Ashers Case concludes after a fascinating two days of arguments, but no decision for some time.
Almost fours years after the ‘gay cake’ was ordered, the Ashers case reached the Supreme Court, sitting in Belfast for the first time. The two day hearing focused on the key issue of ‘compelled expression’ - were Ashers forced on pain of paying a civil fine to bake a cake against their religious beliefs.
Peter Lynas, a former barrister and NI director of Evangelical Alliance commented,
“This case has been portrayed as a battle between gay rights and religious freedom, it is actually about compelled speech and conscience. It has implications for everyone and that is why it is so important.”
“While there were a lot of technical arguments made before the Supreme Court, the judges seemed to grapple and engage with the core issue of the case - is it acceptable to force the bakery to make a cake, despite having deep objections to the slogan on the cake.”
“Discrimination against people is wrong. Ashers did not discriminate against Mr Lee because he is gay and nor should they be allowed to. But discrimination against ideas is right and necessary in a free society - because some ideas are good and some are bad. The distinction is subtle but critically important to this case. Discrimination laws protect people, not messages.”
“As Ashers' legal team argued, the notion that a Christian can practice their faith on Sundays but must forget it on Monday is not real freedom of religion and certainly not freedom of conscience. Biblically, work is an act of worship, a place in which Christians express their faith.”
“We need to find what lawyers call a reasonable accommodation which looks for a way to protect the different rights involved, not form a hierarchy in which one set of rights trumps another. Otherwise, the law will allow people to have their conscience or beliefs, but insist they are kept private. It will also mean the state deciding which views it thinks are appropriate in the public square.”
“We will now need to wait for a decision. For the sake of a free and fair society, I for one hope and pray the Supreme Court will rule in favour of Ashers.”