‘Gay cake’ case: 8000-plus sign petition as public flock to meetings ahead of court appeal by Ashers Baking Company
The Christian Institute
For immediate release
- Petition to #SupportAshers tops 8000
- Public meetings attended by 1400 across Northern Ireland
- Christian Institute welcomes Peter Tatchell’s support for Ashers
A petition in support of Ashers Baking Company – the Christian bakery at the centre of the ‘gay cake’ case – has topped 8000 signatures in just ten days.
The petition – which is available at http://www.christian.org.uk/supportashers – was launched by the McArthurs’ legal backers, The Christian Institute, on Saturday 23 January.
It states: “I support Ashers Baking Co and the McArthur family in their stand for freedom of speech and freedom of conscience.”
On Monday evening (1 Feb), in Craigavon, Co Armagh, almost 500 people attended the final ‘Stand with Ashers’ meeting, following previously successful events last week in Ballymena, Belfast and Clogher Valley.
Almost 1400 people in total turned out at the four meetings to show their support for the McArthur family.
Simon Calvert, Deputy Director of The Christian Institute, told the Craigavon meeting: “Something has gone wrong, when good people like the McArthurs are being hauled before the courts just for holding to that simple view.
“People must be free to manifest genuine, reasonable moral and religious convictions without fear of unfair discrimination and mistreatment.”
A small number of gay activists with placards and rainbow flags protested outside the meeting.
Writing in The Guardian earlier this week, prominent gay rights activist Peter Tatchell said he now believes the original court decision, which he had previously supported, was wrong. And he said it set a “worrying precedent”.
He wrote: “Much as I wish to defend the gay community, I also want to defend freedom of conscience, expression and religion.”
“In my view, it is an infringement of freedom to require businesses to aid the promotion of ideas to which they conscientiously object.
“Discrimination against people should be unlawful, but not against ideas”.
Welcoming Mr Tatchell’s change of heart, Mr Calvert said:
“I’m sure Peter has thought long and hard about the case before making his views public. His comments get right to the heart of the problem with the original ruling – that it confused disagreement over a campaign slogan with discrimination against an individual.
“Peter and I disagree on many issues, particularly marriage, but when it comes to freedom of expression this is not the first time we have been on the same side. He has stood up in the past for the free speech rights of Christian street preachers and now he is standing up for the rights of the McArthurs and we are grateful to him for that.”
Ashers Baking Company goes before the Court of Appeal in Belfast for a two-day hearing starting tomorrow (Wed 3 Feb) in a bid to overturn a decision made last year by the County Court which found they had broken political and sexual orientation discrimination laws.
The court ruled against Ashers for turning down an order for a £36.50 cake bearing a slogan supporting same-sex marriage because it conflicted with their deeply-held religious beliefs.