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Supreme court rules in favor of freedom of speech and conscience in England


Credit: Ashers Baking Co/Ashersbakingco.com

Credit: Ashers Baking Co/Ashersbakingco.com

The United Kingdom’s Supreme Court issued a ruling of sanity in favor of an Evangelical couple, Daniel and Amy McArthur, who manage a family owned bakery, Ashers Baking Co. in Northern Ireland.

In 2014, Northern Ireland was embroiled in a campaign to legalize gay marriage and a gay activist approached the bakery’s Netwonabbey location to have it create a cake supporting the gay marriage campaign.

The activist wanted a photo of Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie along with the words “Support Gay Marriage” written on the top of the cake.

Though an employee in initially took the order, the McArthurs later turned it down stating that they would not be able to make the cake because of their Christian beliefs.

The activists took the case to the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland that ruled against the company and ordered them to produce the cake within seven days. The owners refused and have been embroiled in a series of court cases ever since, that finally ended up in the Supreme Court.

The Christian Institute of England took up the bakery’s cause stating that the government should not be forcing people “to use their creative skills to promote a cause which goes against their conscience.”

It added that the case “establishes a dangerous precedent about the power of the state over an individual or business to force them to go against their deeply held beliefs.”

And as their fight progressed through the courts, in 2016, the bakery gained an unusual ally. In an article published in The Guardian, another gay activist Peter Tachell publicly supported the McArthurs.

In his opinion piece, Tachell stated he does not agree with the McArthur’s views on gay marriage and initially supported the case against the bakery, but he has since changed his mind writing:

“Much as I wish to defend the gay community, I also want to defend freedom of conscience, expression and religion.”

He noted that the McArthurs would have baked the cake for the gay activist if it had not been for the words written on it. The bakery did not turn the activist down because of his sexuality but due to the message.

He said the ruling against the McArthurs infringed on their freedom because it was fundamentally a disagreement of ideas not people. He added that if this case held then a Muslim printer could be forced to print an image of Muhammad forbidden under Islamic law and Jews would be forced to print materials for a holocaust denier.

Fundamentally, Tachell argued that ideas are different from people.

In its ruling released on October 10, 2018, England’s Supreme Court came to exactly the same conclusion. In its decision the court stated:

“It is deeply humiliating, and an affront to human dignity, to deny someone service because of that person’s race, gender, disability, sexual orientation or any of the other protected personal characteristics. But this is not what happened in this case.”

Daniel McArthur thanked God for the victory and repeated that the issue was never about denying service over a person’s sexuality, because they had served the activist previously. They only refused in this instance because of the message on the cake.

The name Ashers which the family used for the bakery name is taken from a verse in Genesis:

“As for Asher, his food shall be rich,
And he will yield royal dainties.” (Genesis 49:20 NASV)

For the record, Asher was the eighth son of Jacob who along with his other brothers in a jealous rage conspired to kill Joseph. They later relented and sold him into slavery and Joseph ended up in Egypt where he rose to second in charge. This eventually led to a reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers.

The verse above refers to a blessing that Jacob, who was on his deathbed, pronounced over Asher.

The Asher tribe became quite large and when Israel entered the Promised Land, it received land along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea that had some of the best agricultural soil in Israel. The prophetess Anna who gave a word over Jesus shortly after His birth was from the tribe of Asher:

36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38 NIV)

Sources:

 

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2 Comments

  1. Gary Davis says

    Do Supreme Court rulings and opinions in the UK effect judicial reasoning in the US?

    Like

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