Huge Victory for Christian Bakers' Religious Rights at UK's Highest Court

Amy and Daniel McArthur owners of the Belfast bakery

As in the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in the recent Masterpiece Cakeshop case, the United Kingdom court said the bakery legitimately rejected the request because of a "religious objection to gay marriage". But in a free society, people should be able to discriminate against ideas that they disagree with.

The justices have also been asked to decide if the relevant provisions under the regulations and order breached the McArthur family's rights under the European Convention on Human Rights relating to freedom to manifest one's religious beliefs and freedom of expression.

Their victory in the Supreme Court means that printers and manufacturers will not be required to produce material that they find offensive - provided that they do not discriminate against customers on grounds such as race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief.

"After such a finding by the Supreme Court the Equality Commission's immediate response has been to threaten to waste more public money on this case".

In a unanimous decision, five of the UK's most senior judges upheld Ashers' appeal against claims of discrimination.

The judges, he said, found that the "objection was to the message and not to any particular person or persons".

Ashers Baking Co, now a chain of nine shops and cafes, is named for the Biblical family of Asher. The United Kingdom has a long and proud tradition of free speech and today's ruling is a resounding reassertion of that tradition.

"This court has held tat nobpdy should be forced to have or express a political opinion in which he does not believe".

"The court recognized that this case was about declining to support a particular message, not declining to serve a particular customer". They refused because they said it contradicted with their religious views.

"They would have refused to make such a cake for any customer, irrespective of their sexual orientation".

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But Lady Hale said support for changing the law in Northern Ireland was not confined to gay people.

The dispute began in 2014, after a motion to allow same-sex marriage was narrowly defeated in a vote in the Northern Ireland parliament.

The decision was read on Wednesday (October 10) in London, four years after Lee, an LGBT activist with Queer Space, paid the Northern Ireland-based bakery to make a cake to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

David Scoffield QC, for Ashers, argued that the state was penalising the baking firm, with the courts effectively compelling or forcing them to make a cake bearing a message with which they disagree as a matter of religious conscience.

A lower court judge, Isobel Brownlie, had found that Ashers had broken discrimination laws by refusing to prepare the cake.

"This is a timely judgement in bringing common sense to an issue which, fuelled by LGBT activists and extremists, had run away with itself".

The Rainbow Project, Northern Ireland's largest support organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, expressed its disappointment at the Supreme Court ruling. Lee went on to sue the company for discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and political beliefs. "That made me feel like a second-class citizen", he told reporters after listening to the verdict.

"People of all sexual orientations - gay, straight or bisexual - can and do support gay marriage".

This conclusion is not in any way to diminish the need to protect gay people and people who support gay marriage from discrimination. "There is no evidence that his sexuality was the reason Ashers declined his order", he wrote.

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