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Prime Minister fails to defend religious freedom of Christian bakers in same-sex 'marriage' cake row

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Northern Ireland’s Equality Commission has threatened to take legal action against a Christian-run bakery after it refused to produce a cake with the slogan ‘Support Gay Marriage.’

Volunteer LGBT activist Gareth Lee, who placed the order, also wanted a picture of Sesame Street's Bert and Ernie in an embrace, and a logo of the homosexual pressure group, QueerSpace.

The McArthur family, who own Asher Baking Co in Newtownabbey, said they were unable to fulfill the order as this would conflict with their Biblical belief that marriage can only be between one man and one woman.

"Illegal discrimination"

But the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland wrote to the bakery claiming that it had discriminated against Mr Lee on the grounds of sexual orientation. It threatened to take the McArthur family to court if they failed to remedy their "illegal discrimination” within seven days.

Manager Daniel McArthur said: “We thought that this order was at odds with our beliefs, certainly was in contradiction with what the Bible teaches. We are Christians and our Christianity reaches to every point of our lives, whether that’s at home or in the day-to-day running of the business.”

The case, which is being supported by the Christian Institute's Legal Defence fund, was raised by DUP MP Gregory Campbell during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday (9th July)

"Conscience clause"

In his question to David Cameron, Mr Cambell asked: “Does the Prime Minister agree that so-called equality is now being viewed by many as an oppressive threat to religious freedom, and does he further agree that such freedoms should be protected by the introduction of a conscience clause?”
In response, the Prime Minister said that he was unaware of the facts of the Ashers case.

He added: “But I do think a commitment to equality in terms of racial equality, in terms of equality to those of different sexes, equality in terms of people who have disabilities or indeed tolerance and equality of people with different sexualities, all of that is a very important part of being British.” 

In a speech at the Law Society of Ireland last month, Supreme Court Judge Lady Hale, who ruled against Christian B&B owners Peter and Hazelmary Bull, questioned whether the law could better accommodate the religious conscience of service providers and employees.

Lady Hale cast doubt over her own decision in November to dismiss an appeal by the Bulls who were successfully sued by same-sex couple, Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy, over their 'married couples only' policy for double rooms.  

She also commented that it was “not difficult to see why Christians feel that their religious beliefs are not being sufficiently respected”, during a speech at Yale Law School earlier this year.

Read more about the Ashers' case here >