Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Supreme Court Victory for Ashers

We are delighted with the news that on Wednesday 10th October 2018 the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Ashers Baking Company.

They stated regarding Ashers- “By being required to produce the cake they were being required to express a message with which they deeply disagreed.”

The legal action was originally brought against family-run Ashers bakery in May 2014 by gay rights activist Gareth Lee. He asked for a cake with the campaign slogan, ‘Support Gay Marriage’.

Ashers, owned by Colin and Karen McArthur and managed by their son Daniel, refused to make the cake because it carried a message contrary to the family’s firmly-held Christian beliefs.
But the taxpayer-funded Equality Commission for Northern Ireland launched a civil action against the family-run bakery, claiming its actions violated Northern Ireland’s equality laws.

In the ensuing court case, District Judge Isobel Brownlie ruled that religious beliefs could not dictate the law and ordered the firm to pay damages of £500. Mounting an unsuccessful challenge at the Court of Appeal in Belfast in 2016, Ashers contended that it never had an issue with Mr Lee's sexuality, rather the message he was seeking to put on the cake.

The Christian Institute which represented the family then took the case to the UK Supreme Court. 
In a unanimous decision, five of the UK’s most senior judges upheld Ashers’ appeal against claims of discrimination.

Speaking on behalf of The Christian Institute, Deputy Director (Public Affairs) Simon Calvert called the ruling “a total vindication of Ashers Baking Company and the McArthur family.”
“The Court strongly agreed with Ashers’ lawyers that this case has always been about the message on the cake and not the customer; the message, not the messenger.
“Equality law was never intended to be used in the way the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland tried to use it in this case.” 

The Supreme court also raised concern about the Equality Commission- “The Court of Appeal expressed some concern that the correspondence between the ECNI and the bakery may have created the impression that the ECNI was not interested in assisting members of the faith community when they found themselves in difficulties as a result of their deeply held religious beliefs (para 106). It is obviously necessary for a body such as the ECNI to offer its services to all people who may need them because of a protected characteristic and not to give the impression of favouring one such characteristic over others.”

Questions need to be asked of the unelected Equality Commission regarding their pursuing of this case and the costs (approx. £250,000) which have been incurred for the Northern Ireland taxpayer.