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Ashers Bakery Wins Again

Asher’s Bakery Wins Again

European Court of Human Rights Upholds the UK Supreme Court Ruling

The European Court of Human Rights has upheld the ruling of the UK Supreme Court in the Asher’s Bakery case.  

In 2014, Gareth Lee sued the Belfast based family owned business after they refused to put a gay rights campaign slogan on a cake.  Lee wanted the words, “Support Gay Marriage” iced on the cake.  The McArthurs refused on grounds that it went against their Christian religious convictions.

Lee filed a discrimination lawsuit against the bakery after the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland found in his favour.  Later, a county court upheld Lee’s complaint in a civil suit and fined the bakery £500 in damages.

Owners of the bakery, Daniel and Amy McArthur, appealed the case and lost.  The Court of Appeal ruled that it was a case of direct discrimination.  The couple then appealed to the UK Supreme Court with the support of the Attorney General of Northern Ireland.  The UK Supreme Court found unanimously in favour of the McArthurs in 2018.

In 2019 Lee’s lawyers filed an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.  The ECHR dismissed the case on 6 January 2022 bringing the matter to an end.

The Christian Institute provided legal support for the McArthur’s and summarised the UK Supreme Court ruling this way: 

  • The issue was about the message, not the messenger.
  • Equality law does not compel people to say something with which they profoundly disagree.
  • There was no discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.
  • There was no discrimination on grounds of religious belief or political opinion.
  • The objection was to being required to promote the message on the cake.
  • The less favourable treatment was afforded to the message, not to the man.

The latest case was brought against the United Kingdom Government, not against Ashers or the McArthurs. Lee’s lawyers attempted to argue that the European Convention imposed a positive obligation on the UK Supreme Court to ensure that Ashers Baking Co., and Mr and Mrs McArthur personally, should be required to provide him with a product that carried a political message to which the McArthurs sincerely objected.

Simon Calvert, spokesman for The Christian Institute, which has supported the McArthurs since 2014, said:

“This is the right result. The UK Supreme Court engaged at length with the human rights arguments in this case and upheld the McArthurs’ rights to freedom of expression and religion. It was disappointing to see another attempt to undermine those rights, so it is a relief that the attempt has failed. I’m surprised anyone would want to overturn a ruling that protects gay business owners from being forced to promote views they don’t share, just as much as it protects Christian business owners.

“The ruling in October 2018 by five of the country’s most distinguished and experienced judges was welcomed by lawyers, commentators and free speech experts from across the spectrum. They all knew of the implications for freedom of speech and religion, had the decision gone against Ashers. This could have included a Muslim printer being forced to print cartoons of Mohammed, or a lesbian-owned bakery being forced to make a cake describing gay marriage as an ‘abomination’.

“This is good news for free speech, good news for Christians, and good news for the McArthurs.”