The owners of Ashers Baking Company are facing an attack on their freedom of conscience, expression and religion, a newspaper columnist has said.
Melanie Phillips warned that the implications of the case against the McArthur family – who own and run Ashers – “are as wide as they are sinister”.
Ashers went to court this week, appealing a ruling that it broke the law by declining to decorate a cake with the slogan “Support Gay Marriage”. The case was adjourned until 9 May.
Writing in The Times, Phillips said that the McArthurs did not object to the person requesting the order, but to the idea of same-sex marriage.
Noting Peter Tatchell’s recent change of mind over the case, Phillips said: “Compelling someone to promote an idea or opinion was simply oppressive.
… we have an absolute duty to respect each other equally as human beings.Melanie Phillips
“If you defended freedom of conscience, expression and religion, as Tatchell did, then you had to defend Ashers bakery.”
All created equal
Phillips went on to challenge society’s concept of “equal rights”, stating that “man-made human rights are contingent on human judgment”.
“The only absolute rights are to be found in the Bible”, she said, singling out “that we are all created equal in the image of God”.
“What that means is that we have an absolute duty to respect each other equally as human beings.
“What it most emphatically does not mean is that we are all entitled to be treated identically, regardless of our circumstances or behaviour”, she added.
The columnist said that human rights and equality laws have “become potent weapons against traditional Biblical morality”.
Phillips went on to highlight other potential victims: “should Muslim printers be obliged to publish cartoons of Muhammad? Or Jewish ones publish the words of a Holocaust denier?”
The Ashers case was adjourned on Wednesday by the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, Sir Declan Morgan, after an intervention from Northern Ireland’s Attorney General.
A one-day hearing on technical legal matters has been scheduled for Thursday 3 March. A further four days have been allocated for the full appeal hearing on Monday 9 May.