‘MEPs should protect religious freedom in light of Ashers’

MEPs have been urged to protect freedom of religious expression, ahead of court action against Ashers Baking Company starting in Belfast next Thursday (26 March).

DUP MEP Diane Dodds also called for reasonable accommodation for those with strongly held Christian beliefs, during a debate on human rights at the European Parliament last week.

Mrs Dodds described the legal action against Ashers Baking Company for refusing to decorate a pro-gay marriage campaign cake as a “deeply regrettable” challenge to the “right to exercise faith”, and a “violation of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights”.

Reasonable accommodation

“The challenge therefore for legislators is to find, as Lady Hale, Deputy President of the British Supreme Court, has described it, a reasonable accommodation for those who hold strong religious beliefs.

“We need freedom of conscience and religion”, she added.

Mrs Dodds said after her speech that fellow MEPs had expressed their support, but commented that “what we do need across all levels of government is real action in ensuring freedom of conscience has the necessary statutory protection”.

Freedoms constrained

“The European Parliament plays a key role in protecting human rights across the world.

“I took the opportunity today to highlight the Ashers case to MEPs as an example of the need to take seriously the concerns of Christians who feel their freedoms are being constrained”, she explained.

Last week, the largest consultation ever carried out by Great Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission revealed widespread discrimination against Christians across the country.

Better legislation

Around half of those surveyed thought better legislation is needed to provide adequate protection for those with religious beliefs.

Back in January, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe passed a resolution calling for reasonable accommodation of religious belief and practices.

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