Almost four years after the ‘gay cake’ controversy began, the Christian bakers’ legal appeal reached the Supreme Court at the beginning of May.
A two-day hearing took place in Belfast for the first time, the case centring on the theme of ‘compelled expression’ – where the owners of Ashers Baking Company were forced to pay a fine or violate their beliefs by adding a pro-gay marriage slogan to a cake.
Daniel McArthur, managing director of Ashers, said: “Some people want the law to make us support something with which we disagree. The Equality Commission [for Northern Ireland] has pushed for an interpretation of the law which extinguishes our conscience. They think that some people are more equal than others.”
The judges are not expected to give their verdict till next February.
Peter Lynas, a former barrister and NI director of Evangelical Alliance, commented: “This case has been portrayed as a battle between gay rights and religious freedom; it is actually about compelled speech and conscience. It has implications for everyone and that is why it is so important.”
KEY POINTS IN THE ASHERS’ CASE
Peter Lynas’ arguments:
1. Is it acceptable to force a bakery to make a cake with a slogan to which the bakers deeply object?
2. Ashers Bakery did not discriminate against the customer because he is gay – in fact they had served him before – they discriminated against his ideas.
3. Discrimination against ideas is right and necessary in a free society, because some ideas are good and some are bad.
4. Discrimination laws are there to protect people, not messages.
5. The notion that a Christian can practise their faith on Sundays but must forget it on Monday is not real freedom of religion or conscience.
6. One set of rights must not trump another – otherwise personal beliefs will be forced into hiding and only the state’s views will be allowed in the public square.