Should freedom of religious expression be given a free pass when it comes to New Zealand's Bill of Rights?

A same-sex couple is upset because their request for a wedding cake has been refused by a baker in Warkworth.

The owner of the cake store declined their request in an email saying "I do not wish to offend either of you and I thank you for letting me know that it is a same-sex wedding.


"Even though, as individuals you are both fabulous and amazing people, I must follow the integrity of my heart and beliefs. Our government has legalised same-sex marriages, but it is not my belief that it is correct, therefore I will not support it and cannot make your wedding cake for you."

The baker's views are discriminatory and yes outdated. She could have prevented the vicious online backlash by just saying she was fully booked, but she didn't.

But is she deserving of personal attacks?

The baker has been called a bigot, a Nazi, a woman with a lesbian haircut. There have been calls to boycott her business.

If someone is highly religious and they're labelled hateful or intolerant for honouring their personal conviction, does that make them a hateful person?

Could those who demand tolerance, yet abuse someone over their freedom of religious expression, be actually described as hypocrites?

A similar issue played out in Denver, Colorado in 2012. A cake store owner told a gay couple he wouldn't bake a cake for their wedding because of his religious opposition to same-sex marriages - marriages the State of Colorado didn't recognise at that time.

Last month, the Supreme Court released its decision, siding with the baker. Two judges said the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated the baker's right to freely exercise his religion.

They said the Commission treated the baker's case differently from similar cases involving three other bakers "for reasons that can only be explained by hostility towards the baker's religion."

This New Zealand case raises a question we must look to answer by having a reasonable and intelligent conversation - without slamming someone whose religious views deviate from our own.

Having said that, New Zealand's Bill of Rights is clear - you can't discriminate based on your religious views.

But, at the end of the day, the Warkworth baker was asked to bake a cake, not marry the couple.

- Chris Lynch is a Newstalk ZB host.