Lawyers acting for the Christian owned Ashers bakery have now revealed that they will cite similar legal cases from around the world which they believe can support the view that a supplier should not be compelled to express a view which is contrary to their core religious beliefs in next month’s appeal.
Ashers bakery was found guilty of discrimination last May after refusing to bake a cake supporting marriage equality, in a case which made headlines across the world.
Northern Ireland’s Christian’s are once again uniting in front of the enormous Pic&Mix of Bible passages, selecting verses that they claim to support the notion that homosexuality is wrong whilst blatantly ignoring scripture that does not fit their agenda.
How many homeless people could have been helped with the money that has been donated to this appeal? Can any Christian in their right mind truly validate these donations being spent on a court appeal when there are people at home and abroad starving? How many people in need have been swept aside in favour of pursuing this ridiculous case? These Christian groups assemble hurriedly when there is even a whisper of a marriage equality vote or an advance in the LGBT community’s journey towards equal rights. How many of these same Christians are so willing to get involved in helping the sick, poor or disadvantaged in society?
Now, with the case due to be heard in the court of appeal it seems the Christian Institute and the Mc Arthur family are once again stepping up their campaign for some form of “conscience clause” to enshrine homophobia in legislation. At the weekend human rights lawyer Professor Christopher McCrudden of Queen’s University joined the McArthur family’s legal team led by David Scoffield QC.
Last night, the Christian Institute which has supported the McArthurs throughout their battle, said they were confident they would overturn the decision at the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal next month.
It is understood the McArthurs’ legal team believe that the previous hearing was wrong to say the firm’s human rights were not engaged.
The case will primarily be fought on Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights – the right to freedom of expression – which states that nobody should be compelled to express a view at odds with their core beliefs.
Examples and outcomes from international cases will be presented at the hearing. Secondary arguments will also be made that supplying the cake would have contravened Article 9 – the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
Christian Institute spokesman Simon Calvert said last night: “We have always believed in the rightness of the McArthur case as have many people across Northern Ireland.
“We cited these human rights issues in the county court hearing but we did not think that court engaged properly on this.”
He believes that the recent involvement of Professor McCrudden – whose specialises in human rights law – will make a significant difference to the case and bring about the desired outcome of legally permitting discrimination.
Mr Calvert said: “We’re confident that Ashers’ grounds of appeal are strong.
“There are a number of areas where the county court simply misapplied discrimination law.
“Ashers’ lawyers will also show how the court’s approach breached the right of a person not to be compelled to express views to which they have a strong objection.
“We believe that compelled speech is dangerous because it runs the risk of forcing people to act against their consciences.
“The judge in the county court said this is not a case of compelled speech.
“But the skeleton argument from Ashers’ lawyers says: ‘To regard the baking and icing of the cake by the defendants and their staff as simply the actions of automatons with no personal engagement with their work or with the results of their labour, as simply the unthinking agents of their customers, risks being deeply disrespectful of the work of the defendants.’”
The legal appeal will be heard over two days beginning on Wednesday, February 3.