Ashers: Judges agree Attorney General’s involvement in case

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Thu, 3 Mar 2016

The Court of Appeal in Belfast has today allowed Northern Ireland’s most senior lawyer to give detailed arguments in the Ashers Baking Company case.

Attorney General John Larkin QC raised an arguable case that anti-discrimination laws in Northern Ireland directly discriminate against those who hold certain religious beliefs, judges ruled.

So far, the total cost combined for both sides is likely to have exceeded £100,000.

Saga

The Christian Institute is supporting Ashers Baking Company in their stand for biblical marriage, after they were sued for not decorating a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan.

Simon Calvert, Deputy Director of The Christian Institute, described the court case as a “legal, political and theological saga” but noted that Ashers’ owners are hugely grateful for all the support they have received.

In court today Mr Larkin said there was a theological context to the way sexual orientation regulations were considered in the case.

legal, political and
theological saga
Simon Calvert

‘Religion-free zone’

And judges led by Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan agreed there was a point of law that should be considered on the issue.

The Attorney General’s lawyers will be allowed to make further submissions on the case when the full appeal hearing starts on 9 May.

Arguing against the Attorney General, Robin Allen QC – the lawyer for the customer who ordered the cake – claimed that the previous ruling against Ashers Baking Company decided that “nearly all” commercial activity “should be a religion-free and political opinion-free zone”.

Important

Ashers Baking Company is owned and run by the McArthur family who have previously spoken of their faith throughout the legal ordeal.

Mr Calvert said: “The Attorney General has decided to intervene, using his constitutional power to raise questions about the validity of the legislation used against the McArthurs.

“And it is clear from the decision taken by the three judges, including the Lord Chief Justice, that he has raised matters of importance.”

Deeply-held

He added: “By the time the full hearing takes place it will be two years since the cake at the centre of what has become a legal, political and theological saga was ordered.

The McArthur family are hugely grateful to the public for their financial, moral and spiritual supportSimon Calvert

“The McArthur family’s legal costs are well over £50,000 and I’m sure the Equality Commission’s costs are at least as high.

“So the case has generated combined legal costs which has broken the £100,000 barrier.”

He continued by saying that the McArthurs had to defend themselves from the legal action and that much was at stake.

They are, he said, “being punished for having mainstream, deeply-held religious beliefs”.

Coercive

Noting that the Equality Commission is taxpayer-funded, he stated that some people are funding both sides through taxes and The Christian Institute’s Legal Defence Fund.

“That’s lots of ordinary people like us making small donations in defence of the McArthurs and their freedom to express their beliefs without the coercive influence of the state.

“The McArthur family are hugely grateful to the public for their financial, moral and spiritual support”, he concluded.

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