As theological debates on sexuality and marriage become more and more central, many Christian denominations are being asked to clarify their views.
“We have always said it was never about the customer, it was about the message”, the McArthur family said. Judges state that refusing the order “was direct discrimination”. 9 out of 10 evangelical Christians support the family, says survey.
The Christian owners of a Northern Ireland bakery have lost their appeal against a ruling that their refusal to make a "gay cake" was discriminatory.
The McArthur family had been taken to court accused of political and sexual orientation discrimination, after they refused to make a cake with the campaign slogan ‘Support Gay Marriage’.
Appeal court judges said that, under law, the bakers were not allowed to provide a service only to people who agreed with their religious beliefs.
The judges recognised that the family did not refuse the service because Mr Lee was gay, but nonetheless ruled that refusing the order because of its slogan “was direct discrimination”.
The judgement states that Ashers bakery can provide a “service to all or none but not to a selection of customers”, adding:“What they may not do is provide a service that only reflects their own political or religious message in relation to sexual orientation”.
“DISAPPOINTED WITH THE RULING”
“We’re extremely disappointed with today’s ruling. If equality law means people can be punished for politely refusing to support other people’s causes, then equality law needs to change”, said Ashers’ General Manager, Daniel McArthur, said, after the judgement was delivered
And added: “This ruling undermines democratic freedom. It undermines religious freedom. It undermines free speech.”
“IT WAS NEVER ABOUT THE CUSTOMER, BUT ABOUT THE MESSAGE”
McArthur pointed out that “the judges accepted that we did not know Mr Lee was gay and that was not the reason we declined the order. We have always said it was never about the customer, it was about the message. The court accepted that. But now we are being told we have to promote the message even though it’s against our conscience.”
“Because we’re Christians we support the current law. And we felt that making this cake would have made us responsible for its message”, he continued.
SURVEY: EVANGELICAL SUPPORT
Nine out of ten Evangelicals are on the side of the Ashers baker owners. The UK Evangelical Alliance surveyed evangelical Christians and in September 2016 respondents were asked whether: "A business should have the right to refuse to print, publish (or write in icing on a cake) a message with which it does not agree."
89% of evangelical respondents agreed, and 56% agreed strongly. Meanwhile, 6% opted for neither agree nor disagree and 5% disagreed.
“WE´VE LEARNT TO RELY ON GOD AND THE CHURCH MORE THAN EVER”
In an interview with Solas magazine, Daniel McArthur explained that, throughout the process, they “have learned to rely on Christ and his Church more than ever. It's also given us many opportunities to speak with friends and colleagues about our personal love of Jesus Christ.”
When asked about the possibility of losing the appeal, he said “At a very basic level the consequences are very little; it means we would still have to pay the £500 that was originally awarded for ‘injury to feelings’. But on a religious freedom level, I think the consequences are slightly weightier.”
“This fiasco that we’ve found ourselves in is simply a very tactical way of silencing Christians, no matter how ridiculous the means”, McArthur added.
“GOD WILL SUSTAIN US”
In a statement he gave to journalists ahead of their appearance at the Court of Appeal in May, Ashers manager shared his faith, pointing out that “Jesus Christ has lived a perfect life, he has died and atoning death and has rose from the dead, so that we can be reconciled and have peace with God.”
“It is this hope that sustains us, it is this that gives us joy, and will sustain us wether today we win or lose this case”, he concluded.