10 May 2016, The Tablet

‘Gay cake’ case is not a discrimination case, says Ashers Bakery lawyer

The couple were back in court this week to overturn the judgement of discrimination made against them

The McArthur family were in court again today to defend their rights to freedom of expression seeking to overturn the judgment that they discriminated against a customer for refusing to make a cake bearing a pro-same-sex marriage slogan.

Ashers Bakery manager, Daniel McArthur, and his wife Amy, said they did not want to be forced "to endorse a campaign that is against their deeply held religious beliefs," reported the Belfast Telegraph.

Last year Ashers Bakery was ordered to pay £500 for refusing to make a cake that featured Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie and the slogan 'Support Gay Marriage'.

A Belfast court found that customer Gareth Lee, who was backed by the Equality Commission, had been discriminated against on the grounds of his sexual orientation.

The McArthur family decided to appeal the decision with financial backing from the Christian Institute, an evangelical charity. “This was never just a case about one little bakery in Belfast,” Mr McArthur said. "It's always had implications for freedom of expression throughout the UK. Throughout, God has graciously sustained us, even though we're just weak sinners."

Mr David Scoffield QC, the McArthurs’ barrister, insisted that had a heterosexual person ordered a cake with the same message, they would also have been refused. "It isn't a discrimination case, as anyone who ordered the cake would have received the same treatment... it didn't matter who ordered the cake, they couldn't in conscience produce it," the lawyer said.

 Mr Scoffield argued that the person who took the order had no idea what Mr Lee's sexual orientation was. He said the alleged discrimination was not against Mr Lee, it was against the message, and the law only covered harm caused to an individual. "Discrimination must be against the person, not against an idea or an object," he added.

He explained that under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), freedom of thought and religion are protected, including freedom to witness to your religious beliefs.

Scoffield also noted that Article 10 of the ECHR contains free speech protections, which include the right not to impart information.

He said: “There is a right to remain silent. If that applies to not having to pass on information, how much more does it apply when someone is asked to create the message?”

Toward the end of proceedings, the Lord Chief Justice, Sir Declan Morgan, asked the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland to explain how to balance the rights of Christians and gay people.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where same-sex marriage remains illegal.



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