Ashers Baking Company’s principled stand for traditional marriage and free speech has been criticised by the Government minister responsible for faith and integration.
Lord Bourne told Premier Radio there should be “no hatred on the basis of sexual orientation” as he discussed the case last week.
The Christian Institute responded by saying the minister had shown himself to be “out of step” with public opinion by going “out of his way” to attack the family-run Christian bakery.
In an exclusive interview, Lord Bourne said it was his view that Ashers had broken discrimination law when it declined to decorate a cake with the campaign slogan ‘Support Gay Marriage’.
Pressed on whether he thought Ashers discriminated, he said: “I think it’s very clear that this was the case and that is the law of the land.
“We must respect judges, this issue has come up previously and the judges are there to uphold the law of the land, they’re an important part of the constitution and we must respect what they say.”
Deputy Director for Public Affairs at the Institute Simon Calvert responded: “It’s incredibly disappointing that while most people think the case against Ashers should never even have been brought, the minster for faith seems to have gone out of his way to attack this Christian family-run business.
“In a ComRes poll 90 per cent of people said discrimination law should not be used to force people to say something they oppose. It’s a shame Lord Bourne appears to be in the 8 per cent who do.
“He is so far out of step with public opinion he even links Ashers’ stand to ‘hatred on the basis of sexual orientation’. That goes far beyond anything the Court of Appeal had to say.
He added: “Legal commentators across the board have criticised the ruling but the faith minister seems oblivious to all that. How are the people of faith he is supposed to stand up for meant to have any confidence in him?”
Since the ruling against Ashers last month, there has been a groundswell in public support for the bakery.
Both The Guardian and The Telegraph published editorials in favour of Ashers, saying the judgment against the McArthur family represented a danger to free speech.
And gay rights activist Peter Tatchell stated his support for Ashers, having formerly opposed their stand.
Yesterday, Northern Ireland’s Attorney General, John Larkin QC, visited the Court of Appeal in Belfast to ask that the case be referred to the UK Supreme Court.
Mr Larkin is questioning the validity of the laws used against the bakery.
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