One of the owners of Ashers Baking Company has told a court that she could not decorate a pro-gay marriage campaign cake because she seeks to please God in the way she lives her life.
Karen McArthur, who owns and runs Ashers with her husband Colin and son Daniel, was speaking during the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland’s case against the business, which started yesterday in Belfast County Court.
She told the court: “The problem was with the message on the cake because, as a Christian, I do not support gay marriage.”
“I knew in my heart that I could not put that message on the cake”.
The Commission claims that Ashers broke discrimination laws by declining the order for a cake with the slogan “Support Gay Marriage”.
Daniel McArthur, Ashers General Manager told the court: “We believe the business is being given to us by God and how we use it is on our shoulders.”
Stand before God
“We weren’t doing it in defiance of the law. Before God it’s not something we could do”, he said.
Director Colin McArthur explained that he discussed the order with Karen and decided they could not “stand before God and bake a cake like this, promoting a cause like this”.
Representing Ashers in court, David Scoffield QC said the ‘stark position of the Equality Commission is that a conscience informed by religious beliefs has no place in the commercial sphere’.
He added that the Commission’s ‘logic is businesses must provide all goods, however offensive to religious beliefs or however gravely they injure conscience’.
He said: ‘Forcing individuals on pain of being in court to produce goods promoting a cause with which they strongly disagree, is the antithesis to democracy’.
He told the court it leaves no room for genuine disagreement.
The head of the Commission Michael Wardlow claimed that Christians who want to run their businesses according to their beliefs should either “look at the law” or change career.
In May last year, volunteer LGBT activist Gareth Lee asked for a cake to be decorated with the slogan “Support Gay Marriage”, along with a logo of his campaign group QueerSpace and a photo of Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie in an embrace.
When the order came through to head office, the McArthurs decided to decline the request and Mr Lee accepted a full refund.
Speaking outside the court before the case started yesterday, Daniel McArthur said that Ashers “is, and always has been, willing to serve any and every customer who comes through our doors”.
He added: “We just didn’t want to be forced to use our creative skills to help endorse and promote a campaign message that went against our sincerely held religious beliefs.”
A judgment is not expected for a number of weeks.