The Christian family at the centre of a legal row over a gay marriage cake has confirmed that they will appeal a court ruling finding them guilty of discrimination. Supporters have said that the ruling opens a “Pandora’s Box”, and that there is an appeal process precisely because courts “do get it wrong sometimes”.
The McArthur family, who own a chain of bakeries in Northern Ireland, were taken to court by gay rights activist Gareth Lee after they declined to bake him a cake bearing the slogan “support gay marriage”.
Although gay marriage is illegal in Northern Ireland, Judge Isobel Brownlie took the extraordinary decision that refusing service when issued with a request to produce material in support of that illegal act was in itself discriminatory, because Mr Lee happens to be gay.
In March, Mr Lee told Belfast County Court that the McArthur’s decision to refuse him service made him feel “not worthy”, and like a “lesser person”, adding “to me that is wrong”. The McArthurs argued that it was the slogan on the cake that they took issue with, not Mr Lee himself. But Ms Brownlie agreed with Mr Lee, and ordered the McArthurs to pay him £500 in damages for “injury to feelings”.
The McArthurs have vowed to appeal the decision. In a statement, the family said:
“After much careful and prayerful consideration given to legal advice, we have decided to appeal the judgement handed down last Tuesday.
“We continue to insist that we have done nothing wrong as we have discriminated against no individual but rather acted according to what the Bible teaches regarding marriage.
“As many other people have already noted, Christian beliefs seem to have been trampled over in this judgement and we believe this only has negative effects for our society.
“Our hope and prayer would be that an appeal will allow us and other Christians to live out their faith in Jesus Christ in every part of their lives, including their workplace.”
The family were supported during their ordeal by the Christian Institute, a charity which maintains a commitment to “to upholding the truths of the Bible.”
Simon Calvert, a spokesman for the charity told Breitbart London:
“Many Christian people are concerned for what the ruling means for the freedom to live out their faith. This was never about discrimination, it’s about refusing to be co-opted to help promote someone else’s cause.
“But the implications extend far beyond the Christian community in Northern Ireland.
“Thanks to this ruling, a Muslim printer in Northern Ireland could now be sued for refusing print an image depicting Mohammed. A t-shirt company run by lesbians could be sued for refusing to print a t-shirt with an anti-gay message.”
Mr Calvert said that the McArthurs were fully within their right to appeal a decision they felt was simply the wrong one.
“This case has cracked open a Pandora’s box, and it’s for that reason that a lot of people, whether they are Christian or not; whether they agree with the McArthur’s or not, think that the courts got it wrong,” he said, adding: “Courts do get it wrong sometimes, that’s why there is an appeal process, and that’s why the McArthurs will now appeal.”
On the matter of whether or not Christians are being specifically persecuted in British society today, Mr Calvert said: “It’s interesting to note that the Equality and Human Rights Commission [EHRC] in London, which so far has not been known for its sympathy towards Christians, has published a report on religion which a number of examples of Christians being marginalised.
“There is growing awareness that Christians are being pushed to margins of the public square, and respectable, mainstream Christian viewpoints, when expressed in the public square, seem to get people into trouble.
“So there are legitimate concerns, on the part of Christians, that the way the law is being interpreted, and the way in which popular culture is moving, is increasingly hostile to them. We need to look at that again as a society; there is genuine unfairness.
“Even those fully sighed up to equality agenda are now looking at what’s happening and saying “I didn’t sign up for this”.”
Examples listed by the EHRC in its report, for which nearly 2,500 people of all faiths and none were interviewed, include that of included a manager who had to rename the firm’s Christmas Party an “End of Year Party/Christmas Party According to Your Beliefs”. He himself was offended by that, but felt unable to say anything.
A Catholic interviewee pointed out the double standards applied to Christians in the workplace, saying “The wearing or ‘showing of’ crucifix, rosary or any other Catholic jewellery was forbidden, yet nose rings, tongue piercings and tattoos were ok.”
Others reported being passed over for promotions or excluded from meetings thanks to their beliefs, while Christian parents also reported incidents of their children being ridiculed at school for their beliefs.
The report prompted Lord Carey, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, to urge Christians to regain confidence in their faith and to speak about it, saying: “It is simply a matter of freedom of speech.”