BREAKING: Ashers appeal ruling due Monday 24 October

Judges considering the Ashers Baking Company case will hand down their decision next week, on Monday 24 October at the Court of Appeal in Belfast.

The McArthur family, who own and run Ashers, are contesting an earlier ruling which said the business broke the law by declining to decorate a cake with a pro-gay marriage campaign slogan.

The family turned down the order because it conflicted with their Christian belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Free speech

The Christian Institute is backing the McArthur family’s case, which demonstrates the need for the law to reasonably accommodate family-run businesses with firmly-held beliefs.

The Institute’s Deputy Director for Public Affairs, Simon Calvert, highlighted that the ruling would have far-reaching implications.

“Around the world, those who are concerned for free speech will be paying close attention to the judgment of the Belfast court.

“The case may centre around a single cake but the ramifications for the way society deals with dissenters are enormous.”

Appeal hearing

In May this year, they attended a four-day hearing at the Court of Appeal, overseen by judges including the Lord Chief Justice, Sir Declan Morgan.

The family’s barrister, David Scoffield QC, argued that their decision not to bake the cake was due to the message on it, not the customer.

He said that in her ruling last year, County Court judge Isobel Brownlie seemed to think the McArthur family must have known customer Gareth Lee was gay because he supported same-sex marriage but that she was mistaken.

Constitutional law

The court also heard from Attorney General for Northern Ireland John Larkin QC, who said if the County Court ruling against Ashers was right, the laws used against the bakery fall foul of Northern Ireland’s constitutional law.

Mr Larkin said: “I say very clearly, if it was a case where Mr Lee had been refused some of Ashers’ excellent chocolate eclairs because he was gay or perceived to be gay I would be standing on the other side of the court”.

“But it’s not about that, it’s about expression and whether it’s lawful under Northern Ireland constitutional law for Ashers to be forced… to articulate or express or say a political message which is at variance with their political views and in particular their religious views.”


He pointed out that Gareth Lee was able to ask another bakery to help him express his opinion and that the court does not have to force Ashers to do it.

“Although the case for the Plaintiff is put pleasantly and with every appearance of sweet reasonableness”, he added, “what cannot be disguised is that the Defendants are being compelled, on pain of civil liability, to burn a pinch of incense at the altar of a god they do not worship.

“The constitutional law of Northern Ireland, supplemented by the ECHR, resists such a compulsion.”

Legal support

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