Christian bakers in Northern Ireland who are fighting back against a court ruling that found them guilty of discrimination for refusing to make a cake that read “support gay marriage” are now being publicly backed by the European country's attorney general.
Attorney General John Larkin openly defended the owners of Ashers Baking Company, a business based in Northern Ireland, during court proceedings this week, speaking out in their favor as the family works to appeal a previous decision that forced them to pay $765 in damages for “injury to feelings” to the gay activist who had requested the cake in question.
Larkin's involvement in the case has been dubbed a "dramatic intervention" by the Christian Institute, a U.K. legal group that is representing Colin and Karen McArthur, owners of Ashers Baking Company. The attorney general detailed his rationale in court this week.
"There are very large questions about the role of conscience in all sorts of business," Larkin told the panel of three judges who are overseeing the appeal, according to the Belfast Telegraph. "I say very clearly, if it was a case where [the man requesting the cake] had been refused some of Ashers' excellent chocolate eclairs because he [was] gay or perceived to be gay, I would be standing on the other side of the court."
In the end, Larkin said that the situation isn't about that sort of refusal, though, and that it is predicated upon expression and "whether it's lawful under Northern Ireland constitutional law for Ashers to be forced ... to articulate or express or say a political message which is at variance with their political views and in particular their religious views."
Larkin believes that the Ashers Baking Company, owned by Colin and Karen McArthur, has the legal right under the European Convention on Human Rights, to reject being compelled to express a view that conflicts with their religious beliefs.
As TheBlaze previously reported, problems for the McArthurs began when a man named Gareth Lee requested a cake in 2014 that included the line “support gay marriage” along with an image of Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie. The cake was reportedly for the International Day Against Homophobia. The bakery refused and chaos — and legal battles — ensued.
The McArthurs were taken to court under Northern Ireland’s 2006 Equality Act, which makes discrimination illegal. A court found the bakery guilty of discrimination and forced them to pay $765 in damages for “injury to feelings” to Lee.
Despite the bakers’ punishment, gay marriage remains illegal in Northern Ireland, adding to the bizarre nature of the case.
Ashers Baking Company is being supported by the Christian Institute as it appeals last year’s court ruling that demanded that the company pay out the damages; court arguments began on Monday and are expected to conclude on Friday.
“They could not in conscience provide a product with a message that was inconsistent with their deeply-held religious beliefs in circumstances where the evidence was clear that they believed that to do so would be sinful,” attorney David Scoffield said, according to the Belfast Telegraph. “Discrimination must be against the person, not against an idea or an object.”
He continued, “A cake cannot have a political opinion or a religious belief, it is a person who can do so.”
(H/T: Belfast Telegraph)
Follow the author of this story on Twitter and Facebook and check out his new book “The Armageddon Code: One Journalist's Quest for End-Times Answers”: