An equality quango has gone “over the top” in taking a Christian-run bakery to court, according to the next Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.
Revd Ian McNie said that the McArthur family, who own and run Ashers Baking Company, had the right to refuse to decorate a pro-gay marriage campaign cake last year.
“This goes back to the subject of tolerance, the definition of tolerance has changed considerably”, he commented.
“They should have the right to determine what they do as a bakery and they should be tolerated”, he added.
Revd McNie continued: “The Equality Commission has gone over the top.”
“It’s a David and Goliath situation and my sympathy is with the Ashers company”, he said.
The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland’s court action against Ashers Baking Company is set to start on 26 March.
The Christian Institute is financially supporting the McArthur family’s legal case.
Thousands of people packed into public meetings recently held by the Institute to hear from Christians who who have faced legal action because of their faith.
Daniel McArthur, General Manager of Ashers, spoke about the help his family has received from The Christian Institute.
“We’re so thankful for them and to Christians around the UK who have been praying, or phoned, written, or come into the shop to show support. It has been a real encouragement – not just to my family but to everyone involved with the business.”
He also said: “The Equality Commission seem determined to punish us for our beliefs, but we believe that God in his sovereignty is in control and His purposes will prevail.”
Freedom of conscience
The Christian Institute’s Northern Ireland Officer, Callum Webster, said the huge crowds attending the meetings show the overwhelming support for protecting freedom of conscience in the Province.
“It shows that the voice of all those who value religious freedom in Northern Ireland needs to be heard, and we hope that this sends a strong message to those who are threatening to curtail our freedom to live according to our conscience.
“Most people accept that the bakery was perfectly happy to bake cakes for anyone. The issue is whether people should be compelled to say things that they don’t believe.”
Mr Webster concluded: “If Ashers Baking Company loses this case, what’s to stop a Nationalist baker having to make a King Billy cake or a Unionist printer having to supply leaflets with a ‘Support a united Ireland’ slogan?
“This is not what the equality laws are meant to do. We cannot sleepwalk into becoming a nation where coerced speech is acceptable.”