Lennart's comment: In business, too, the Christian must be a role model

Can you still accept the customer but refuse the order in today's world? Photo ANP, Olaf Kraak

In Sweden, a Christian baker refuses to make a cake for a gay couple. In Norway, a company refuses to clean a church. In such conflicts, as Christians, we must set the right example.

These days, the Swedish Discrimination Ombudsman deals with a case of a Christian baker who is accused of bigotry against a gay couple. When this couple asked the baker to make a wedding cake for their marriage, the baker refused. Although he is happy to serve a gay couple, baking a cake for a gay wedding collided with his personal beliefs, he said. He accepted the customer but refused the order.

For the baker, this cake was not just a treat. To him, it stood symbol for the “holy sacrament” of marriage. And to some extent, I can understand this “sacredness”. Cutting the cake and handing out the cake slices is one of the first things you do together as a brand-new couple. At that moment, you are the host, serving your guests. That cake does not stand alone but has a symbolic value.

A wedding cake does not stand alone but has a symbolic value. Photo AFP, Fabrice Coffrini

Nevertheless, the baker’s refusal was reason for the couple to complain to the Ombudsman. Such a complaint is not new. Well-known is the example of Asher’s Bakery in Belfast, Northern Ireland. There, the Christian Daniel McArthur did not want to bake a cake that said: “Support Gay Marriage.” The dispute escalated to the UK Supreme Court, which ruled in favour of the baker. An appeal to the European court by the customer was rejected.


So, at first glance, this case is not immediately noteworthy. However, the baker accused the gay couple of looking for a reason to set him up. According to Swedish media, the bakery’s owner did not hide his faith. On his website and social media, his beliefs were visible. And the request was not about the specifics of the cake but about the specifics of the occasion. The baker was explicitly asked about baking a cake for a gay wedding instead of the more usual approach of asking about the number of slices needed, for example. When the baker explained that he did not want to make that cake, the couple felt discriminated against and filed a complaint.

Although the Swedish baker is happy to serve a gay couple, baking a cake for a gay wedding collided with his personal beliefs. Photo AFP, Hannah McKay

In the well-recommended book ‘The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self’, British theologian and church historian Carl R. Trueman describes how our current culture often clashes with Christian beliefs. A conservative baker may appeal to his conscience, but a gay couple will see such a refusal as rejecting their fundamental (and constitutionally protected) identity. The slogan “Hate the sin, love the sinner” (or, in this case, “hate the order, love the customer”) does not work in a world where your orientation defines your identity. Christians who do not notice this shift will inevitably run into problems. That doesn't mean they have to cast aside their principles, but it does mean they should think about these issues.


However, it is not only Christians who refuse customers. Sometimes it happens the other way around, and a Christian is refused as a customer. This happened in Norway, where a window cleaner refused to wash church windows because it “wants to remain neutral.”

The church manager was surprised, as it was only about cleaning windows. Still, the company refused. And so, this church, too, went to an anti-discrimination authority. “We will find others who can wash. It is perfectly fine if they have a lot to do, but refusing based on a religious point of view is not fine”, the manager said.

Personally, I am unsure whether you could classify this as discrimination or whether this is an example to people supporting religious freedom. You could argue that plenty of other window cleaners exist, but what if several banks refuse churches to open an account? That might not disadvantage you as an individual, but it could be difficult as a congregation. You do not have a right to be served, but life can get pretty difficult if people continue to reject your orders. It is definitely worth keeping track of these issues to see how they develop.


Perhaps this is precisely why we, as Christians, should set the right example. When the Northern Irish baker was frequently in the news during the many court cases, he always spoke sympathetically about the customer. “We have served him before, and we will happily serve him again,” Daniel McArthur said in a statement picked up by many media outlets.

Therein lies an important testimony. Judges may indicate the limits of freedom, but Christians have to decide how to deal with that. McArthur exemplifies this by saying, I love my fellow man and wish to serve him, without discrimination.

About the author


Lennart Nijenhuis (1998) started his journalism career as a digital editor at the Dutch daily Reformatorisch Dagblad (Reformed Daily). Before that, he studied Communications at Windesheim Zwolle. He has been working at CNE since its launch in October 2021.

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