The Christian Institute

News Release

Challenge to Supreme Court’s ruling in the ‘gay cake case’ is an attack on freedom of expression and belief, says The Christian Institute

The challenge to the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Ashers ‘gay cake case’ is an attack on freedom of expression, religion and belief, and must be robustly opposed, says The Christian Institute.

The warnings come as news emerges that Phoenix Law, a legal firm with a strong LGBT profile, has launched an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights, on behalf of Gareth Lee, against the Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling.

It would appear the lawyers want the European court to consider narrow aspects of the ruling.

Judges at the UK’s highest court unanimously (5-0) found:

· The issue was about the message, not the messenger.
· Equality law does not compel people to say something with which they profoundly disagree.
· There was no discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.
· There was no discrimination on grounds of religious belief or political opinion.
· The objection was to being required to promote the message on the cake.
· The less favourable treatment was afforded to the message, not to the man.

Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, said: “If it is wrong to compel an individual baker to say something they do not believe, it is just as wrong to compel a small family bakery. People don’t relinquish fundamental freedoms just because they set up a family company.”

Simon Calvert, Deputy Director of The Christian Institute, commented: “The ruling by five of the country’s most distinguished and experienced judges was welcomed by lawyers, commentators, free speech experts, and human rights campaigners like Peter Tatchell. They all knew of the implications to freedom of speech and religion had the decision gone against the Ashers bakery, which could have included a Muslim printer being forced to print cartoons of Mohammed, or a bakery owned by a lesbian couple being forced to make a cake describing gay marriage as an ‘abomination’.”

The case started in 2014 when Ashers Baking Company declined an order by a gay rights activist asking for a £36.50 cake featuring the campaign slogan, ‘Support Gay Marriage’.

The cake was for a campaign event calling for same-sex marriage to be introduced in Northern Ireland. The customer, Mr Gareth Lee, also wanted the cake to feature the logo of a Belfast-based campaign group called QueerSpace.

The bakery refused to make the cake because it carried a message contrary to the firmly-held Christian beliefs of the owners, the McArthur family.

After four and half years the case reached the UK’s Supreme Court, which ruled:

“The objection was not to Mr Lee because he, or anyone with whom he associated, held a political opinion supporting gay marriage. The objection was to being required to promote the message on the cake. The less favourable treatment was afforded to the message not to the man. …The evidence was that they were quite prepared to serve him in other ways. The situation is not comparable to people being refused jobs, accommodation or business simply because of their religious faith. It is more akin to a Christian printing business being required to print leaflets promoting an atheist message.” [Para. 47]

“…obliging a person to manifest a belief which he does not hold has been held to be a limitation on his article 9(1) rights.” [Para. 50]

“The freedom not to be obliged to hold or to manifest beliefs that one does not hold is also protected by article 10 of the Convention. …The right to freedom of expression does not in terms include the right not to express an opinion but it has long been held that it does.”

Citing, among other cases, both Kokkinakis and Buscarini, Lord Dyson held that the principle applied as much to political opinions as it did to religious belief: “Nobody should be forced to have or express a political opinion in which he does not believe”. [Para. 52]

Following the ruling, it was revealed that the legal bill for the case had reached nearly £500,000.

Mr Calvert continued: “I’m surprised and a little disappointed that anyone would want to overturn a ruling that protects gay business owners from being forced to promote views they don’t share, just as much as it protects Christian business owners and hope the Government will robustly defend the current law.”


Notes to Editors:

The Christian Institute
The Christian Institute is a non-denominational registered charity, which seeks to promote the Christian faith in the UK.

It was founded in 1991 by Christian church leaders and professionals and it currently campaigns on a range of issues including marriage and the family, child protection, pro-life concerns, drugs, religious liberty and education, as well as Christianity and the constitution.

For media enquiries, please contact The Christian Institute on 0191 281 5664.