The majority of voters think the threat of legal action against a Christian bakery which declined to produce a pro-gay marriage campaign cake is over the top, a new poll has found.
The survey revealed that 60 per cent of British adults think it was “disproportionately heavy-handed” for the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland to seek to take Ashers Baking Company to court.
According to the bakery’s lawyers the McArthur family, who own the business, could be ordered to pay £2,000 in damages.
The ComRes poll of 2,007 people was commissioned by The Christian Institute which is supporting the bakery’s legal case.
Following a fundraising email sent last week, its Legal Defence Fund (LDF) has received £10,000 from hundreds of supporters across the UK – but the cost of the McArthurs’ case could top £30,000.
Only 21 per cent of those surveyed think a business that declines to supply goods or services which promote gay marriage should face legal action, while over half (56 per cent) disagree.
The poll also showed that most people (55 per cent) agree there should be protection in law so that people are not forced to provide goods or services that violate their sincerely-held beliefs.
Over half of voters (54 per cent) think that David Cameron was wrong when he reassured the public that same-sex marriage would not cause discrimination against supporters of traditional marriage.
Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, said: “These poll findings demonstrate huge public support for the Ashers bakery and they also demonstrate that David Cameron and the Equality Commission are completely out of touch with public opinion.
“Gay marriage was introduced on the grounds of promoting equality. But this and other cases demonstrate that all it is doing is promoting divisions between people and fanning intolerance.
“The Prime Minister assured the public that his gay marriage laws would not punish people who believe in the traditional definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman. As we warned, these assurances are proving worthless. Innocent people are being bullied for attempting to live by their Christian conscience.
Mr Hart added: “Mr Cameron should follow the advice of Baroness Hale and introduce a conscience clause to the law to ensure that families like the McArthurs can safely conduct their lives and business unmolested by meddlesome equality police.”
Ashers Baking Company in Belfast was asked to print the slogan “Support Gay Marriage” on a cake for a campaign event. But the McArthur family felt that doing so would go against their sincerely-held religious beliefs.
The taxpayer-funded Equality Commission for Northern Ireland then sent a letter claiming that the bakery had acted unlawfully by refusing to decorate the cake with the slogan.
The McArthurs have received overwhelming support from the public, including on social media websites.
Facebook graphics from The Christian Institute in support of Ashers Baking Company have reached half a million people online.