A row has broken out after a Christian printer declined to produce cards for a transgender diversity consultant over concerns that such work can be used to “marginalise” fellow believers.
Joanne Lockwood ordered promotional material for the consultancy firm SEE Change Happen, which offers advice on “equality, diversity and inclusion”, the Sunday Times reported.
Nigel Williams turned down a contract to print these cards, telling the diversity consultant he would be “very happy” to print for Lockwood, but not for SEE Change Happen.
“The new model of diversity is used (or misused) to marginalise (or indeed discriminate against) Christians in their workplaces and other parts of society if they do not subscribe to it,” he wrote in an email.
“Although I’m quite sure you have no intention of marginalising Christians it would weigh heavily upon me if through my own work I was to make pressure worse for fellow Christians.”
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“Gobsmacked” by the response, Lockwood reported the email to police — who marked it as a “hate incident” — and asked for further investigations to be carried out, according to Portsmouth News.
“I am keen that whatever happens here, it is used as an example in society to show diversity and inclusion is important,” said the consultant, who claimed to have “been the victim of some discrimination”.
“I was not expecting a lecture. I disbelieved this could happen in 2017,” said the 52-year-old, who took on the identity of a transgender woman in January, adding: “I have been distraught and cried and my wife consoled me.”
Lockwood denied seeking to take legal action against the printer, instead asserting that the choice to speak out was in order to “make a stand” against Williams, having met him at a networking event last month before emailing to ask if he would be interested in making cards for SEE Change Happen.
The printer declined while making it clear he would be “very happy” to produce for Lockwood with regards to other ventures, but not the diversity consultancy.
A spokesman for the Christian Institute, which is supporting Williams over his decision to turn down the printing contract, said the printer “made it clear he would be prepared to do work for Jo Lockwood.
“But he was not prepared to do work for a business that actively promoted a cause which might impact negatively on those with a Christian faith.
“The terms ‘equality’, ‘diversity’ and ‘tolerance’ have been twisted out of all recognition in an attempt to marginalise, shame and punish Christian people,” the spokesman noted, adding that the Christian Institute has “warned of growing hostility towards people with mainstream Christian views” for years now.
According to the Institute spokesman, the case bears similarities to the ruling in which a Ashers bakery was found to have breached equality laws when it refused to make a cake emblazoned with the words “Support Gay Marriage”, in 2014.
The Belfast bakery’s Christian owners said they would be happy to serve the homosexual customer in the case, but had felt unable to make a cake endorsing a message that went against their beliefs.