipts or elsewhere, stating that it doesn’t endorse the messages that appear on its cakes.
The complainant said that if the bakery had difficulty producing the design he wanted, he was prepared to compromise and he had made this clear.
The complainant added that the cake was a means of fulfilling and manifesting his religious beliefs, and he intended to upload an image of it to his social media sites. After that he would probably eat it, he said.
Frivolous and vexatious
At this juncture, the bakery’s legal representatives stated that the complaint was frivolous and vexatious and should be dismissed. They also said the episode caused upset to the owners and employees of the small business.
The man claimed the bakery would not refuse to make a cake with a message for a gay couple celebrating their wedding, but that its refusal to do so in this case amounts to discrimination because of his religious beliefs and outlook.
At the hearing, the MD of the bakery said she did not know the complainant’s religion or religious persuasion at any stage before, during or after this incident.
In evidence, the MD said she had no difficulty with the wording. She stated that the order was very complicated in terms of the different colours and tone, the use of capital letters, the font, etc. Also, there were 49 words in the message – which was considerably above what would be the norm in any message.
She also said other orders were turned away at that time as the bakery’s order book for bespoke cakes was full and she could provide evidence of this.
The MD stated that the order would take as long to make as a wedding cake. She said the bakery had up to 140 cakes in the pipeline and that at 80 cakes they decide what can and cannot be done.
The legal representative for the bakery asked the complainant if he had the cake made elsewhere and he replied that he had not.
The MD said the cake would have taken eight hours to complete. In response to adjudication officer Ian Barrett asking if the cake’s wording was the real issue, the MD replied that the bakery didn’t get past the ability to see if the order was viable and it wasn’t.
In his ruling, Barrett said the complainant “must prove that he has been treated less favourably than another person because of his religious beliefs”.
“I do not believe that prima facie evidence was heard to prove that the Complainant’s order was refused because of his religious beliefs and/or that the Respondent refused to make this cake because the Complainant is a Christian,” he stated.
Barrett added: “Accordingly, the complaint fails.”