A transgender-diversity consultant was left “gobsmacked” after a devout Christian printer turned down her order for business cards, saying he did not want to promote a cause that might harm fellow believers.
Joanne Lockwood sought the promotional material for her firm SEE Change Happen, which offers companies advice on equality, diversity and inclusion, the Times reports.
Nigel Williams, a married father of three based in Southampton, refused to take the contract because it would “make pressure worse” on Christians who he believes are being forced to accept transgender people in society.
He wrote to her in an email: “The new model of diversity is used (or misused) to marginalize (or indeed discriminate against) Christians in their workplaces and other parts of society if they do not subscribe to it.
“Although I am quite sure you have no intention of marginalizing Christians it would weigh heavily upon me if through my own work I was to make pressure worse for fellow Christians.”
Campaign group Christian Institute jumped to his defense.
“It is a fundamental tenet of free speech and freedom of belief that people should not be forced to help promote causes flatly contrary to their own deeply held views,” the group said in a statement.
Lockwood, 52, who has been living as a transgender woman since January, told the Times she was “gobsmacked” by the response.
“I was not expecting a lecture. I disbelieved this could happen in 2017. I have been distraught and cried and my wife consoled me,” she said.
“I think a point of principle is at stake. He wanted to make a point to me deliberately for his own motives. I have been the victim of some discrimination.”
Christian Institute also backed a staunch Christian family in Northern Ireland last year who refused to make a cake in their bakery for a same-sex wedding.
A human rights barrister who advised on the “gay cake” case said at the time that if the baker lost, Muslim printers could be forced to produce cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
The Court of Appeal upheld a ruling in October 2016 which found that Ashers Bakery in Co Antrim had discriminated against the gay couple.