Several hundred people attending a meeting in support of Ashers Baking Company in Craigavon last night were told that the Christian faith in Northern Ireland “is under fire” and the law must be changed to protect religious convictions.
The Christian Institute organised rally took place at 8pm the Craigavon Civic Centre ahead of tomorrows court case challenging Judge Isobel Brownlie’s decision to find the McArthur family of discrimination based on sexual orientation last year.
As the supporters arrived at the civic centre, around 40 equal rights supporters with placards and rainbow flags staged a colourful, peaceful demonstration at the entrance.
The emotive, fear-mongering language used at the rally was clearly aimed at increasing religious insecurity and growing the divide between the Christian Institute and the LGBT community.
There have been no reports that any LGBT groups were involved or consulted in the organisation of the rally.
The event was organised to encourage further support for the McArthur family and to bring the media spotlight back on to the “gay” cake case once again.
Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute told last night’s gathering:
“People must be free to manifest genuine, reasonable moral and religious convictions without fear of unfair discrimination and mistreatment.”
Mr Calvert went on to say that he believes equality legislation must change to allow for a “reasonable accommodation” for people of faith.
“Millions of ordinary people who do not agree with same-sex marriage face a kind of intimidation, and actually a real threat of legal action sometimes if they, in good conscience, decline to provide goods or services to campaign groups they don’t approve of.”
The McArthurs have been given financial backing by the Christian Institute in their court battle with the Northern Ireland Equality Commission.
The Northern Ireland Equality Commission believe they are justified in pursuing the charges against the Bakery. Following the guilty verdict in May last year, Dr Michael Wardlow, Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commission NI told the Business Newsletter:
“The court’s judgement confirmed the legal position which the Equality Commission has always held and which it has always used as the basis for our advice to service providers and employers.”